Design & DIY

11 ideas for simple cottage gardens

Since plant life and natural beauty are abundant in cottage country, you may be thinking “gardening at the cottage—why bother?” But a lot can be gained by even the smallest garden. I will admit I haven’t always been a huge fan of gardening or landscaping—let me correct that, I still don’t enjoy the act of gardening.  But I can appreciate what it does for pulling together an exterior—cottages included!

But who really wants to spend all of their cottage time in the garden? Yes, I know plenty of cottagers enjoy gardening, but just as many don’t see the purpose when they’re so little time to enjoy the weekend. I think the key is the kind of garden you tackle. Garden beds and rock landscapes aren’t required to get what you are looking for (and they certainly do take a chunk of time).

I’m of two minds at the cottage—contain it.

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Smith Designs


Or let it run wild.

Photo courtesy of Rosehill Inn


Pulling together a variety of containers of different styles, colours, and sizes can create a wonderful eclectic feeling on any dock or patio. And who doesn’t have a bunch of random containers lying around at the cottage to choose from? 

Photo courtesy of Urban Garden Casual


Experiment with the types of containers you use. But be warned—some things can start looking cottage cheesy.

Photo courtesy of Wing Works Landscape


Use small terra cotta pots on a windowsill.

Photo courtesy of TLC


Or large terra cotta pots on the bench of deck or dock.

Photo courtesy of Matador Network


In fact, I was designing a kitchen at an island cottage years ago, and they had dozens of terracotta pots filled with fresh herbs like basil and oregano. They looked amazing all clustered together, and they smelled fabulous. And they didn’t have to “pop” into town an hour each way when they needed seasoning. Containers create impact, but they help you keep the gardening aspect contained and manageable.

On the other hand, who doesn’t like an English countryside–inspired garden full of wild flowers? Well, my mother-in-law doesn’t, but that’s beside the point.  

Photo courtesy of This Old House


You can let this grow up, even overgrow (is that the right gardening word?) and it still looks great. My only advice: when you have to turn the light on in the middle of the day, it’s probably time to trim the vines around the window.

And for the more committed gardeners who need to garden but still want dock time, there are a number of other ideas.

Install your vegetable garden vertically, up the side of a cabin. How cool is this?

Photo courtesy of Tree Hugger


Or go for the most functional form of herb gardening and install it right outside your kitchen window. How nice to prepare a “fresh from the window garden” meal!

Photo courtesy of Vegetable Gardener


If these aren’t enough, then go bigger, but still contained. These boxed-in gardens are simple to build and fill, and they work on a variety of different landscapes. Just to be clear to the family that may be reading this, I am not willing to do them (it’s still gardening!), but I would harvest the crops if someone else tended to them.

Photo courtesy of Squawkfox


All of this talk of gardening is making me crave dock time. So let’s not forget that no matter how much or how little you want to garden at the cottage, the most important part is that you leave a clear path to the dock!

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor