The best part about cottage gardens is that unlike their urban counterparts, they’re best left a bit unkempt—think a jumble of mix-and-match wildflowers surrounded by native grasses.
When it comes to planning your cottage garden, it’s not all about aesthetics—there’s also the element of maintenance. Unlike your home plot, you may not be able to tend to the garden on a daily (or even on a weekly) basis, so choosing self-sufficient, easy-going plants is key.
Your first step is to determine your growing environment. But when in doubt, go native—plants that are indigenous are more likely to survive without too much handholding. While there are many plants that will proliferate without much assistance, it’s also best to stick to non-invasive species. Evergreen’s Native Plant Database is a great resource for Canadian gardeners to browse or search for species native to their area.
To get you started, here are our top 10 favourite low maintenance plants for easy landscaping at your cottage:
1. Columbine: With blooms that appear in spring and early summer, the columbine isn’t only easy to grow, it also attracts hummingbirds!
2. Bellflower: A perennial, this plant’s flowers are great for cuttings to spruce up the inside of your cottage.
3. Catmint: A hardy perennial, these flowering plants survive from first to last frost with little care. As an added bonus, the catmint is a mosquito and fly repellent. Staying true to the nature of the mint family, however, they may spread beyond the reaches intended.
4. Lemon thyme: Once established, these ground-covering sub-shrubs are drought-resistant. In addition to attracting bees, their leaves can be used as flavour in cooking and teas.
5. Daisy: While the popular white English Daisies are actually invasive, there are a number of similar species (including the arctic daisy, false daisy and northern daisy) that are both native to Canada and will survive with little care in your cottage garden. Alternately, consider Black-eyed Susans. These varieties also make for great handmade bouquets throughout your cottage’s guestrooms.
6. Variegated ribbon grass: Little care is required for this perennial bunchgrass. Reaching heights of up to two metres, ribbon grass makes the perfect filler for your wildflower garden.
7. Bleeding heart: As the name implies, these shade-loving plants, which are also capable of growing in full sun in cooler climates, feature beautiful heart-shaped blooms.
8. Ferns: For shady plots, ferns are a fuss-free plant that’s both tough and reliable. There are a number of different varieties suitable for climate zones across Canada.
9. Delphinium: These tall plants do require a bit more work (dependent on the variety, they reach heights of up to six feet, which may require staking) but they’re well worth the extra bit of effort. Their spires—which come in a range of bright colours—are sure to attract hummingbirds to your yard.