7 ways this gorgeous cottage garden was created on a shoestring

This beautiful cottage garden is a vision of blooming, colorful abundance in summer months, and it has all been created on a tight budget – find out how

View of front garden of Meadow View planted with cottage garden plants
(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

The story behind the creation of this garden is a perfect example of how you can achieve a beautiful cottage garden style without spending a fortune on plants and flowers.

Located in a pretty Warwickshire village in the heart of England, full of honey-colored stone cottages and quiet back lanes, the flower bedecked garden has been gradually created over the course of nearly 25 years.

Over that time, its owner, Geoff Davies, has taken cottage garden ideas and pushed them to their limits, with perennials and self-seeders of all shapes, sizes and colors jostling for position.

Here's how Geoff created his beautiful cottage garden.

Cottage garden flowers in front garden of victorian cottage with pretty porch and climbing roses

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

Both the garden and the cottage, Meadow View, were a bit smaller when Geoff first moved into his home in 1997.

It was only through being in the right place at the right time that he had the opportunity to extend both the building and the space around it.

Side view of cottage with densely planted borders full of flowers

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

'There was just the front garden and a meter of ground at the back of the cottage when I first came here,' Geoff explains.

'Over time I managed to buy a bit of land from the lady next door that allowed me to extend the cottage, followed by two pieces from the manor behind, which enabled me to create the garden around the back,' he adds.

Here, Geoff tells us how he has created his garden, on a thrifty budget.

Pretty cottage garden plants, foxgloves and aquilegia next to staddle stone

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

1. Swapping seeds and flowers

Turks cap with its heavy head of bright yellow flowers

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

Such is the array of colorful blooms at Meadow View that anybody coming across the garden might imagine Geoff to be a man who spends a lot of money on plants, a notion he finds amusing.

'I give a few bits of my plants to people in the village who enjoy gardening and they share plants with me,' he explains.

Densely planted borders with flowers and box balls in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

'Some flowers, like the iris that came from my Aunty Elsie’s garden, are inherited and occasionally people give me plants as gifts,' Geoff adds.

“I could go out and buy plants, but what’s the point when a walk around the village can result in lots of new things to try. 

'Most people are generous and the big advantage is that you can see the environments in which certain things grow happily and think about whether it’s possible to offer the same conditions,' he says, giving a great tip if you are looking to plan a cottage garden and are looking to take inspiration from your local area.

2. Planting for sunny and shady areas

Path leading up to borders in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

The extra land meant Geoff could develop different planting schemes in the south-west facing sunny front garden, and shadier north-east facing back garden.

Following the ethos of right plant, right place, means plants are healthy and happily self-seed, adding to the floriferous exuberance.

'It was nice having the extra land, because it meant being able to have flowers all around the house. In addition, I get to have a bit of variety as the back garden is cooler and slightly shadier, which means I can grow different plants there,' Geoff explains.

3. Creating garden areas

Garden border filled with cottage garden plants beside lawn area

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

To the delight of anyone searching for front yard cottage garden ideas, much of Geoff’s eye-catching front garden can be seen from the lane that passes his cottage, although he’s managed to create a small ‘secret’ area within this space in which he can sit and enjoy a cup of tea.

Meanwhile, the more private section behind Meadow View slopes away from the property and combines beds and borders with verdant lawns.

'I’ve avoided putting in anything too tall behind the house to avoid blocking the view,' says Geoff.

4. Choosing cottage garden planting for year-round color

Plants beside steps in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

When it comes to the planting choices, all the favorite cottage garden plants are present and correct. The tall spires of foxgloves and king’s spear to voluminous peonies and Oriental poppies, starry day lilies, obliging aquilegia and bold iris, bringing a double helping of delight with both its velvety blooms and sword-like leaves.

Mat-forming perennials, such as aubrieta, are planted into the crevices of walls to create extra layers of interest.

oriental poppies

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

The sunny front garden also supports Mediterranean plants, such as rock roses and the neat Turkish sage Phlomis russeliana, the spent flowers of which continue to look good as summer fades into autumn.

'Later in the summer the color is provided by dahlias, which keep blooming through to October and sometimes later. I grow them so that I can pick them and give them away,' says Geoff.

5. Creating fragrance with roses

Terrace area in a cottage garden with climbing roses

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

Geoff hasn't passed up the chance of showing off his best rose garden ideas. Holding their own within this wild sea of color are majestic roses, including the climber ‘Madame Alfred Carriere’ that joins a wisteria in festooning the front of the house, and the deep red blooms of a shrub cultivar, its name lost in the mists of time.

Most of the roses also carry delicious fragrances, an attribute picked up by other flowers such as pinks, dianthus.

6. Building characterful walls and paths

Cottage and cottage garden seen from neighbouring field

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

As well as watching his pennies with plants, Geoff has saved money by doing all the hard landscaping work himself, whether it’s moving the front path away from his front windows, or building the dry stone wall between his garden and fields beyond.

'Relocating the path was one of the first things I did,' he says. 'I made a new gateway in the wall, with a wiggly brick path leading to the front of the house.

'I enjoyed building the stone walls, and I help to maintain the field behind the garden too. I always have to have a project,' Geoff adds.

7. Creating structure with shrubs

Roses in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

While the overall feel of the garden is one of floral exuberance, Geoff underpins his planting with structural elements. 

These include box balls, including some created from an existing hedge and others grown from cuttings; mounds of clipped yew grown from foot high saplings, and various trees.

Attractive mushroom-like staddle stones, used in years gone by to lift granaries and hayricks off the ground to protect against vermin and dampness, provide further features. 

Cottage garden border beside path with box ball, flowers and staddle stones

(Image credit: Peter Chatterton)

'The garden is planned, but very loose in its planting,' Geoff explains. 

'I stick things wherever I feel like rather than worrying about which color goes with which. I just let it happen.

'I don’t want it to be too organized. There’s structure in the form of the paths and the odd tree or box ball, the rest can do what it likes.'

'I love the garden around my home. It makes me feel peaceful and contented working in it, although I don’t like sitting still for long as there’s always something to do. That’s the pleasure: the doing rather than the watching,' Geoff concludes.


This feature was created by H&G's sister brand, Period Living magazine

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Sue Bradley
Contributing Editor

Sue Bradley writes about gardening, food and wildlife, and the fascinating people who are passionate about these subjects, for a variety of magazines. She served a newspaper apprenticeship and worked on local and regional titles in the West Country before becoming a freelance features writer. She’s a member of the Garden Media Guild and the Guild of Food Writers.