If you were starting out in gardening you would be very well served by this book. It could very well be considered the essential guidebook to the beginner and to anybody gardening in a small space who wished to have plant interest throughout the year.
Originally, the cottage garden style was one of informal design with a dense planting of edible and ornamental plants – fruit trees and bushes, vegetables and herbs along with those traditional ornamental plants which continue to evoke a sense of romance and nostalgia for bygone days – roses, foxgloves, hollyhocks, delphiniums, honeysuckle, nicotiana and alchemilla among others, all together in a sort of higgledy piggledy scene of well-organised chaos. These were the gardens of farm labourers, generally small, with a demand to make full use of limited space and it was this desire to make optimal use of a confined space which makes the transfer of the cottage garden style to modern gardens such a perfect fit.
Greg Loades gardens in a very small space but his ambitions for a beautiful garden are not at all hampered by this and his suggestions and example will guide readers to achieve similar results on their home patch. He outlines the origins of the cottage garden and how it inspired the likes of William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll, two of the most influential of English gardeners while also discussing the New Perennial style of Piet Oudolf and others which has featured plants to give interest later in the season and even into winter. By combining the traditional cottage garden plant selection with those of the New Perennial movement, today’s gardener can have interest in the garden over a far longer period and the author selects and suggests the best of both movements for today’s modern cottage garden.
After a section of general practical advice on how to create your own modern cottage garden with thoughts on plant selection and plant combination, a consideration of the place of the lawn in the modern garden, advice on design and layout, on how to make a small area appear bigger, on the use of containers with many planting “recipes” and on the use of succulents, there is a very practical and helpful seasonal overview of the garden. Indeed, it struck me that this book might well have carried the subtitle, “Year-round Interest in the Small Garden” for that is exactly what the author outlines. For each season there are notes on what are the features of that season, suggestions of what plants look well and for good plant combinations. There are notes on plant care and general maintenance – “To-Do Lists”, all very simply laid out, all very practical and all very easy to follow.
A final section gives a list of “50 Essential Plants”, a wonderful guide especially to the beginner who might struggle with selection for choice of plants is critical when space is limited as each plant must be worth its place. This selection will certainly put the gardener in the right direction to creating a garden of interest and of year-round enjoyment – A Modern Cottage Garden!
[The Modern Cottage Garden, Greg Loades, Timber Press, Oregon, 2020, Hardback, 227 pages, €20, ISBN: 978-1-60469-908-1]