5 Tips for Cottage Gardens

8 Sep

Ontario’s northern landscape proudly displays the grandeur of speckled smooth granite boulders, towering stands of swaying pine and birch and soft sweeping carpets of mosses, wildflowers and grasses.  For the avid gardener, you may wonder what “improvements” if any can be made to this gorgeous landscape?

My friend Caroline Coulson seems to have found the answer to this at her evolving Georgian Bay island cottage garden.  Her garden teaches us 5 simple tips to creating the perfect cottage garden.

1.Be Inspired by Nature

Any hardscaping elements such as pathways and retaining walls should be constructed using local materials (if not from the actual site itself).  Notice how her garden beds have been formed in the lowest areas in the granite surface.  Not only does this appear more natural but also ensures maximum water availability as water collects in these “pool-like” indentations.  Also, granite boulders found on the property have been moved to create organically-shaped retaining walls.

2. Pick Non-fussy Eaters!

The soil in cottage country is thin and low in available nutrients.  As a result, if introducing non-native species, ensure that they tolerate well-drained infertile soil.  That doesn’t mean you have to forfeit beauty. For example, add a range of early to late summer blooming day lilies and hardy Black Eyed Susan’s for colour throughout the summer.

3.  Plan for Hot Days & Cool Nights

Soil temperature in cottage country varies greatly throughout the day and puts added stress on plants. The large granite boulders can end up “baking” plant roots.  As result, select plants that are drought-tolerant and can handle hot days and cool nights.  For example, this garden bed contains Black Eyed Susan’s, variegated Sedum and early summer day lilies.

4.  Grow Food for the Soul

Nothing goes better with the great outdoors than eating freshly-picked produce.  Again, select veggies and herbs that prefer warm days and cool nights and consider growing  in containers to help keep soil moisture and temperature more steady. Caroline has had great success this year with her 9 different varieties of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers!


Tomato plan in pot


5.  Be Playful with Colour

Let loose and embrace a little whimsy in your cottage garden because lets face it… a cottage is a place to be merry and joyful, not serious and formal.  Add a few bright annuals for an extra splash of colour as shown here with chartreuse potato vine and purple petunias!

With these 5 simple tips in mind, you can begin planning your perfect cottage garden getaway.  Until then, cherish every last cottage sunset so you can fuel  your winter dreams.


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