Cottage Garden Discoveries

– Posted in: Plant info, Seeds and Seed Starting

One of the lovely things about gardening is that no matter how long (or short) you’ve been doing it, there’s always so much more to learn and discover. Lately, I have been discovering “cottage gardening”–that serendipitous combination of flowers and vegetables and herbs, with the flowers being largely traditional and very fragrant.

Last year was my first real foray into cottage gardening; I’ve loved the idea for quite some time, but the opportunity (or the persistence and pig-headedness) to actually practice it only presented itself just now. I’m continuing my cottage garden this year–in which I hope to discover many more things–but I made a lot of personal discoveries in my first year, too.

Flowers I Thought I Knew: Carnations

For example, I discovered carnations. Well, of course I always knew about carnations. They’re those bland “filler flowers” that you get in run-of-the-mill flower arrangements. Their colors are always either a bit insipid and washed out, or else garish and tacky. Of course, if you don’t like their color, you could always try the dye-in-the-water trick, but that’s about the end of their usefulness. Right?

hot pink carnations

Pink carnations grown in a cottage garden. Photo credit: Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

Wrong. Lured in by Renee’s Garden’s write-up for their ‘Enfant de Nice’ Carnations, I decided to give them a try and see if maybe “homemade is always better” would hold true here as well. Indeed. I found out that carnations could make my heart sing, and “fragrant” seemed too common a word for them.

The fragrance of carnations must be brought into the house. Photo credit:  Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

The fragrance of carnations must be brought into the house. Photo credit: Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

Carnations are invited back to my garden again this year. Well, into my garden, and into my vases. You do realize that spicy-goodness scent needs to be brought inside and enjoyed 24/7, right? Naturally. The fact of the matter is, almost all “cottage garden flowers” seem to go together spectacularly in a vase, an unforeseen but decidedly pleasant side-effect of cottage gardening.


Snapdragons and roses

Cottage garden flowers just naturally go together in a vase. Photo credit: Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

Carnations didn’t seem to find their way into this shot (blame the rose; roses always seem to steal the spotlight), but snapdragons did (I believe they were from the “Tall Maximum Blend” from Botantical Interests.) Tip: if you peek at the undersides of baby snapdragon leaves, you can make a pretty good guess at their blooming color. Whites and yellows will have green undersides; pinks will have blushed undersides, and your darkest snapdragons will have maroon undersides to their leaves. So you can kind-of/sort-of sort out your “mixed” seedlings.

Pink snapdragons

Snapdragons bloomed from July to October. Photo credit: Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

I’ve always liked snapdragons, but last years from Botanical Interests was a particularly fine showing, and I could show you about a million pictures of them like a proud new momma. I think they pretty much rated “swoon-worthy.” They’d already gotten a really good start by July, and they were still blooming their hearts out by the final frost call in October (unusually late for us, but it’s hard to complain about that!).

Coral Nymph Salvia

An unexpected delight by the name of ‘Coral Nymph Salvia’ from Renee’s Garden is also in bouquet shot above, if you look in the background there. It isn’t coral at all–at least, not by my book. “Coral” has the orange-y undertone that kind of grosses me out, and this was just the same lovely, complementary shade of pink as to go with my snapdragons. . . and carnations. . .and show-off roses. I wished I’d managed a picture of it in its natural habitat, as the plant just bursts with blooms and made itself very ready for vase-cuttings. It is also invited back to my garden this year.


pansy with lettuce

This pansy picks up the color of a nearby red lettuce. Photo credit: Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

Oh, and pansies. I discovered pansies. Yes, yes, I’d always known about pansies. They’re just like another kind of Johnny-Jump-Up, don’t you know. It’s rather the same as saying that a Great Dane is just another kind of dog. Well, these were called “Swiss Giant Blend” (from Botanical Interests), so you might have thought I’d have gotten the hint! Something was determined to eat all my pansies (good taste, I’m sure; all the same, I’m happier now that we have a mousing cat).
Pansy from Botanical Interests Swiss Giants Nonetheless, those that managed to soldier on gave me a stupid grin of delight every time I saw them. Soldier on they did. I might already have as many blossoms now as I did by the end of last years rodent-ravaged garden, because most all of them wintered over, and don’t see any point in wasting time getting started blooming again. (These pictures were taken this morning.)Pansy from Botanical Interests Swiss Giants Oh, my dear. You are so very insistent about it being Spring, and I love that about you. Your frosty edges are melting from the fiery color inside of you. Keep it up. And while you’re at it, can you please convince your recalcitrant cousins to SPROUT, ALREADY?? I am an impatient gardener, and I think those seeds should hurry up and pop out of the soil.

Discoveries to Look Forward To

Talitha's Cottage Garden

Last year’s garden in early August. Photo credit: Talitha Purdy for Just Two Eyes to See Photography

What new things am I hoping to discover this year? Sweet peas. (They finally sprouted! Hurrah! Mom can probably tell you how I complained like a toddler impatient to arrive at its destination, waiting for those sweet peas to poke above ground.) Foxgloves. Hollyhocks. Window boxes that look beautiful, not patched together with last-minute clearance annuals.

But mostly, I am hoping to discover the same joy I had last year–getting up on a foggy morning and standing at the edge of my garden, watching it bursting with life and beautiful things. If that’s not the purpose of a garden, what is?

Disclosure: Botanical Interests and Renee’s Seeds sent complimentary seed packets for us to trial. In addition, we are affiliates of Botanical Interests, and when you purchase seeds after clicking through our links, we will earn a small commission.

About the Author

Talitha spent the last few years doing an absurd combination of work and school, and found it wasn’t very pleasant. Now she’s doing work, school and a garden, and life is a little better! She also enjoys photography and hand feeding her ducks. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: herbs, vegetables, cutting garden, cottage gardening

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Donalyn May 13, 2013, 8:19 am

Lovely flowers Talitha – and I agree that cottage gardens are an intriguing direction – not one I have tried thus far, but it is in my future plans. Nice photos too!

Talitha Purdy May 12, 2013, 8:48 pm

Thanks, Donna, I intend to! πŸ™‚

Thank you for your generous offer, Cindy, I will keep it in mind!

Cindy, MCOK May 11, 2013, 11:19 am

If you should need more Coral Nymph Salvia seeds, let me know! They are quite prolific here on my corner of Katy.

Donna@Gardens Eye View May 11, 2013, 10:41 am

You have discovered my hidden passion…I grow snapdragons and pansies from seed and put them in pots all over…enjoy!

Talitha Purdy May 11, 2013, 9:12 am

Incredibly lucky, sir. πŸ™‚ I never expected (though always hoped!) it would come out so well as it had. Hoping the luck is still with me this year!

Patrick, you have now plagued me with a desire to hunt down a source for truly red carnations.

Patrick's Garden May 11, 2013, 6:03 am

Thank you for reminding my nose of the fragrance of carnations. Our next door neighbor grew only one thing: red carnations and we could smell them over the fence.

Charlie@Seattle Trekker May 10, 2013, 11:36 pm

Your photographs demonstrate the results of someone who is incredibly lucky in practicing the art of cottage gardening or is shy about professing the true level of expertise…Your flowers are wonderful.