Garden Style Series: Cottage Garden

The English cottage garden is something you don’t often see in the northern Nevada area. Part of the reason for this is because of our arid climate. Cottage style gardens come from England where they receive much more precipitation than we do and don’t require extensive irrigation systems to keep plants alive. Another reason is the increasing popularity of xeriscaping, which is on the opposite side of the spectrum of landscape styles. Though not as popular in the Reno area, cottage gardens are beautiful style gardens that you can create here with a little planning and preparation. These style gardens are marked by dense plantings that breach boundaries, encourage pollinators and lack intentional symmetry. As opposed to traditional landscaping that emphasizes lawn as a focal point and are highly maintained, cottage style gardens are designed to focus on the whimsical experience of spending time in the garden while butterflies zoom around your head.

Cottage Garden Maintenance

This doesn’t mean a cottage garden is low maintenance, however, regular maintenance should be done to keep the garden looking it’s best. This includes weeding, pruning and deadheading as well as keeping the soil healthy using soil amendments and mulches.

Cottage Garden Hardscaping

Though these gardens have minimal hardscaping, arbors and trellises are often installed for vertical growing vines and roses, and benches and bird baths are placed for enjoying nature. Small patios with outdoor furniture for garden breakfasts are commonplace. The white picket fence came from this garden style and is incorporated for visual appearances and to maintain a sense of privacy.
cottage garden trellis

Garden Plants

Cottage gardening is an informal garden style, but not without some planning. Plants are not in perfect groupings, though there is an emphasis on visual interest using height, structure and texture of plant material. Densely planted, plants can self-sow and grow into walkways. Varying types of plants that attract pollinators and animals to the garden are also used.

Garden plants include a mix of annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs and trees. Usually, there’s three to four dominant colors in a cottage garden design with a unique mix of textures and forms.

It’s common to see a variety of native plants incorporated into a cottage garden design. This encourages native pollinators to visit and sustains a healthy landscape. Some cottage gardens also have vegetable gardens with heirloom varieties.

garden pathway


Creativity is allowed in cottage garden design. As opposed to traditional gardening pots, creative containers such as wheelbarrows, carts, and bathtubs are used for a playful vibe. Container plants are planted to overflow the containers and spill out onto walkways. To create your own cottage-style garden in northern Nevada, we suggest using native plants as much as possible and installing a well-designed irrigation system from the start. Use locally sourced hardscape materials, such as flagstone, for walkways and patios. Also, we suggest investing in your soils by incorporating soil amendments like compost. This will support healthy plant growth. For plant suggestions, contact your local Extension office. Request a complimentary consultation today, and we will bring your garden vision to life!-