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New cottage garden style front garden advice


We're new to all this so trying to learn fast for a new small front garden we'd like to plant in a cottage garden style.

We've done the hard landscaping and have empty beds ready (I think) to start planting.

We have alkaline clay soil some of I'd say is heavy clay about a 1-1.5 foot down. We've dug in soil conditioner and horse manure as best we can.

We plan on relatively low maintenance hardy plants. We're thinking mainly perennials, maybe some bulbs and a few annuals or biannuals. We're planning of some climbing roses and clematis (if recommended for our soil).

One end gets good sun form about 12 - sunset but one end is in shade most of the days due to a large tree.

My questions:

1. Is now (early Oct) a good time to plant? The only thing making me hesitate is that I read somewhere that it may be better to wait for spring with clay soil. Let the frost break it down a bit and plant when it's not too wet.

2. Should we plant it all now at once or in stages?

3. If recommending to plant now, how long would we have until we have to pack in planting for the year? We're limited on free time to plant and don't even have any plants yet.

Have a load more questions about plants but better limit this post a bit!

Thanks in advance for any advice.



  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 16,724
    If you have heavy clay, I would wait until Spring, and spend the winter putting as much humus into your soil as you can, in the form of compost or well rotted manure.
    In Spring, there will be lots of young plants that will romp away, in the garden centres. What is available now are likely to be in larger pots, and will not do as well as three small plants planted as a triangle. Also consider filling in the gaps the first year with annuals that can be grown from seed. That will enable shrubs and perennials to grow into their space.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,862
    For next year try white bleeding hearts in the shady area and pink in the sun, then aquilegia which come in multiple colours. Both are plant and leave with only a bit of dead heading now and will fill out by themselves.  Bulbs will give colour, grape hyacynth,  tulips , daffodils,  bluebells even Alliums for height. Roses but those need a little looking after , all are found in cottage gardens. It's a bit late for most of them and may take all next year to get in but with so much choice you can take the winter to do the planning.  Enjoy yourself.😀
  • Mary370Mary370 Posts: 2,003
    I agree with fidgetbones above.  In the meantime you could buy some small plants now eg. heathers, and pot them on and plant out next Spring.  You could also plant some bulbs in pots to bring a bit of late Winter/early Spring colour.  You can buy biennials online, which will flower next year........again pot them on and you will have fine sturdy plants ready to plant next Spring.
  • MarlorenaMarlorena Posts: 7,949
    My advice will be a little different, and it's always good to know where someone lives here, whether you're in the Scottish Glens, near mountains of wales, or near the coast... climates are a bit different, local conditions and all that..   I'm assuming you're Midland southwards, maybe a town garden... with that in  mind... plant now from containers,... you've improved the soil somewhat, no problem...   for most of us we live in a temperate maritime UK climate, you can garden virtually year round, except during the very worst of times...

    I garden until end December [yes even on xmas day]… then go quiet until mid Feb but I'm too busy in Spring so I get all my planting done from now onwards to the end of the year... I just plant annuals in Spring... what you plant will likely be very hardy stuff, so don't worry about it..

    Enjoy your cottage garden, it's a style not an orthodoxy so it will change over time, and do as much or little as you please...  

    East Anglia, England
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,457
    Just wondering, are your beds quite sheltered (near the house wall), or more exposed? We have 3 beds in our front garden, not massive. 2 are in front of the windows either side of the front door and one of them is quite sheltered, while the other is alongside the driveway and more exposed. The third is along the pavement and also a bit more exposed to the elements, but protected by a box hedge. Each has it's own micro climate. Any chance of a photo?  :)
  • Hello! This is the wife of Dave. Thanks all for your helpful comments. This is the garden in question...we’re based in Gloucestershire so south west England... Perhaps we go with pot plants now then and wait til the new year?! I think it will very much be an evolving garden which can hopefully manage itself to a point! 

  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 4,862
    What a lovely house. Love the hard standing, leaves nice areas to plant. Maybe something with height would be nice, a red grass or Acer. Lots of soft floating plants would be an idea. What a nice area to plant up.
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,457
    I like the work you've done, nice to see somewhere with a bit of character!  I must be honest and say , if it were me, l would like to maybe get a couple of things in the ground this side of winter, just to soften it a bit. OH says l have no patience!  I'm in Glos too, and l would say you have a good few weeks yet to plant. How about a trip to the garden centre to see what's around now,get some advice and buy some bulbs to pot up. My other advice would be to visit the centre throughout the year so that you can see what's in flower each time. Depending where in Glos you are, there are some very good independent centres.
  • MarlorenaMarlorena Posts: 7,949
    You've done a lovely job there, and it fits well with your house... all ready for planting, if it was mine... but I would advise not to overplant, and to put the tallest plants in the middle of those curved beds, cascading outwards with shorter stuff...  I like to soften the edges, I use things like Aubrietia and Helianthemums..  let us know how it develops...
    East Anglia, England
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,662
    If you're planning to have any woody shrubs or small trees - an amelanchier maybe, roses certainly, an acer at the shady end perhaps - these are all best planted when 'dormant', so between now and February. They are also good to get in first, as they form the backbone or structure of the garden. 

    If you're planting hardy perennials in Spring, be aware that you may need to water them regularly for the first few weeks - we've had quite dry Spring weather in recent years. Can you get a hosepipe round there? If not, you'll need to carry watering cans. If you have a hose, no problem. If you'll be carrying it, it's probably best to do the planting more slowly, or it can become too time consuming to do properly.
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
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