Help with narrow borders in cottage garden


I am hoping someone will be able to give me some advice. This is my garden, as you can see the borders are very narrow. The ones next to the cottage walls are 80cm wide x 3.5m and 4m Long. With a very small border in front of the trellis.

I'm not going to be able to increase the border width due to time restraints (it's already taken me hours to dig hundreds of rocks out of the borders as they have not been used for years)

How can I create the closest thing to a cottage garden here?

Ideally, I'd love to have something low growing at the front that might spread out into the gravel (I could maybe dig out a small trench in front of the wood). Then something a bit taller then something taller behind that. I'm pretty sure this is unachievable though, given the width.

I would like to create a haven for wildlife so would like most things I plant to be beneficial to at least one type of insect/bug/bee etc.

Things I've been considering are Phlox, Japanese Anemone (for the shady corner), Hollyhock, Lady's mantle, a small buddleja maybe, Nepeta, Rudbeckia, Echinacea and lots more I can't find the names for….

I've got some sweet peas for the trellis which I'll plant on the other side of it, leaving space in front for something else

The garden is in South East Scotland, faces West and has acidic clay soil. If westerly wind is strong it gets a bit battered as its up a slight hill but that's not too often. The end of one of the borders is shady and does have a clematis there (growing out of the gravel rather that the border) which I'm trying to revive.

I have grown vegetables before but when it comes to growing flowers I'm a bit of a novice!!!

I would be so grateful for any advice to help me create something lovely for summer and beyond.


  • Just an extra bit of info, given the small size and when I actually use the garden to sit out on, I'm thinking it is best for me to focus on summer and early autumn plants. And maybe some long flowering spring ones. 
  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,965
    edited April 2019
    As it's tight, maybe think about layers rather than low things to the front / tall things to the back. Keep it simple, plant two or three 'upright' plants like Phlox 'Blue Paradise', Veronicastrum viginicum, Thalictrum delavayi in groups of 3-5 (sort of in the middle, don't plant them against the back wall). Then between them (and more towards the front) plant low spreaders like Geranium 'Anne Thompson' or 'Rozanne', Lady's Mantle etc which will spill forwards onto the path. The Geraniums in particular will weave around the bases of the other plants.
  • WillDBWillDB Posts: 1,965
    edited April 2019
    Also, think about doing something special on the corners and either side of the entrance path, maybe clumps of Sedum 'Matrona', or some box balls.
  • Thank you so much for your help WillDB, I will look up all the plants you suggested. And yes, something special for the end corner would be a good idea. 
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