Cottage Garden: June 2021 Update

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Garden Looking Towards Porch

We bought the little cottage behind our house three years ago, and I’ve been working steadily on the garden ever since. Let me show you the progress I’ve made over the past year.

Side Garden

We’ll start in the side yard, which admittedly looks much like it did last year.

Red Daylillies

I’ve mostly been tweaking what I have planted here, so we’ll have three seasons of continuous color. I recently added some red hot poker and dutch irises from my mother-in-law’s yard.

We had a really weird spring (40 degree days followed by 90 degree days), so its thrown off the bloom time of a lot of things. Normally we’d have several colors of daylilies and bee balm growing right now, but we just have red daylilies at the moment.

Office Garden Before

That’s still a far cry from where we started back in 2017.

Side Porch

We finally removed the ramp from the side door (big improvement) …

Right Side of Side Porch

and I’m gearing up to paint this side of the cottage.

Seating Area at End of Side Porch

I’ll be repainting the porch furniture, too.

Privacy Hedge

The privacy hedge has come a long way over the past few years. It’s recovered from years of overpruning, and we’ve succeeded in growing it taller. This introvert sure does love a good privacy planting.

Garden Path Lined in Daylillies

Especially one hiding a pretty daylily-lined path. Follow the path around the corner of the cottage …

Path Through Shade Garden

and this is the view that unfolds before you. Pretty magical, don’t you think?

Shade Garden

Last year it was a lawn. This year it’s a beautiful shade garden filled with hostas, ferns …

Purple Shamrock

purple shamrock …

Strawberry Begonias

strawberry begonias …

Solomon's Seal

solomon’s seal …

Elephant's Ear

and elephant ears. Lots and lots of elephant ears. I transferred quite a few of these plants from other parts of our yard. Then, filled in with a couple packages of bareroot ferns and hostas. They were dirt cheap, and just required a bit of patience.

Cottage Porch

Revamping this porch has been one of my big focuses this spring.

Front of Office Spring 2019

Back in 2019 it had dirt-stained siding, damaged trellises, a missing porch post and an ugly aluminum screen door.

Front of Office

We replaced the missing post and painted last year, but the porch still looked pretty tired.

Restored Porch Trellis

So, last week, my husband repaired the trellises, using lumber he found in a curb pile, and my youngest daughter and I painted them to match our new color scheme. This project took a ton of age off the porch.

Repainted French Door

To decorate and furnish the porch, I started by purchasing two five-foot fake cedar trees to go on either side of the door. I don’t normally go for fake stuff, but I love to use these fake evergreens in difficult growing spots, like this too shady porch. I’ve been using the three-foot version of these trees in the front planter boxes at our house, where too much sun is a problem. They look so real, they fool people all the time. So, if you’ve got a difficult spot, and you’re tired of buying replacement trees, this is a solid option. They aren’t cheap, but they are cheaper than buying replacement trees over and over again. I like to “plant” them in potting soil, so they’re even more convincing.

I had a couple concrete planters that I no longer liked, so I sold them on Facebook, and used to proceeds to buy the poly rattan planters that you see here. They should hold up for years, and be easy to clean.

Left Side of Porch

Up until recently, the porch seating consisted of a hodge podge of worn out chairs. I started scouring Facebook Marketplace for outdoor furniture early this spring …

Rope Bench

and found this awesome rope bench from World Market.

Throw Pillows on Rope Bench

It didn’t come with any pillows, so I ordered some inexpensive pillow covers on Amazon, and used pillow forms and stuffing that I already owned to fill them.

Ringer Washer Planter

The wringer washer that was given to us several years ago is finally living its best life (you can see how I transformed it here).

I’d debated using it as a planter or as a drink cooler for parties (since it has a built-in drain), but in the meantime, I’d been using it as a handy spot to hide my garden tools in plain sight. It finally occurred to me that it could serve all three purposes, if I filled it with fake flowers. So, that’s just what I did. These are the ones I bought.

Since there’s no soil in the tub, I can still store my garden tools underneath the flowers, and if I want to use it as a cooler, I can just remove the flowers temporarily.

I plan to store the flowers in the winter, so they’ll only be out during the appropriate growing season. The cedar trees will stay out year-round, since they’re evergreens.

Rockers on Porch

The rocking chairs on the other side of the porch came with the awesome outdoor sectional that I recently scored on Facebook, and used on our new backyard patio. They work perfectly on this porch, and get tons of use.

View From Porch Looking into Garden

This porch has become my family’s favorite space in the whole yard. I just love the view.

View From Porch

and it’ll only get better over time.

We still have some issues to address with the porch roof and gutters, but I finally feel like we’ve gotten this porch on the right track.

Metal Spiral Sculpture

When you step off the porch, into the garden, this metal spiral sculpture is on your right. I rescued it from a curb pile years ago, and it finally has the perfect spot.

Garden in Front of Porch

Here’s a zoomed out view of that garden bed. It was all lawn last year.

Daisies

If you follow the path, and make the second right, it takes you past these daisies …

Hidacote Lavender

and this Hidacote lavender that was rescued from a trash pile last year. It’s a good culinary lavender, so I plan to use it to make yummy things, like lavender extract and lavender simple syrup (recipe coming soon).

Path to Junk Patio and Rock Bed

Just past the lavender, the path ends at this junk patio.

Junk Patio

My oldest daughter and I made it out of bits of this and that.

Junk Patio and Bench

The metal circle towards the front is an old brake rotor that we filled with glass rocks. The bench is the seat off an old Victorian carriage. I bought it from our friends, when they owned an antique store. And those are hibiscus plants behind the patio. I got them for free when I was invited to dig up all the plants in a yard a couple years ago. They haven’t started blooming yet this season, but it won’t be long, before they’re putting on a show.

Closeup of Junk Patio

I love how we were able to make something useful and pretty out of a bunch of random junk.

Shade Garden and Porch

When you’re sitting on the bench, this is the view looking forward.

Front of Office Garden Taken From Left

It’s quit a different view from last June.

Rock Garden Bed

And this is the view looking left.

Bee Balm

When we bought the cottage, this bed was much smaller, and mostly filled with daylillies. I expanded it two times, adding more plant varieties and a rock border. All of those rocks were rescued from curb piles.

I absolutely love the bee balm in the foreground. I can’t remember if it came from that yard I dug up, or if I got it off a clearance rack. Either way it’s been an awesome addition to the bed.

Rock Garden and Secret Path

Last year, my oldest daughter and I built a secret junk path next to the rock bed. It serves as a shortcut between the junk patio and the part of the garden that I’m about to show you.

Wildflower Bed Tucked Between Garden Paths

Here’s a zoomed out view, to help you better visualize the space. The path on the left is the one that leads to the junk patio, and that’s the secret junk path in the background. There’s a third path on the right. It connects with the other paths, and forms a triangle-shaped garden bed in the center. We refer to this bed as “The Wedge.”

I transplanted some daisies over there last year. Then, early this spring, my youngest daughter and I made seed bombs, using a blend of wildflowers that are good for bees, and planted them in the bed. The squirrels insisted on digging up a bunch of them, but the ones that managed to stay planted are just starting to get some height and bloom.

Once the bed fills in, the secret path will finally be secret. It’ll be something you stumble upon when you’re exploring the garden, rather than something you can see from a distance.

Garden Bed Beside Porch

Both the secret junk path and the path on the right take you to the shadiest part of the garden.

Ferns and Hostas

Last year, I planted the area with a variety of ferns and hostas. They were bareroot plants, so they’re just starting to get some size to them.

Mailbox Birdhouse

My mother-in-law got a new mailbox this year, so we asked her for the old one, and turned it into a mailbox birdhouse. My husband sized the hole for bluebirds.

Wall Fountain

The wall fountain in this part of the garden was a lucky curb find several years ago. It’s not operational currently, but I’d like to get a pump for it sometime.

Closeup of Secret Garden Path

This is the other end of the secret garden path.

Culver's Root

It comes out next to this pretty white perennial. It was in the yard when we bought the cottage, so I’m not sure what it is. Lupine? Culver’s root? Please weigh in, if you know.

Slumped Bottle Hanging in Garden

My youngest daughter gave me this slumped bottle for a gift a few years back. I just added it to this garden bed, and I’m loving the pop of blue it provides.

Garden Statue of Girl

If you continue down the path, you come to this girl statue next. It’s a curb rescue. Fittingly, it’s sitting on a bird bath base that we pulled out of another curb pile.

Closeup of Garden Statue

It used to be part of a fountain.

Pot of Succulents

I recently added this pot of succulents to the garden. Both the pot and the succulents were given to me. The column was a curb find.

Garden Path in Progress

If you turn around and face the path you just came down, this is the view. I’ve been slowly expanding the path as I manage to snag free flagstones.

Section of Grass That Still Needs to be Taken Up

Considering that this is what the path looked like last year, I’d say I’m making pretty good progress.

Path to Shade Garden From Backyard

Once I complete this last stretch, it’ll tie the cottage garden into our backyard.

Row of Privacy Plantings Next to the Road

Two years ago, we planted a row of Spartan Junipers along the perimeter of our cottage garden, so the space would eventually have a secret garden feel.

Spartan Juniper Privacy Plantings

Here’s where we’re at now. Hopefully, in a couple years this space will be completely private. In the meantime, I’m thrilled with the progress we’ve made, and loving the challenge of doing everything on the cheap. Aside from the cost of the privacy plantings, we’ve only spent a couple hundred dollars on plants, and we haven’t spent anything on hardscaping. That’s my kind of garden project.

Have questions about my cottage garden? Leave them in the comments. Want to see more of my garden? Then, stay tuned. I’ll be sharing updates on our backyard and side yard soon.

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10 Comments

  1. Erin, that is amazing!

    Your Bee Balm is red? I have Burgundy, Lavender, and Red. If you would like, I can send you some roots…

    Lesley

    1. It’s a dark pinky-purple. We have a light purple bee balm that grows naturally at our cabin. I would love some roots from your other colors. I haven’t gotten a chance to write up a post yet, but we planted a pollinator garden in our side yard this year.

  2. Wow, you are so talented not only with the plants stunning growth but the beauty of seeing something come from nothing. Really a treat, thanks for the photos and sharing of personal items. We too would love privacy screens, but we live in hot SE Utah desert so it has been a challenge. Recently we bought 7 little cypress trees as they are evergreen and grow fast and tall, lost two so far, but am hoping they come back, they are just dry and brownish. Anyone with info on them would be appreciated.

  3. lovely upgrade! the white flowers look like gooseneck loose strife I have all over my yard – they go crazy- very invasive but will fill in spots you need filled

  4. Well done! I’ve really enjoyed reading your update. Your white, nodding flower is Lysimachia clethroides (Chinese Loosestrife). It does well in my UK garden too.

  5. A LOT of hard work there! I absolutely love what you have done but my favorite has to be the junk patio and path. The secret garden effect is gorgeous and will be more so as it continues to fill in. Thank you for sharing, Erin!

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