Cottage gardens are a flower lover’s dream. It’s hardly surprising that these traditional gardens are enjoying a revival, as they’re packed full of brightly colored blooms of all shapes and sizes. If you dream of creating your own traditional cottage garden, here’s a list of the best summer flowers to grow.
Instead of being a showcase for summer flowers, the traditional cottage garden was a practical affair. At a time when people were more self-sufficient, fruit and vegetables were often grown alongside medicinal herbs and ornamental flowers. This created informal borders packed with interest.
Today’s cottage gardens see annuals and perennials growing in informal borders, and spilling onto winding paths. From early spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, to late autumn color, a cottage garden has colorful points of interest throughout the year. That said, the best time to see a cottage garden is in summer, when its many different varieties are all in glorious bloom.
Columbines (Aquilegia), are colorful, self-seeding plants that will happily spread through your garden, if left to their own devices. Popular with all pollinators, Aquilegia are generally early summer flowers, blooming as the last of your spring bulbs fade.
Generally two-tone in color, these graceful plants will do well in partial shade. Just make sure that the soil is well draining.
Sometimes called Granny’s bonnets because of their hat-shaped blossoms, some of these varieties can reach 3 ft in height. This makes them a striking addition to any cottage garden.
Alliums, or ornamental onions, are grown for their distinctive, showy flower heads. Coming in a range of shapes, sizes and colors, these summer flowers are particularly popular with pollinators. Swathes of Alliums in borders can create a stunning visual effect during the summer months.
Most varieties are not fully hardy so in colder areas you will have to mulch or provide winter protection. After the plants have died back their dried flower heads can still be an attractive part of a border display.
Campanula are also known as Bellflowers, and produce distinctive, usually blue, bell-shaped flowers.
These blooms are cottage garden favorites, and enjoy a long flowering season: usually from early to mid summer. A great companion for shrub roses, Campanula—like many other summer flowers—are particularly attractive to pollinators. They’re also great to cut for decorative arrangements.
Easily grown from seed, cornflowers are often seen as a wildflowers, but are just as at home in a cottage garden. Their tall, thin stems support a host of bright blue flowers, and are very attractive to pollinators. These striking summer flowers pop with color when companion planted alongside marigolds and poppies.
In France, cornflowers are known as the flowers of remembrance.
Daisies are among the most easily recognizable, and most beloved summer flowers. Their white petals and yellow centers are a welcome addition to any cottage garden.
This species’ un-fussy simplicity works well in contrast with bolder plants. Daisies will happily grow in partial shade as long as the soil is well draining.
These late summer flowers can often last well into autumn. Dahlias come in a range of colors and varieties, from single flowering plants to puffed up, pompom-esque blooms. This means that you can either blend them into your borders, or pick an eye-catching selection that stands out. Such versatility means that these blooms will fit into any planting scheme.
Delphinium‘s stately spires sre a feature of every cottage garden, protruding through chaotic borders to produce peaks of blue, purple, white or pink.
They’re happy in full or partial sun, but taller varieties need to be staked to protect them from wind damage. Make sure to protect your delphiniums from slugs and snails early in the growing season.
Carnations are amongst the sweetest-smelling summer flowers, and essential addition to any cottage garden. Also known as pinks, Dianthus come in a range of colors, most commonly reds and whites.
At their best in full sun, these-short lived perennials are a great bedding plant, sitting at the forefront of any border. One of the most common Dianthus varieties of “Sweet William”: a fragrant early summer flower that attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.
Geraniums are incredibly popular, and can be found in most gardens. Coming in a range of colors, from white to a rich purple, a selection of these blooms will add a rainbow of color to your borders.
For a second flowering, cut your geraniums back after the first crop of flowers has faded. This will extend their season, giving you more color in your borders.
This self-seeding addition to the cottage garden is one of the most stately summer flowers.
Foxglove (Digitalis)’ tall, bell-shaped flowers—usually white, pink or purple—are packed with nectar. This means that they’ll attract scores of pollinators to your garden. Most common foxgloves are biennial, but as the plant can self-seed, it may appear annually instead.
Hollyhocks are amongst the tallest summer flowers, and can produce flowering spikes up to 8ft in height. A perennial plant, but often grown as a biennial, hollyhocks are a traditional part of an English cottage garden, and will flower throughout the summer. Their tall, attractive spikes are a fantastic backdrop to more delicate plants at the front of your border.
Hollyhocks are best grown in groups at the back of a sun drenched border. They bloom in a range of colors, from red to yellow, purple and white. Cut your hollyhocks back after they finish flowering to encourage new growth.
Honeysuckle is one of the sweetest-smelling summer flowers. It will happily flower from July to late September, attracting a constant stream of wildlife.
Train vining varieties along trellising, walls, or pergolas, and use shrub varieties to fill a space in borders.
These large shrubs, which can grow up to 6 feet tall, will happily thrive in partial sun. Hydrangeas are often used to add definition to the edge of a border. Depending on your soil, your hydrangea may produce clusters of white, pink, or blue flowers. The more acidic the soil, the bluer the blooms will be.
Graceful, fragrant irises come in a whole rainbow of colors, shapes, and sizes. In fact, no cottage garden is complete without swathes of Irises towering over smaller plants. These are happiest when grown in full sun.
15. Lily of the Valley
An easy-to-grow addition to any garden, the sweet-scented lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a low-growing plant that will spread through your borders as the years progress, creating a lush carpet of foliage.
This species’ fragrant white blossoms sit delicately on the plants’ lush green foliage. One of the most beautiful shade-loving summer flowers, it will nestle happily beneath shrubs, around trees, or at the front of a border.
Similar to delphiniums, lupins are mainstays of any cottage garden. Their pea-like towers of blooms, which are available in a range of colors, look great alongside roses. These stately flowers are happiest in full sun. In addition, deadheading will encourage a second growth of flowers later in the season.
17. Michaelmas Daisy
Also known as asters, Michaelmas daisies are some of the most popular late summer flowers. They will often provide color to your cottage garden long after other plants have faded.
These flowers come in a range of varieties, from the compact “Lady in Blue” to the slender stemmed “Royal Ruby” which boasts vibrant maroon flowers with bright yellow centers.
These fragrant, petal-packed summer flowers are resplendent in most cottage garden borders. In fact, they’ll keep blooming from late spring well into mid summer. The peony’s distinctive double flowers come in varying shades of white, yellow, pink, and red.
Peonies thrive best in full sun and well-draining soil. They’re also also virtually pest-free and largely drought tolerant.
A late summer favorite, phlox produces eye-catching, divinely scented clusters of lavender, pink, red, and white flowers. These flowers are happiest in the middle of a border where they can enjoy rich, moist soil and some shade. Phlox will attract butterflies galore, as well as other pollinators like bees and hummingbirds.
Tuberose—also known as Polianthes—will fill your space with truly glorious fragrance. As traditional cottage gardens are typically fragrant as well as colorful, this variety is a must-have in your design. These upright plants add structure and contrast to most borders, and will also attract pollinators.
Our final flower is the quintessential cottage garden plant. Roses are also incredibly versatile. From climbers to tea roses, and miniature shrub varieties there’s a rose to suit your space. Their rich colors and fragrant aromas make them a must have for every cottage garden.
Hopefully, this list has given you a solid list of the best summer flowers you can use to create your own cottage garden. Whether you choose to use all the flowers on this list, just a few of them, or even add some favorites of your own into the mix, that’s entirely up to you. There are no rules for creating a cottage garden, just make sure that it is packed full of colorful, fragrant blooms.