How to create your own cottage garden

Marigolds brighten up a border display
Marigolds brighten up a border display
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Mary, from Bosham, has been busy preparing a curved border with the aim of creating a cottage garden effect.

She would love to have herbaceous perennials (flowering plants which come up every year) such as golden rod, phlox and Michaelmas daisies. She wants to know if such a border can be grown from seed.

Most herbaceous perennials can be grown from seeds and they are usually sown during April or May, flowering from next year onwards.

Sow some next month and plant them in late autumn.

In the meantime, you could have a border in full flower in about 12 weeks. It’s easy to grow annuals which can now be sown directly into the soil as long as you can keep the soil moist.

As annuals grow only for one year, in late September we can collect seed from them, keep them dry and the following spring sow them into the garden again.

Plan to grow hardy annuals in a sunny spot. The curved border would be ideal, but for other beginners a good shape can be accomplished by cutting away the turf at the edge of the lawn so that the shape pleases you. Fork the area over roughly.

Take out any suspicious-looking weed roots.

If you have some well rotted manure or compost, incorporate this.

Rake the area over as soon as the digging is finished to produce a nice tilth about four inches deep.

When raking is completed scatter over two ounces of blood fish and bonemeal to every square yard and then rake it into the top two or three inches of soil.

Then make irregular rounded shapes with the edge of a rake or long thick cane, so one area will drift into the next one. Sow the seeds in pinches all over each area.

Simply cover the seeds with a quarter of an inch of soil. You may like to blend one colour into another, so, try love-in-a-mist next to clarkia and behind these sow some larkspur seeds. The combination of pink, blue and pastel shades of the larkspur looks magnificent.

If you want an area to be brilliant and fiery, try some dwarf nasturtiums planted against orange pot marigolds and as a background sow some seeds of cornflowers.

As a contrast, put in a wigwam shape made of long pea sticks and plant two sweet pea plants at the bottom of each of the pea sticks.

An alternative is a wigwam of runner beans, the red flowers and beautiful leaves are attractive.

Now, what about the failures? Some patches will germinate better than others, but remember we planted the seeds in little pinches, so if a lot come up in one area and few in another, it won’t matter a bit if we transplant some to another area, after all we are going to create a cottage garden type of border and cottage gardens are anything but organised!