Cottage Garden Dreams

Grey and white cat in the sunshine next to a flower bed

It seems a while since I have posted, since the Princess had her operation and was recovering. I am happy to say that she has bounced back and doesn’t appear to have noticed that she only has one eye. When we let her out for the first time, she was cautious for a few minutes, slowly making her way around the flower garden, sniffing everything to make sure that her territory hadn’t been invaded in the ten days of her incarceration.

Grey and white cat with one eye sitting in the sunshine gazing up at the camera
Yay! Sunshine!

There had been changes, which threw her initially. I have long had dreams of a cottage garden feel to the flower garden. Ever since I visited Beningbrough Hall during my time off with stress last year and spent time sitting deep inside the borders, seeing, smelling and listening to the wildlife and flowers existing in perfect harmony, I have wanted to recreate that feeling at home.

2 chairs set into deep garden borders in a walled garden
This was the inspiration at Beningbrough Hall for our own cottage garden bed

To change the whole garden would be a huge amount of work, so instead, we planned a new cottage garden bed, breaking up the large expanse of lawn before the Frog Patch. The corner near the hedge is where the last of the sun lingers in the evenings and has long been a favourite spot of both cats for basking, so it seemed to be sensible to join them and have somewhere to sit. We invested in a good mahogany bench with the garden vouchers my colleagues kindly gave me when I left Aberdeen and planned the new bed to come out in front of it, so that I could watch the bees visiting all the pollinator-friendly plants I had planned.

When we let the Princess out, the bench was in place, the bed dug and manured and the initial few plants put in. She was very curious and a little wary, unlike the Calamity Cat who had realised within minutes that the bench was a comfy spot to soak up that evening sun. We could see it all across the Princess’s face – “I’m sure this wasn’t here last time I was out here – where has it come from?” It took her a few days to be brave enough to try it for herself.

Grey and white cat sitting underneath a garden bench
“I think I’ll stay safely underneath it for now …”

Eventually, on that first evening, we decided that she was fine and we could stop supervising her. We retreated back into the house but watched anxiously from the window. As we watched, she vaulted the wall effortlessly to the front of the house and disappeared into the hedgerow across the road to check if the mice wanted to “play”. Normal service had been resumed.

The cottage garden bed is coming along gradually. We are adding plants to it as we go, bulbs are safely nestled underneath the soil, waiting for the right time to appear, and flowers are starting to open. We picked up a willow obelisk for a song at the local garden centre and my climbing rose and honeysuckle cuttings are tentatively starting to climb up it. Later in the year, I will be adding winter plants to keep the interest all year round – jasmine and clematis for the obelisks and lots of early-flowering bulbs. Flushed with the success of my cuttings and seed-sowing for summer, I have plans for sowing winter annuals ready to see us (and the wildlife) through the colder seasons. The whole thing still looks barer (and lower) than a traditional cottage garden but, with lots of self-seeding and adding plants slowly, we are hoping for a triumphant display next year. It has been fun shopping for plants, both in the garden centres and at home. I am starting to feel like a real gardener these days, shopping the garden to increase our plants for free. What can we move, divide, gather seeds from? All very much in keeping with the ethos of a cottage garden, which traditionally relied on people exchanging seeds and cuttings for free.

For the first time, I have also started thinking about colours, choosing pinks, purples and blues for the new bed rather than simply sowing or planting anything that comes my way. It involved probably more planning than I have ever done before in the garden, going through all our gardening magazines to choose the plants which would work. I even admit to compiling a spreadsheet – sad, I know! You know what they say, once a project manager …


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