If Kathy Greeley’s flowers were marines, they’d be kicked out of the corps for refusing to follow the rules. They do not grow in straight lines. They sprout where they like. They bloom in all directions, and some don’t stand straight. But Kathy doesn’t mind. This exuberant lack of regimentation is exactly the look she’s after.
“I want an English cottage-style garden,” says the interior designer and avid flower arranger. “I want lots of flowers for cutting--roses, larkspurs, foxgloves, delphiniums, and peonies.” A bounty of blooms arrives on cue from spring through fall. The look perfectly suits her cozy, modest-size home in Waynesville, North Carolina.
Hunter Stubbs of B.B. Barns Landscape Company in nearby Arden helped Kathy design the garden and still helps to maintain it. He defines the style as a grandma’s garden. It has a lot of familiar flowers--including Siberian irises, poppies, and other plants--that are typically passed around.
Old, dependable peony selections such as “Sarah Bernhardt” (rose pink) and “Felix Crousse” (ruby red) exemplify this. Kathy dug them up from the garden of her mother and stepfather. “My stepfather died last year at 94, and these peonies were his mother’s,” she recalls.
Many Happy Returns
The genius of the cottage style is that many of its key flowers come back from seed, so you have to plant them only once. Such is the case with Kathy’s foxgloves, larkspurs, poppies, hollyhocks, and summer bloomers such as cleomes. If a flower sprouts in an inconvenient place, you pull it, but otherwise you let it be and watch the garden change from year to year.
“You need the good sense to leave things alone,” asserts Hunter. “Let things just sort of happen. If you’re too neurotic about it, this is not your style of garden. The best compliment you can get is for people to think it happened by accident.”
Keys To Success
A cottage garden does require planning however. Kathy and Hunter share the following tips.
•Use leaf mold (composted, chopped-up leaves) as a mulch in the garden, not shredded bark. Flowers that reseed will germinate much more readily. Also, leaf mold looks more natural.
•After reseeding flowers finish blooming, they set seed, die, and leave holes in your garden. Be ready with something to take their place for summer. Don’t let these flowers grow too thickly, or they’ll choke out other plants. “Balance letting things roam and keeping them at bay,” advises Hunter.
•Even cottage gardens need some weeding. Kathy closes her design shop on Fridays to work in the garden. “It’s great therapy, ”she says happily.
Kathy’s Cottage Flowers for Spring
Landscape designer was Hunter Stubbs, B.B. Barns Landscape Company, Arden, North Carolina, www.bbbarns.com or (828) 684-9190.
"Bounty of Blooms" is from the May 2008 issue of Southern Living.