This romantic Virginia garden is inspired by English cottage style
1 of 5Photo: Roger Foley
Sandy Helsel taught herself about plants by leafing through garden catalogs while waiting for clients to show up during her former career selling real estate. Then she and a friend traveled several times to England, visiting more than 70 public and private gardens.
Upon returning home to Williamsburg, Virginia, she pored through a book about English gardens written by famous British author and garden designer Rosemary Verey. Sandy picked out a plan she could adapt to her back and side yards. Local garden designer Gale Roberts placed the fencing, paths, garden shed, fountain, and focal points. Sandy took care of the planting.
Fences, paths, and focal points lend year-round structure to the plantings.
2 of 5Photo: Roger Foley
The Big Idea
Install a small, English-style garden (40 by 75 feet) featuring lots of colorful foliage and flowers from a wide variety of plants that tolerate Williamsburg's hot, humid summers.
Sprawling roses are mainstays of English cottage-style garden design, which favors lush planting.
3 of 5Photo: Roger Foley
Major players include purple-leaf sand cherry, purple loropetalum, purple smoke tree, golden barberry, and golden Hinoki false cypress for foliage color; oakleaf hydrangea, roses, Japanese iris, daylilies, and white rose campion for flowers from spring until fall; sheared Schipka laurels for hedging; and tall fescue grass for a small lawn.
4 of 5Photo: Roger Foley
Cottage Gardening 101
1. The garden must be enclosed by a fence, wall, or evergreen hedge to help define the space.
2. Use formal design to tame the wild look of growing so many different kinds of plants.
3. Before you plant anything, improve the soil by adding lots of organic matter.
4. If you want a low-or no-spray garden, choose mostly pest-resistant plants.
5 of 5Photo: Roger Foley
The Herb Garden
The Big Idea
Convert the side yard (20 by 25 feet) into a fenced cottage-style garden combining herbs, perennials, grasses, and colorful shrubs and trees.
Major players include herbs; foxgloves and sweet rocket for spring and early-summer flowers; red-leaf Japanese barberry, purple-leaf sand cherry, and goldmoss sedum for colorful foliage; and "Sky Pencil" Japanese holly for a vertical accent.