For the past three years I’ve attempted to grow my very own English cottage garden—in the rock and clay of the sunbaked Ozark foothills. In some ways it’s been a losing battle, in some ways it’s been a great learning experience.
I was inspired by picture-perfect photos of darling cottage gardens: rowdy, colorful, friendly, and loved. I wanted something of that English country charm in my own home, a place where I could read and drink a cup of tea. Just so you know, I have never had a love of working outdoors or getting my fingers dirty. However, I decided to try my hands at a little experiment, and so I asked Mom and Dad to help me cultivate a piece of ground just outside my bedroom window. I bought a wonderful book (Creating a Cottage Garden in North America by Stephen Westcott-Gratton) and set to work.
Crarae Garden: 50 acres of sprawling woodland, sprinkled with bridges, is lush with color from spring to autumn
Easier said than done. Let’s just say that the British soil and climate is quite a bit different than the stuff we’ve got down here. Hacking through red clay and more rocks than dirt is not exactly easy, and I’ve had many failures (foxgloves seem to be a loss, as are English daisies and sage), but on the whole it’s improving as time goes on and I experiment with more new things. This summer has been week after week of 100 degree temperatures and baking sun, so most gardens around here are pretty pathetic. I seem to have hit my stride with four-o-clocks and morning glories, though; they’re doing quite well despite drought-like conditions.
Ascog Hall Fernery: this rare sunken Victorian fernery was rescued from ruin and is now a prestigious, prize-winning attraction
So that’s my personal garden story. A little frustration, a few tears, and some real satisfaction. Like so many other gardeners—green-thumbed or otherwise—hope springs eternal in my breast and I am already formulating plans for next year, when I might finally get the quaint, rambling cottage garden I’ve been working towards!
Torosay Castle Gardens: A taste of Italy in Scotland, this place is home to a beautiful colonnade as well as "niche" gardens and statuary