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Reap rewards of cottage industry; Old-fashioned cottage plots look quaintly haphazard.. but that takes organisation.

The sight of conical lupins, majestic delphiniums and soft, scented roses mixed with clematis climbing up wicker wigwams as the fragrance of sweetpeas fill the air conjures up an image of an idyllic cottage garden.

It's amazing how many traditional cottage garden plants attract bees, butterflies and other wildlife.

Neatly upright lavender and sprawling violet catmint are a magnet for bees, as are foxgloves, wild geraniums and campanulas.

While a cottage garden may seem a glorious mixture of traditional plants nudging and overlapping each other in a seemingly random display, the overall effect will be more successful with some planning.

Heed these tips if you're planning to create your own cottage garden KEEP COLOURS IN HARMONY The colour scheme should be in harmony - traditionally soft purples, blues and pinks - with height created by climbers that clamber up obelisks and archways, or scented plants situated near old wooden benches or painted wrought iron seats to add to the romantic feel of the plot.

CHOOSE EVERGREEN BACKDROPS Select backbone evergreen plants such as holly or yew to create a framework, accented by perennials with strong architectural value such as alliums and irises. These can be repeat-planted within the border, mixed with plenty of old-fashioned favourites including aquilegias, foxgloves, pinks, hollyhocks, Michaelmas daisies and poppies. Include plants that self-seed. They'll often pop up in the right place.

Naturalistic-looking grasses can be planted in swathes to create softness and movement, dotted with wild flowers, to create a vague structure to the overall informal scene.

PLANT A TREE OR HEDGE Consider making the most of an existing tree or planting a hedge, providing food and shelter for many birds. Don't forget berries - fruiting hedges could produce crab apples, blackberries and rosehips, again attracting many birds. Cottage gardens shouldn't appear organised - but the best ones are.

FOR A CLASSIC TOUCH, ADD ROSES Roses are a cottage garden favourite. Choose a fragrant variety. Check out David Austin rose Desdemona, with its soft pink buds emerging creamy white. Or plant the deep pink Gertrude Jekyll with the subtle white Clematis Henryi Like clematis, roses enjoy rich soil, in full sun or light shade, plenty of plant food and lots of water until established. FOR A BOLD LOOK, TRY ALLIUMS The giant lollypop flowers of alliums provide a brilliant accent in the border. Some people plant them at the front of borders, lining gravel driveways but you can just as easily include them in a cottage garden border to add structure - and a talking point.

Among the most popular is Purple Sensation, a mid-sized purple type. You can also get them in white. It's best to plant alliums with ground cover that will hide their strappy leaves, which wilt and discolour before the glorious single round-headed flowers emerge. Ideal candidates to mask the allium leaves include hardy geraniums or a flowing grass such as Stipa tenuissima. FOR HEIGHT, CONSIDER LUPINS Among the earliest of the impressive cottage garden summer perennials, lupins, from the pea family, come in all colours and in varying heights. They are really easy to grow from seed, especially if you soak the seed for 24 hours before sowing. They produce dense spikes of pea-like flowers often up to 90cm tall above palmate leaves. FOR A DELICATE LOOK, PLANT FOXGLOVES These self-seeding statuesque spires of wildflower seen on railway banks or in overgrown country lanes also look impressive in the cottage garden. The delicate-looking bell flowers are a magnet for bees. Leave the flowers to drop their seeds in the autumn and you should get flowers two years on.

FOR COLOUR, ADD NEPETA Along with lavender, nepeta (catmint) provides an impressive swathe at the front of a border, thanks to its clouds of tiny mauve flowers on gentle spikes that flower from early summer to autumn. The most widely available is Six Hills Giant which grows up to 90cm and can be a bit unruly. A less slouching type is Walker's Low, which reaches about 60cm.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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