Friday, January 3, 2014

The Cottage Garden = Functional Gardening

As the new year begins, gardening catalogs are sent out to inspire and take advantage of gardeners' dreams of the perfect garden.  Now is a good time to consider stretching your gardening boundaries.

I have always been drawn to the cottage garden.  Informal, inviting, lush, bountiful, overflowing, beautiful ... functional.  Functional?  Yes!  And as I plan next year's garden, that is becoming more important to me.  I have a small yard.  Too small.  I want more roses.  I want more vegetables.  Why should I have to choose one over the other?  Why can they not live together in peace and harmony?  It is not as though the gardening police are going to come arrest me if I decide to allow Tam Jalapeno  Pepper to live next to Graham Thomas Rose.

That is what a cottage garden is all about!  Though in recent years cottage gardens have become something more akin to organized chaos, they were originally making the most of limited space. Peasants only had a small amount of land, so in the space of their vegetable and herb gardens, they would grow ornamentals that had been passed along or propagated from the gardens of their masters.

What do you have when you plant herbs next to ornamentals next to vegetables?  Companion planting!  The biodiversity repels pests and attracts beneficial insects.  It keeps fungus and disease from jumping from plant to plant.  It aids organic gardening.  It creates interest.

For now I will keep my designated vegetable gardens for larger growing vegetables, but so those plants have more room, there is no reason to not tuck plants such as herbs, peppers, eggplants and okra (a relative of Hollyhocks and Rose of Sharon) in amongst the flowers.

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