A New Take on “Grandma’s Cottage Garden”


With so many of our vintage Chicago homes nearing (or passing) the 100-year mark, many of us wish for an old-fashioned “cottage style” garden to complement our homes.

Do you remember the graceful arching shape of the Bridal Veil Spirea? For a small space try Snowmound Spirea—similar arching shape but a much more manageable size of 4’ x 4’. For a more compact mounding type of spirea, consider the Birchleaf Spirea Tor—the same pleasing leaf shape, the same multiple inflorescence flower, same great fall color, at a much more compact size of about 3’ x 3’. They have recently developed a golden foliage variety Glow Girl Spirea at a slightly larger size, 4’ x 4’.

Remember the wonderful fragrance of Mock Orange (Philadelphus virginalis) shrubs? You may recall they also became very leggy and unattractive with age. Newer varieties like Snowflake Mock Orange top out at 4’ x 3’—the same beautiful flowers with the same great fragrance.

Old fashioned Weigela is a beautiful shrub but it can be over 5’ tall and wide and take up too much room in the garden. There are many newer varieties that have the same hot pink horn shaped flowers but much more compact in size, some as small as 2’ x 2’. Many have shiny dark burgundy foliage (Spilled Wine Weigela, Fine Wine Weigela, and Midnight Wine Weigela) and they even have variegated varieties.

Remember grandma’s climbing rose? It was beautiful… for exactly one week. Never re-bloomed. These days there are re-booming varieties of both climbing roses and shrub roses. Knock Out Roses® are re-blooming and practically disease-free. No more hauling out the poisonous “Rose Dust” after every rain! Unfortunately, they don’t have the strong fragrance of old fashioned roses but in my opinion, they more than make up for it with the extended bloom time. You’ll have flowers until frost!

Tried and true Hollyhocks are still excellent plants for strong vertical statement. Peonies are still great staples in the garden. There are new varieties of Coneflowers (Echinacea) that bloom in almost every color and Bee Balm (Monarda) varieties that are mildew resistant. Instead of planting the plain old orange Daylilies, try re-blooming varieties like Stella d’Oro Daylily (gold), Happy Returns Daylily (yellow), Rosy Returns Daylily (pink), and Pardon Me Daylily (burgundy-red). Most are more compact at 18” - 30”.

With some careful planning you can still have the look of an old-fashioned “cottage style” garden but with less work and more enjoyment.

Maureen Taylor is a Master Gardener, Landscape Designer, past president of the Irving Park Garden Club and owner of Taylor Made Landscape Design, Inc.

Taylor Made Landscape Design, Inc. www.taylormld.com 773.255.2789

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