For many people, the English cottage garden is a small, and emotionally charged, glimpse of heaven. Intimate, informal, colourful, romantically luxuriant, it also seems to embody a tradition of timeless simplicity and self-sufficiency--a kind of naive art. Christopher Lloyd and Richard Bird also point out in The Cottage Garden
that the cottage flower garden tended historically to be a low-maintenance enterprise: by necessity, since the exigencies of rural labouring life allowed little leisure for its cultivation. The flowers planted would have to be able to look after themselves, the vegetable garden claim most of the time available.
The Cottage Garden is a comprehensive manual for the creation of this idyll, whether it be solely devoted to flowers, or a full working garden with soft fruits, rotation crops, bees, a pig, ducks and chickens. Plans are given for different garden layouts, with information on the best plants to choose, their cultivation and flowering or fruiting seasons. There is much sound advice on the features which add to the character of the cottage garden: gates, walls, hedges and fences, paths, ponds and pergolas. If your dream is to create such a garden, "a tidy mess" as the authors call it, The Cottage Garden makes an ideal starting point. --Robin Davidson