Self seeding plants and cottage gardens

Ever wondered why a cottage garden always looks so neat, even overgrown, and flowers like mad? The vision of the cottage garden is a colorful riot, with the roller blinds shading the adorable cottage from the summer sun. Roses and daisies, Shepherd’s Purse and lavender, it’s an orgy of life. The secret is the plants themselves. The best cottage gardens are very much self managing, when they’re properly planted with the right plants.

Self seeding plants basics

Self seeding plants produce their own seeds, and a lot of them. They’re a real alternative to commercial seeds, because they can do a lot of work on location. Most self seeding plants available commercially are annuals, but the perennials are also available.

Ask an experienced gardener how to manage a rampaging garden with its own ideas, and the answer will be “Learn from it.” Cottage gardens have some very good ways of managing themselves, and they’re actually textbook examples of proper planting techniques and gardening principles.

The basic facts of cottage gardens are like a real horticultural seminar:

  1. Self seeding plants exploit all available space very efficiently.
  2. The plants grow well in groups, and keep out weeds.
  3. The strongest and best plants prosper, ensuring good seed stock in future.
  4. The plants act as a sort of map of garden issues, because self seeding plants won’t use poor soils or soils where there are issues like drainage, molds or other problems.
  5. The mix of plants attracts a lot of insects, including the predators which remove garden pests in huge numbers.
  6. Insects like ants love cottage gardens, and will defend the garden against destructive insects.

That’s a very good description of a cottage garden. Cottage plants, growing in their solid masses, keep out weeds and will use every millimetre of available space. All cottage gardeners really need to do is make sure the garden’s getting enough water.

Even roses will thrive in this sort of environment. A big Queen Elizabeth rose is naturally a very strong plant, and will use the dropped flowers and leaves of its annual neighbors as mulch. The roses also provide top cover for the little flowers, which are natural understorey in any environment.

Planting a self seeding cottage garden

The best way of planting is to adapt your planting self seeding methods to the local conditions.

The methods are:

Simply seed the beds directly. With cottage gardens, you need to over-seed the beds. The more seeds, the more plants, therefore the more possibilities. If the seeds get eaten, or don’t take, do more soil preparation.

Seedlings: Self seeding seedlings are pretty trustworthy, and the success rate with these hardy plants is usually good. Tough plants like foxgloves, snapdragons and salvias don’t need much help, and when they flower, some of them will flower multiple times, and produce a lot of seeds. (Foxgloves even change color when they flower. It’s a fantastic sight.)

What does the experienced gardener do when confronted with a new bed flowering like crazy? Sit under the retractable awning, drink a cup of tea, and cheer.

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