Sarah is new to gardening and E- mailed saying :
I'm a rather new gardener. I moved into a new property with a south east facing garden and hoping to install a cottage garden theme boarder. Any advice would be much appreciated about possible design layout or even when to start the process as in what time of year best.
Answer: My advice was to start with the basics and go from there. A garden facing South East will receive a fair amount of sun which is always a good starting point. This is especially so in relation to cottage garden plants such as Delphinium, Geranium, Foxgloves, Nepeta, Clematis and Wisteria, to name just a few. All are on the web-site with growing advice.
If you have moved into a new garden my advice would be to wait, at least through the seasons to establish what is already in the garden. Take photographs of the borders so you can identify what is already there, what you like and don’t like. If you are not sure what a plant is feel free to send it in under the Sunday garden plant identification service.
Many cottage garden plants are herbaceous, which means they come back each year but die back completely over winter, to bare earth, which is why you want to photograph them when they have leaves and/ or flowers. Next spring there maybe little evidence of the planting until it starts to shoot up with new growth. I have a mainly herbaceous border with many cottage style plants but it would not suit everyone, as there is little or no winter interest when the plants die back, which you may want to think about. It is also higher in maintenance and to reduce the maintenance you can mix cottage style plants with shrubs for all round interest.
The one basic rule is "right place right plant". This means that plants have preferred growing conditions and these needs to be taken into account when planting up a garden.
You need to map the sun in your garden so that plants which require full sun get it, those which like dappled shade or part sun are planted in a different part of the garden.
You need to consider your soil, is it heavy, light, acid or alkaline? Plant labels will say the ideal growing conditions. Unless your garden is very sheltered you need to aim for “hardy plants” which means they are frost tolerant, there is more information about frost hardiness on the web-site.
Also, it is worth taking a look around your neighbour's gardens nearby to see what they are growing. You could also check the NGS which opens up local gardens for charity and see if there are gardens open near you to look at their gardens, and have a chat, gardeners are always friendly and happy to share advice. This link to NGS lets you put in your post code and see what gardens are open near you.