Which Native Plants Are Best For a Cottage Garden Look?
Traditional cottage gardens are built using layers of colour arranged in varying levels, using seasonal flowering shrubs, small-leaved foliage plants, and annual flowers for extra colour. Colour palettes are usually tonal and harmonious, often in pastel shades.Plants used in European-style cottage gardens need regular water to flourish. Australian natives are hardy, attract wildlife, have a long flowering season and feature all the attractive characteristics we love in cottage gardens. They're naturally easy-care and many require much less water than exotics once established.
Here's our suggestion for some native plants to create that cottage garden look, from the ground up:
Ground covers are a must in cottage gardens, they're great for adding colour to large areas, creating hanging baskets and windowboxes, and filling small spaces between paths and rockeries.Swan river daisy (Brachyscome) and boobialla (Myoporum) are dense native groundcovers flowering in shades of white, pink and mauve. Native violets (Viola hederacea) are the perfect alternative for cool shaded areas. golden guinea vine (Hibbertia) is ideal for weed control in larger gardens, and can be left to cascade down embankments in sunny locations. For a pop of colour, you can't go past kangaroo lobelia (Dampiera), a ground-hugging little plant smothered in deep blue flowers.
Silver-grey foliage contrasts beautifully with flowering pastels and bright yellows. Coastal rosemary (Westringia) are hardy natives with blue-grey or silver-toned foliage, and there are variegated varieties for extra interest all year. They're easy care plants ranging in height from knee- to head-height.
Choose smaller growing varieties for borders and foreground planting; taller ones for informal hedging. They can be left unclipped for a loose natural look, that suits a cottage garden very well.
Dainty, ground-hugging yellow buttons (Chrysocephalum) is an ideal alternative to replace perennial daisies; when not in flower the silver-green foliage complements other flowering plants beautifully.
Try planting ornamental grasses like knobby club rush (Ficinia) in small natural-looking clumps for greater impact.Mat rushes (Lomandra) are tough, evergreen grass-like plants ideal for filling gaps in rockeries. The larger ones make impressive accent plants; and the lowgrowing forms can be used for mass planting as lawn alternatives.
Those iconically Australian strappy-leaf plants kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos) burst to life in spring with brilliant bright furry flower spikes. Their broader strappy leaves combine well with more slender fine-leaved grasses. Plant dwarf varieties as an informal border, or in pots, and mass plant taller ones like Big Red for high-colour impact.
Pastel flowering shrubsCottage gardens are renowned for their soft colour palette, often in pink, white and purple shades. There's plenty of choice when it comes to natives to recreate this look.
Geraldton wax (Chamelaucium) will flower late winter through spring, is drought tolerant and suited to full sun. The tiny abundant white, pink, peach and lilac flowers blend well with all kinds of plants - as you can see in the image.. Tea tree (Leptospermum) are fine-leaved, free-flowering pretty shrubs in a range of sizes and shades. Some have richly-coloured foliage as well. Low-growing forms will cascade down banks and over low walls; taller varieties are excellent informal hedges; and some will even reach a small tree height. Coastal rosemary (Westringia) is often grown for the lovely silver-grey foliage; they also flower almost all year round in shades of white, soft purple-blue, lilac. Pair them with native mint bush (Prostanthera) which are smothered in purple or white flowers, come spring.
Honey myrtles and paperbarks (Melaleuca) are evergreen and super hardy, often with cream-white bottlebrush-style flowers or warm pink tufty flowers which beneficial pollinators go crazy for. Grevilleas can be tall trees, feature shrubs, or low-growing ground-hugging plants; all are ideal flowering natives for cottage colour. Choose smaller-flowered and finer-leafed varieties such as Liliane and Pink Pearl for a more authentic cottage look; these kinds are generally more wildlife-friendly too.
It's hard to imagine a cottage garden without an arbour or fence covered in rambling roses.
The native alternative is Pandorea, the bell-flowered form of which is also known as bower of beauty. This lovely vine flowers spring through to autumn with masses of trumpet shaped flowers in white and pink. It can also be planted as a rambling groundcover around taller shrubs and trees.