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:

 

 Groundcover

Ground covers are a must in cottage gardens, they're great for adding colour to large areas, and filling small spaces between paths and rockeries. Brachyscome and Myoporum are dense native groundcovers flowering in shades of white, pink and mauve. Native violets are the perfect alternative for cool shaded areas.

Rambling groundcovers Fan Flower and Hardenbergia flower in shades of purple, perfect for mass planting. Sunny yellow Hibbertia are ideal for weed control in larger gardens, and can be left to cascade down embankments in sunny locations.

 

Foliage colour

Silver-grey foliage contrasts beautifully with flowering pastels and bright yellows. Westringia also known as coastal rosemary are hardy natives with silver-toned foliage and flowers in white and mauve shades. They're easy care plants ranging in height from knee- to head-height. Choose smaller growing varieties such as Grey Box™Mundi™ for borders and foreground planting; or a variegated variety like Peppermint Cream for extra interest. These can be left unclipped for a loose natural habit.

Salt bush (Rhagodia) is an outback native used to dry air and free-draining soil, but it copes remarkably well with more humid environments along the east coast. The small silvery leaves are attractive all year in the toughest situations.

Use Yellow Buttons to replace perennial daisies; when not in flower the silver-green foliage complements other flowering plants beautifully.

 

Grasses

Try planting ornamental grasses like knobby club rush in small natural-looking clumps for greater impact. Dwarf growing Lomandra like Little Con and Little Cricket are tough, low-growing evergreen grasses ideal for filling gaps in rockeries, and mass planting as lawn alternatives .

Kangaroo paws are iconically Australian strappy-leaf plants bursting to life in spring with brilliant furry flower spikes. Plant dwarf varieties as an informal border and mass plant tall growing species for high-colour impact.

 

Pastel flowering shrubs

Geraldton Wax Flowering 

Cottage 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.

Chamelaucium (Geraldton wax) 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..

Leptospermum (tea tree) Pink Cascade is a low growing shrub flowering with dainty pink flowers. Cardwell is covered with snow-white flowers on a gently weeping shrub. Both are excellent informal hedges.

Westringia (coastal rosemary) are often grown for their 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.
Melaleuca (honey myrtle) are evergreen and super hardy; choose Snowflake for cream-white bottlebrush-style flowers or Cotton Candy for warm pink tufty flowers .

Grevilleas can be tall trees, feature shrubs, or low-growing ground-hugging plants; all are ideal flowering natives for cottage colour. Choose smaller-flowered ones like Liliane and Pink Pearl for a more authentic cottage look; these are generally more wildlife-friendly too.

 

Climbing plants

It's hard to imagine a cottage garden without an arbour or fence covered in rambling roses. The native alternative is Pandorea also known as Bower of Beauty, it flowers spring through to autumn with masses of trumpet shaped flowers. 

Plant it with white or purple-blooming Hardenbergia, happy wanderer or purple coral pea, which may need tying to the structure as they usually scramble using taller bushes to help them up.

 

Water wisely!

Remember, while your tubestock plants are young they will need regular watering to help their new roots establish. Once they are mature, long and less frequent irrigation is better as it encourages their roots to grow deeper in the search for water. A little water daily can mean lots of fine surface roots which are more susceptible to drying out.

A generous mulch will help slow evaporation of any rain or irrigation from the soil, and keep the soil cooler, helping reduce the amount of water your plants need.