The Cottage Garden: Book Review

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In The Cottage Garden, acclaimed Danish gardener Claus Dalby provides a thorough, beautifully illustrated guide to cultivating simple, abundant cottage gardens. With insightful advice and stunning photographs, this book is essential for any gardener looking to channel charming, informal English and European cottage gardens.

The book explores the history and core principles of cottage garden style. Dalby emphasizes embracing imperfection, utilizing old-fashioned “grandmother plants,” and crafting spaces that feel lived-in versus manicured formal gardens. He offers tips on working with existing conditions like tricky soils or shady spots rather than fighting against nature.

In addition to general advice, Dalby profiles specific cottage gardens across Europe to illustrate effective designs and plant combinations. Gardens include:

  • Upton Grey Manor in Hampshire, England – This rambling garden embraces self-sowers like foxgloves and poppies mingling with roses, salvias, and clematis.
  • Oudolf Garden in Netherlands – Filled with hardy perennials like astilbes, grasses, and echinaceas that provide winter structure.
  • Villa Fridhem in Sweden – Charming planting around a 19th century country home, with hollyhocks, roses, bulbs, and lady’s mantle.
  • Parc de Courances in France – A manor home garden combining formal structure like walkways with informal plantings of wisteria, irises, peonies, and butterfly bushes.
  • Villa Cimbrone in Italy – Terraced garden with stone walls, shady pergolas, and Mediterranean plants like oleander, geraniums, and agapanthus.

Seeing cottage garden principles applied across various settings provides readers with valuable examples of successful plant combinations and garden designs. The included gardens offer inspiration while honoring local conditions and styles.

At the heart of the book are Dalby’s in-depth plant recommendations. He suggests time-tested varieties that thrive with minimal care while attracting pollinators and wildlife. The exhaustive list incorporates blooming trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and bulbs selected for reliability, fragrance, extended seasons of interest, and appeal to all senses.

Helpful growing guides cover basics like soil needs, pruning, staking, and propagation so gardeners of all levels can succeed. Gardening techniques like interplanting, succession planting, and embracing self-sowers mimic natural plant communities. Monthly garden calendars help plan seasonal maintenance.

With its pastoral inspiration, excellent plant selections, and sage advice, The Cottage Garden beautifully captures the pleasures of imperfect gardening. Both armchair gardeners and hands-on cultivators will find inspiration in Dalby’s relaxed approach and sumptuous photographs. This book encourages gardeners to embrace nature’s beauty and create their own unique cottage garden oasis.

Photos by Suzanne Magnuson and Jonathan Kemper

About Suzanne Magnuson 133 Articles
Professional writer with 20 plus years of experience. M.A., M.B.A. Travel Editor and Social Media Manager for Splash Magazines Worldwide. Senior Editor. Member of Advertising Team.

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