The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cottage garden flowers

Flowers in a cottage garden are spaced close togetherI wrote earlier that traditional cottage garden plants were primarily edibles or medicinals, but some flowers were included just for prettiness.  Cottagers couldn't afford to buy flowers, but they often dug up pretty wildflowers to transplant into their garden, or traded plants with their neighbors.  The flowers in a traditional cottage garden sound exactly like the flowers I allow in my garden --- they were easy to propagate and often self-sowed, needing little care.

The close spacing of flowers in the cottage garden helped minimize the amount of time the cottager spent weeding since the flowers choked out any weeds.  Forest gardeners use this same technique, talking about filling all unoccupied niches so that unwanted plants don't have any space to gain a foothold.

I'm unlikely to focus on flowers anytime soon, but I have started setting aside patches for self-seeding annuals like cosmos and fennel and have some spring bulbs that require very little care.  I like to think that my garden is more closely akin to the traditional cottage garden than modern "cottage gardens" are, complete with fruit trees, herbs, lots of vegetables, bees, and chickens.  All I need is a pig.

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This post is part of our Cottage Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I don't think Fennel is a annual, well unless you want to eat the root. If you just let it stay, it will grow for years, and each year it gets bigger! I planted mine 3 years ago and it has been growing and flowering each year and attracting scads of butterflies, beetles, bees and other friendly critters. Fennel seeds are tasty treats and so are the leaves(tastes just like anise). I would not consider fennel an annual flower but a perenial herb. It definately does self seed though.
Comment by Rebecca Fri Mar 12 13:30:12 2010
I looked up fennel and common fennel (what I have) perenial. annual fennel is also available but if you are planting for the bees and syphid flies I would not bother. I looks like fennel is a really agressive nutrient hog, and produces some chemical that kills many plants near it. so most veggies don't do well when planted near fennel. Probably why the rest of my garden has been declining. I guess I will have to either move the fennel or give up on veggies, till I can add a new bed. Here is a site I found that lists friends and enemies of common veggies etc.
Comment by Rebecca Fri Mar 12 13:44:36 2010

You're totally right --- not quite sure what I was thinking calling fennel an annual. I tend to ignore my flowers, as you can tell. I put the fennel off in a corner and just let it do its thing, weeding it once a year if I'm lucky.

I don't really go for companion planting in the vegetable garden. My beds are small enough that I find it's better to just mix up plants between beds rather than within beds. The latter messes with my rotation schemes, and I tend to plant things too closely.

Comment by anna Fri Mar 12 16:39:10 2010
oh. I used to think fennels are annuals and used to rip them off. fennel seeds are my favourite mouthfreshners.
Comment by garden flowers Thu Jun 17 19:18:59 2010

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