Recently some friends of mine came back from England and raved about all the wonderful "cottage gardens" they had seen over there. They showed me pictures of prominent estate gardens, most owned and maintained by The National Trust. Hidcote Manor, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Nymans, Mottisfont Abbey Garden in Hampshire, and Gardens of The Rose. I tried to keep my mouth shut and enjoyed the fine garden pictures they had taken, but I could not help it, I had to ask: "Where is the cottage"?
"Cottage Garden" has become such an over exploited term among gardeners, that I have become tired of of the word "Cottage". All gardens these days seems to be "cottage gardens", according to the owners.
My parents had a very large "country garden". They had large perennial borders near the house. A very big vegetable garden and an orchard - with all the fruit in the world. I loved sitting in the tree house in a big apple tree, looking at the birds, sometimes just daydreaming and looking at the clouds on a warm summer day.
I often wonder how almost all gardens these days have become "cottage gardens" and why the term have become so popular that a growing number of garden magazines focus on this particular kind of gardens. I see rich people building miniature "cottages" on their property and create an informal garden with shrubs, fruit trees, roses, herbs, perennials and annuals. Nearly all my clients want a "cottage Garden" - maintenance free of course!
Some time ago I read a post on Zoë's blog Garden Hopping I simply love her blog and feast my eyes on her great pictures of great gardens! In her post about The Sissinghurst "Cottage Garden" she quoted Tony Lords sarcastic words about Sissinghursts Cottage Garden:
'This is as much a cottage garden as Marie-Antoinette was a Milk Maid'
Well I laughed so much at that! Because the words are so true! I think if I showed a picture of Sissinghursts Herb Garden to most people (gardeners or not) they would say it was a Cottage Garden. If I showed them a picture of Sissinghursts Rose Garden or White Garden they would also call them Cottage Gardens. How did it come to this? People seem not to be able to get enough of anything "Cottage" - there is even a Magazine Called CottageLiving! The other day I found a small sliver of wood in my cottage cheese. When I called the Dairy producer - the man on the other end of the line said "Well what did you expect at that price - the whole cottage"?
I think I know why cottage Gardens have become so popular that everybody who plants an herb and a annual in their back yard think they have made a "Cottage Garden" . It is pure escapism! In this complex confusing world were children gun down their teacher and classmates, where everybody is suspected of being a terrorist in airports, an even organic grown produce has pesticide residues many long for something traditional and simple.
I also sometimes wish my life was less complicated than a cottage garden. Because the great estate gardens in England are not cottage gardens (sorry to break your illusions friends) And there is no such thing as a "no maintenance cottage garden". I also long to be able to go back to that tree house in the orchard apple tree, looking at the garden. Because that country garden is no more. But we can not go back. No matter how many gold medals overhyped conceptual gardens get at famous garden shows, people still want cottage gardens and cottage living. Do you also have a cottage garden? Or do you have a real garden?