Furnishing the Cottage Garden
Originally, cottage garden ‘furniture’ consisted mainly of stuff from indoors that had seen better days and was brought outside to slowly collapse. Pots and planters were old tin baths, buckets and saucepans that had developed holes and were beyond repair. Fences, arches and plant supports were made from rough hewn wood or twigs gathered from nearby hedges and woods. Not for them the luxury of buying something brand new and durable – with a ‘rustic’ finish – if it wasn’t recycled from indoors, found in a hedgerow, or crafted from local materials, they just did without. Cottage gardening wasn’t a style choice, it was the way to keep the family fed.
Fortunately for us, we do not rely on our cottage gardens for our survival. We can choose to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers together in a relaxed an informal style, harvesting our produce and picking our flowers, safe in the knowledge that if a crop fails to grow, it will be readily available at the shop down the road.
You can make a garden that is furnished entirely with ‘new rustic’ furniture and accessories, but part of the charm of the cottage garden is the uncontrived mixture of bits and pieces of different vintages, and from different sources. With tables and chairs it makes sense to buy new, or in good condition, rather than risk injury or breakages when an attractive-but-decrepit item suddenly collapses. I have several such items that I hold on to in the hope that I will eventually find someone to repair them at less than the cost of something far more durable – in reality I suspect they are destined for the tip.
Wooden gates and hurdles are also best bought new, unless they are made from hardwood. I recommend searching out a local managed woodland where they are made – not only do they look great in the garden, but you will also be helping to keep an ancient craft alive. Hurdles are invaluable for making temporary barriers, supporting plants and dividing beds.
When searching out pots, planters and decorative objects visit your local junk shops, bric-a-brac stalls and car boot sales for the best deals and be prepared to rummage around to find what you are after. Although items such as dolly tubs and galvanised tanks are more expensive than they were a few years ago, prices do vary, so it is worth searching out the bargains – and, unless you are planning to fill them with water, those with holes should be cheaper and they do make great planters. Tin baths, buckets and old sinks will all add to the look.
The wonderful thing about cottage garden style is that can be achieved quite inexpensively, is delightfully eclectic and often has far more charm than is found in more formal gardens. Happy hunting!