Though perhaps more thoroughly demonstrated over on our YouTube channel, where we walk through the gardens in a more in-depth manner, I simply can't help but photograph the Cottage Gardens at Le Chalet this season. As any gardener can relate, the number of hours poured into the garden are beyond calculation, and yet, remarkably, leaves the gardener almost unscathed. Almost. The hundred degree temperatures are doing their best to strip this gardener of her joy – but I won't stand for it. Even while my brow drips with sweat, the plants shriek in agony over the sun's rays, and the insects put up their strongest fight of the year, there is simply far too much beauty to concern myself with. The ticket is worth the price of admission in the garden and always will be.
Our cottage gardens, if you will, are in the youthful stages. Tasha Tudor explains that it takes almost a dozen years to fully develop a garden – so my one, two, and three-year plots are a small nod to what will be once the fruit trees fill in the landscape and the hostas, lily-of-the-valley, and ferns can finally can find solace in the shade. Though we tend to gravitate towards the essential cottage garden plants, what I find particularly captivating about cottage gardens is that they're unique to each gardener. Just like a painting reflects its illustrator's hand, so the gardens reflect the artistry of their caretaker. I, for one, am particularly fond of sunflowers.
Browsing through another person's gardens is almost as intimate as rifling through their knickers drawer. Do they care for things well? What is their style of choice? Any particular colors they're fond of? Is functionality or aesthetic more important here?
See. I told you it was intimate.
Cottage gardens have a way of molding and morphing to fit the particular style of their gardener, and yet, still manage to feel cohesive and universal to cottage gardens everywhere. Demonstrated, for example, in the pleasure to be taken in mismatching plants in a perfectly chaotic form or the consideration given to reviving and preserving heritage blooms. The old wood crates, cracker terra cotta pots, wrought ironwork, and stone that are distinctive of such a style litter not just my cottage garden, but cottage gardens around the world. Like a worn flannel shirt, these gardens hug the perimeter of their homes in such a way, it's as if the home slipped right into their presence.
Idyllic as it may sound, dare I say, it's accurate. It's the reality of cottage gardeners everywhere. The gardens at Le Chalet, young as they may be, are now the source of entertainment, work, and pleasure for our community of family, friends, and neighbors. Coffee is shared over dead-heading sunburned hydrangeas and repotting succulents in the dried-out window boxes. Meals are eating pond-side and roses are clipped for bouquets when company is coming. The produce is gathered from the potager and market-gardens to be shared with all.
There's always something beautiful to appreciate, ugly to work on, or space to dream in.
Note to self:
– Plant a thousand more globe thistles next spring
– Plant no less than 3,000 tulip, daffodil, narcissus, and crocus bulbs this fall
– Incorporate at least a dozen more David Austin roses
– Add more blooms to the courtyard
This month will be devoted to enjoying the fulfillment of the summer produce and flowers, all the while preparing for fall's arrival. I'll cling to the last vibrant days of the zinnias, clip the last of the calendula for the base in the kitchen, and savor the rock-lined beds that are (quite literally) spilling over with beauty. The good news? You can't see the weeds through all the growth.
Cottage gardens are never perfect, but that doesn't change the enjoyment to be found.
How does your garden grow?