In The Garden
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Don’t you just love the charm of a cottage garden? You don't have to live in a country cottage to be a cottage gardener! We can all create the natural and informal style associated with cottage gardens, wherever we live. Never formal, just a bit shabby, and packed full of flowers, herbs, birdhouses, watering cans, and garden knick knacks, (and cats! – That’s my kitty Twink!) my garden reflects my personality: not fussy, low maintenance, casual and easy. I could never have a formal garden; it just wouldn’t be keeping true to my nature, no pun intended.

(Click on images to see larger photos.)

If you are new to gardening, then you’ll appreciate my tips, hints and suggestions for a charming cottage garden. My specialty in gardening, as it is with cooking as well, is to keep it simple. If it’s fussy, forget it. It’s not for me.

Do you need to cover an ugly fence or unsightly view in a hurry? One of the fastest and easiest-to-grow flowers, not to mention beautiful, are Morning Glories. They need a lot of sunshine and good drainage. If you have hard clay soil, amend it with a good potting soil. You don’t need much. Simply dig a small trench a few inches deep and wide, before planting. Morning Glories like to dry out between waterings.

People will often warn you that Morning Glories “will take over your garden,” and they’d be correct! They like to climb and wrap themselves around anything near, so keep that in mind before planting.

The Charming Verbena is a garden essential that blooms from spring to fall with very little fuss. In frost-free climates it is grown as a perennial, but chilly climates will have to grow it as an annual. Plants grow in clumps that reach a height of six to ten inches. Flowers can be mauve, purple, white, pink, apricot or red. You'll find them in your local garden center in little pots and big hanging baskets, but you don't need to spend a lot of money on verbena because they are easy to grow from seeds. These charming little plants are relatively carefree. Choose a site in full sun, though in hot climates verbena appreciates some afternoon shade. The soil should be fairly fertile but also very well drained. Verbena thrives (and looks quite quant) in rock gardens and between cracks of pavers or bricks


For thousands of years, roses have been the symbol of love and beauty. The rose probably has more admirers than any other flower.

Rose bushes are fruit trees in disguise and they will attempt to "set fruit." When you remove the spent blossoms, you interrupt the fruiting cycle and stimulate the plant to fruit again, producing another bloom cycle. If you don't cut the blossoms, they become the "hip" or seed pod and the bush stops blooming. The plant expends its energy and nutrients to developing fruit instead of the production of more flowers. Deadheading is a gardener’s means of fooling Mother Nature because removing the blossom before it has had a chance to fully develop a fruit, the plant sends out re-growth hormones, producing a new bloom. You want to deadhead weekly if not more often.

Companion Planting

Companion planting involves growing two or more plants in the same area to achieve a specific effect.

A particular plant may add needed nutrients to the soil. Or perhaps, they may distract pests and/or lure the good guy insects, birds, and bees.
Plant members of the allium family (onions, chives, garlic) with roses to repel bad bugs. Flowering onions look lovely near roses. Beans and legumes are known to add nitrogen to the soil. Flowering plants need nitrogen.
BASIL: Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavor.
GARLIC: Plant near roses to repel aphids.
LAVENDER: Repels fleas and moths. Prolific flowering lavender nourishes many nectar feeding and beneficial insects. Use dried sprigs of lavender to repel moths.
MINT: Deters white cabbage moths, ants, rodents, flea beetles, fleas, aphids and improves the health of cabbage and tomatoes. Be careful where you plant mint as it is an incredibly invasive perennial.
NASTURTIUMS: Deters wooly aphids, whiteflies, squash bug, cucumber beetles and other pests. Likes poor soil with low moisture and no fertilizer. It likes to be ignored! They’re easy to grow, fast growing and can be directly seed into your garden. You can plant these versatile flowers in areas where other flowers and vegetables would fare poorly. The leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible and wonderful in salads!
PARSLEY: Plant among tomatoes and roses. Parsley increases the fragrance of roses when planted around their base.
PEPPERMINT: Bad bugs are repelled by it, bees and other good guys love it.
RADISH: Plant radishes with your squash plants. Radishes may protect them from squash borers! Anything that will help prevent this is worth a try. Planting them around corn and letting them go to seed will help fight corn borers.
ROSEMARY: Companion plant to cabbage, beans, carrots and sage. Deters cabbage moths, bean beetles, and carrot flies. Use cuttings to place by the crowns of carrots for carrot flies.
SAGE: Use as a companion plant with broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary, cabbage, and carrots to deter cabbage moths, beetles, black flea beetles and carrot flies. Allowing sage to flower will also attract many beneficial insects and the flowers are pretty.
SUMMER SAVORY: Plant with beans and onions to improve growth and flavor. Discourages cabbage moths. Honey bees love it.
SUNFLOWERS: Planting sunflowers with corn is said by some to increase the yield. And the birds love the seeds!
TARRAGON: Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one. Recommended to enhance growth and flavor of vegetables.
THYME: Deters cabbage worms.


Butterflies, with their colorful outfits and their frilly aerobatics are beautiful and entertaining visitors to our gardens. Attract butterflies to your garden with these tips:

Good Placement.
Butterflies are cold blooded creatures and need the sun to warm their wings. For this reason, they prefer a sunny site that is protected from the wind. Large plants and shrubs around the perimeter of a garden will help to provide this protection. A large flat rock in a garden provides a warm spot for basking. They may frequently be seen just sitting on the rock, with their wings spread, soaking up the sun's rays.

Nectar Source.
Nectar is a sugar-rich substance that is required for energy used in flight. Therefore butterfly attracting plants include those that are sun-loving and produce nectar. It is recommended that you plant in groups of one color rather than single plants of differing colors. Select a variety of nectar producing plants to provide flowers in bloom throughout the season. It is especially important to have flowers in mid to late summer, when most butterflies are active. Annuals bloom continuously through the season and are always a good choice. They seem to prefer pink, purple, or white flowers and single flowers rather than double blooms. Supplementary nectar may be provided through small bits of fruit, such as apples, bananas, or citrus.

Butterfly Puddles
Although butterflies are very self-sufficient, you can help by supplying this one simple thing--a puddle! Butterflies will congregate at the puddle and drink the standing water to obtain necessary minerals. Make several shallow depressions in the soil in different places using a spade or your hand. Following rain or watering, water will stand in these depressions long enough for butterflies to find the puddles.

Reduce the Use of Pesticides
It only makes sense that if you wish to draw these creatures to your home, you must limit your use of pesticides.

Plants that are Known to Attract Butterflies: Butterfly Bush, Blueberry, Lilac, Black Eyed Susan, Yarrow, Daylily, Goldenrod, Daisy, Cosmos, Petunia, Zinnia, Marigold.

© 2004 Debbie Puente
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