Second thoughts about bossy gardens

Janice Wells
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Foxgloves, like these beauties in Linda Ryan’s Mount Pearl garden, are cottage garden flowers that I love. Biennial, they reseed, but I have none this year.

Although I have been griping about the garden being the boss of me because I’ve allowed re-seeders to run amok, and although I made a public oath to mend my ways, I have to confess that I love the way a bossy garden can delight you with something you weren’t expecting at all.

There I was last week, bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t enough colour in the garden. The peonies, oriental poppies, German iris, lupins, even the flowers on the chives and the perennial cornflower, all finished around the same time.

I’m sure this is unusual for the cornflowers. I thought maybe the dry weather got the best of them, but they are said to tolerate drought and dislike wet conditions, so go figure.

In the backyard, the Comtesse de Bouchard clematis and New Dawn climbing rose are both full of buds but late blooming, probably because of the severe pruning I gave them earlier in the spring. For a few days there wasn’t much to look at but a couple of lilies, a small clump of cottage pinks and some lovely coloured, but somewhat spindly, delphiniums transplanted from the front this spring and likely to not reach their former glory until next year.

I added a few annuals, which helped, but it still looked too forlorn to be even close to my idea of a garden. Then, overnight it seemed, there were lovely swaths of purple or white bellflowers making a definite statement, backed up by clumps of pink or white old-fashioned musk mallow. I am tickled with them all.

The bellflowers (I believe mine are Campanula persicifolia ) have been in the garden for at least two years if not more, and have not been remarkable. I did notice that there was rather a lot of them this year, and they were, in fact, one of the things I was plotting to thin out. Now I’m thinking that while they should be spread more evenly around the garden, I am happy that they decided to expand on their own. I’m also hoping they’ll transplant well, because their independence and cottage garden appearance would be lovely in the future Heart’s Content garden.

My variety of bellflower is about three feet tall, on thin stalks that tend to flop over, so a few supports from Dollarama came in handy in a few places; in others I just let them flop.

The musk mallow came with the house and was gorgeous outside the fence the first summer I was here. I loved it, but it didn’t seem to love my attempts to add variety to the space. For a few years, it budded but didn’t bloom and then, to my dismay, it all but disappeared. This year, it’s back and I’m wondering if it’s because it didn’t like the way the feverfew was throwing its weight around. I pulled up a lot of feverfew this spring and now the mallow is back.

Both the feverfew and the mallow will also make great additions to my future country garden.

The mallow is related to another of my cottage garden favourites, the hollyhock. I can picture a stand of them on either side of the cottage door in Heart’s Content, happily doing their thing and looking very cottagy.

Yes, I know, I said before I was going to stick to shrubs out there and, yes, I just said cottage, not shed or even copy house. Drum roll, please … I have decided to make my dream of a cottage by the sea come true. After all, I’m not getting any younger, so what the heck.

Cottage is not a Newfoundland word, and I have no desire to sound like anything but a Newfoundlander, but to me a cabin is up in the woods, not by the seashore. I don’t want another “house,” so with my newly decided plans to have a small bungalow built, I am thinking “cottage.”

A cottage-style house needs a cottage garden and I already have the beginnings of one, so what’s a recovering compulsive gardener to do?


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs,

as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: New Dawn, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: Newfoundland

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page