French Cottage Garden Style

We all learn and remember things best in different ways- a fascinating concept, really.

Some people remember things they’ve heard best. I am not one of those, which is a big detriment being a salesman, but I make do as best I can.

Every. Goddamn. Time.

Some people remember things they write down best- so note taking is best for them.

Some people remember things they read best- and that is definitely me.

I remember in 7th grade having a cross room argument about Far Away Home on if in one scene the lab was remembering being on a trip with it’s master and if they were hunting or fishing.

The girl across the room was arguing with me that it was on a fishing trip (Don’t ask me her name, see above) and pointed out they were in canoes with a super smug look on her face.

I pulled out the book and read off the part where they loaded the boats with GUNS to prove my point that it was a hunting trip- don’t argue with your master, you rich whore! (Yes, even then that was how my internal monologue worked.)

In classic 7th grade gifted and talented nerd fashion there was lots of oohing and ahhing from the class at the back and forth of this heated exchange. I’m sure the teacher was checking job postings while this went on or something.

None of us idiot kids made the point that there are no retrievers used in fishing.

That is a long way around to the point of- I rarely forget something I’ve read and the rest of my memory is a veritable colander. I will many times forget where I read something and then not be able to place where a fact comes from… it just drifts up from the depths and I know at some time, somewhere, I must have read it. (This happens a lot during Jeopardy, actually.)

And sometimes there are facts I KNOW I’ve read somewhere but can never ever place or verify again.

One of those facts is that Fahrenheit mixed together a mixture of what he thought would be the most cold tolerant liquids, including reindeer blood, and when that froze he set that as zero, which is why water freezes at 32 on his scale. I CAN’T VERIFY THAT FOR THE DAMN LIFE OF ME! I can’t remember where I read it! But lord above I know I saw that somewhere, didn’t I? It’s a 15 year hunt to verify this fact, so if anyone has any info on that I could use the assistance- because without being able to site a source or verify- it’s a bit spurious, I am well aware.

The other thing that similarly tortures me, that I know I read about somewhere, is the difference between French cottage garden style and English cottage garden style. I have internalized the french cottage style. I have a bit of snobby contempt for English cottage style if I’m going to be honest. Here’s how I recall the difference:

English cottage style: All herbaceous (no or very few woody stemmed plants) and an emphasis on a chaos of color from flowers. Succession planting is vital- the goal to always have a riot of flowers in bloom, but always and above it has a visual emphasis and purpose. My main issue with the style is to me it lacks the backbone that woody and evergreen plants can provide and that a visual purpose only reads as a bit shallow. All flash and no soul. I don’t know, something.

English. And it’s pretty! I’m not knocking it- it’s way preferable to no gardens that’s for damn sure! And while I love it in other gardens it just isn’t what I want in mine.

French Cottage style: Edibles interplanted amongst flowering plants, with larger shrubs and trees included. Lots of vines, roses, and structures- a garden to be lived in and used instead of just looked at. Vegetable, cutting, and decorative gardens all in one.

Hard pressed to really see a difference here, don’t I know it…  but to me the point is it’s a little less precious.  More purposeful maybe. As in- walk out and cut some herbs type of purpose.

Only problem? I can’t really find a definition like that when I try to look it up! Closest I can come is that maybe I’m thinking about a French potager- the decorative kitchen garden where flowers and herbs are interspersed amongst the veggies. But I swear I read a book on this once… I can see the page with the blue table under the orange tree with herbs and flowers… damn.

So the perpetual problem, in most areas of my life honestly, is the “is my mind pulling one over on me or is this really a thing I read once.”


Anyway- whatever it may be or wherever it came from- I’ve really internalized it as my personal style. An emphasis on herbs in every bed. Flowers and roses and vines and decorative and fruiting trees. Citrus in pots scattered around and little to no mulch visible in the beds. Bigger hardscape areas. None of that “separate from the rest of the garden vegetable beds in raised rectangles” thing.

I have roses next to the tomatoes. Eggplants next to gladiolus bulbs. Curry plants in front of my Souvenir de la Malmaisson rose. Mint next to… everything.

Gonna rue that day. (I also have Rue next to geraniums and spirea.) Better phrase would be Mint the day. I am going to mint the day I planted that at some point…
Calamondin lime- from the Philippines. Fruit is a lime similar to key limes but turns bright orange… if the toddler will stop picking them and eating them whole that is. Yes, rind and all.
Meyer lemon. These get big here but are hardy so it may have to go in the ground so I can put a blue table under it with a sweep of herbs and flowers around the side and recreate that picture from the book on French cottage style that may or may not exist.
And maybe the best example of the concept I’m trying to convey- my beloved bronze fennel next to the fuschia May Night Salvia and planted under the Mexican Olive tree.

No no, I don’t grow the fennel to eat though… at least not for me to eat.

IMG_0349 2
I grow it because it’s beautiful and also for these to eat- this is a newly hatched Swallowtail caterpillar!
Soon to turn into the next generation of these- my buddies!

And so… while I think I may be working in a french cottage style… the rest of the world just calls it “gardening”… so maybe I should just stick with that.

10 thoughts on “French Cottage Garden Style

  1. Look at all those swallowtail caterpillars! I found my first ever on Easter Sunday — how nice a coincidence was that?

    I’ve been browsing through your site, and I found the post about going to NASA. I’m presuming that’s the Houston NASA — I live right across Clear Lake from that esteemed institution, and can see it from the window next to my computer. Small world, and all that.

    I saw your mention of those great San Antonio garden shops, too. Have you ever been to the native plant nursery outside of Kerrville? If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a stop.

  2. I enjoyed this post. I am always trying to create a garden where something is in bloom at all times – though I’ve never been totally successful. Maybe I’m trying to create an English Style Cottage Garden; though like you, I just call it gardening.

  3. I also garden for butterflies, hummingbirds, and all the other amazing winged creatures that visit. I have rue planted too…not many people grow rue. I grow it mainly to press for flowercrafting. I’m following your blog and hope to find you again.

Comments are closed.