Welcome to our cottage's yard and garden tour! Sit down with a cup of coffee and scroll through most of the areas that make up our acre property in our semi-rural Oregon town (we're only 10-15 minutes from town).
Links are provided for further details, tutorials, and any tips I've found through the years - I hope you enjoy the tour and find inspiration and encouragement to create beautiful areas of your own!
Note: We moved from this cottage garden in the fall of 2016. I now garden on a deer, gopher, ground squirrel, mole, and vole infested 3 acres where we're renovating an old farmhouse. So while I'm using a lot of the low maintenance techniques I perfected in the cottage garden, the farmhouse garden will look a lot different!
Our cottage's yard and garden changed from a typical 1980's ranch style (large rhododendrons blocking the windows, overgrown bushes, weedy landscape fabric, etc.) into a lush landscape between 2004 and 2016.
In fact, you couldn't even see the front door! Creating curb appeal and beauty for our visitors and our family was my #1 goal, as well as growing as much of our own food as possible in a large fruit and vegetable garden.
The following photos show the changes those 12 years brought, as well as the tips we learned along the way and the plants I'd recommend again and again.
(Update: Well, if you don't have voracious deer, lol.)
Cottage Garden Tour
Front Yard & Garden
To see what our house looked like before, including the front garden, visit:
1982 Ranch to Farmhouse Cottage (with the original color, which we later changed to the yellow you see above)
Front Side Yard
The side yard consists of a pink dogwood to honor the dogwood that had to be sacrificed to get to the front door and some of the many Hydrangeas I've managed to find places for (I think I'm up to 15!) as well as another perennial favorite, Japanese Anemone.
Front Birdbath Garden
This garden is beautiful to look at from both outside and inside - our daughter has enjoyed watching the birds take baths over the years, since her bedroom has the best view of it.
Pro Tip: when planning a garden bed consider what it will look like from the inside as well - that way you'll avoid the dreaded foundation-plants-that-eventually-cover-the-windows syndrome, which this house had when we bought it.
I have learned from this birdbath, though, that you need a deep bowl (at least 2") if you don't want to fill it daily. During our dry summer months this bath is dry, since it was too shallow.
My favorite plants in this bed include: Spirea, Huchera, Blue Mist Shrub, Daylily, Boxwood, Hosta, and Hardy Geranium.
Our goal with the entry was to create a welcome for visitors as well as good curb appeal, mainly by removing a tree and creating a path from the circular drive to the front door (this was all one shrub border originally).
It's not quite symmetrical, but there are a few repeating elements (the tall arborvitae, the variegated corner grasses and potted ivy topiaries).
The garden on the right is under a large Japanese maple tree, which is dry shade and the birdbath garden on the left is more moist, which is why hostas do well there, but not under the tree.
In addition to the other plants I've mentioned that are in the entire long front garden, the entry is where I placed our two Hellebores (one on each side) since their blooms are so delicate and early and I want everyone to be able to see them.
Front Porch Garden
The only plants here when we moved in were the large Japanese Maple, a few overgrown rhododendrons we removed and a mass of violets that I've tried unsuccessfully to eliminate (actually all throughout the property- I think they are my least favorite plant).
Consisting of mostly dry shade (areas like this are usually under trees), this bed has been a bit of a challenge - the Hydrangeas, Boxwoods, and Daylilies just do okay here- they aren't quite as lush and happy.
The best performers for dry shade I've found are Huchera, Brunnera 'Jack Frost,' grasses, Fernleaf Bleeding Heart, and Hebe (which I LOVE, even though I thought I lost it during our deep-freeze a few years ago. It came back and you can see it blooming it's pretty purple blossoms slightly to the left of center above - next to the grass-like daylily leaves).
Pergola Porch Garden
This part of the long front garden used to be the driveway to the old garage we turned into living space. The soil was compacted from years under cement, so we had to bring in many truckloads of amendments to create this space.
Again you'll find repeating plants here that tie the entire front border together: Hydrangeas, Boxwood, and Arborvitae line the porch edge.
Since this area gets more sun, there are more Daylilies, Spirea, Yarrow, Creeping Phlox, Dianthus, and Lamb's Ears (which is something I'll avoid, though, in any future gardens!).
There are two shrubs on this end of the front border that you'll find on the other end as well, again to tie it all together: Birds Nest Spruce and Golden Euonymus (though it's hard to see in the Birdbath garden, since it likes this area better...).
Have you noticed the stepping-stone path that winds throughout all the front garden sections? This was a middle-of-the-night "a-ha" moment that served three purposes:
- It provides access to all the plants more easily.
- It takes up room so we didn't have to invest in even more plants.
- It used up some of the ton of concrete we had from tearing up the old driveway pad.
Plus, I really liked how it looked! And all little kids who visited LOVED to walk through the garden path.
Garage & Side Borders
We added this garage a few years after converting the attached garage into living space. On the side of the house is an easy-to-maintain Bearded Iris border. I'm not a huge fan of Bearded Iris, but the previous owners had a ton of them that I was just able to move - free plants are a good thing!
To the right of the garage is another almost easy-care (minus the Quince...) border with a few more iris, two free Quince bushes (another that I won't plant again, even though I love their early blossoms), and three Escallonia 'Apple Blossom' that have sweet small pink blossoms covering the plant in May and June, but are only marginally hardy here. This protected area next to the garage (western exposure) is the only place they've thrived here.
Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Entry
I have written long and lovingly about our vegetable garden, which when planted fully provided our produce all summer long and much of our winter produce through preserving.
- Vegetable Gardening 101 (including designing for easy care)
- How to Plant A Garden The Easy Way (both edible gardens and borders)
We added the pergola and planted a red 'Flame' Grape a few years into the garden and we LOVED the grapes from this variety - they are sweet, seedless, and plentiful.
Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
I'm a big advocate of raised beds that we don't till - even larger beds that are only slightly raised get the no-till treatment from me and it enabled us to grow corn, pole beans, pumpkins, and potatoes practically weed-free!
In the photo above, the garden is not planted fully since we had planned to sell our house - you can click here to see our mid-July raised bed garden tour as an example of what it looked like with all the areas planted.
Wondering about all the black plastic? It's a key step in our easy-care, no-till planting method.
In addition to the raised beds, the garden was bordered with dwarf Apple, Pear, and Italian Plum fruit trees (that I will always have to be able to make the best dried plums around!), as well as Black & Red Currants, Asparagus, Rhubarb, and a Strawberry bed.
Berry Patch & Grape Arbor
Our berry patch represents both highs and lows in our edible garden.
We love the grapes planted on this arbor as well, a green seedless grape called 'Himrod,' that produced even more than our red variety.
We got a lot of Blueberries from our (12!) bushes and the Marionberries produced prolifically, as well as an incredible Thornless Blackberry, 'Triple Crown' that we found to be amazing in both size and flavor.
Raspberries just do not like it here. We've planted starts four different times and they always die after a year or two.
The Boysenberries are disease-ridden and the two cement-block beds for Strawberries have been decimated by moles.
Sigh. It all comes with gardening, right?
Pro Tip: this area is mulched with thick black plastic and straw - the only way we found to keep down the aggressive "pasture grass" and weeds here. We talked about it in this video.
This view of the two main sheds gives an overview of the whole acre property - not just all the pretty beds.
The shed to the right was an open-front sloped shed until we started finishing it to become a chicken coop. Sadly that took so long that our window for chickens passed and we knew we'd be moving, so it became another storage shed.
Since this area is seen from the windows at the back of our house, as well as the garden 'rooms' in our backyard, we took the time to paint the sheds, gravel the area around them, and gave the main garden shed a sweet little makeover with Succulent baskets.
Covered Walkway to Garage
You know those areas that you need for things like garbage and recycling, but are seen from all the areas of your yard?
That's the area you see above - it's basically the covered walkway to the garage. To hide the bins needed there, we created a cover from lattice and wood, which was perfect - just like the simple wood hose box you can see to the right of the back door.
Pro Tip: If you lay a good foundation, including the utility areas you need, the plants you love look that much better!
Herb Garden & Back Steps
This entire area off the back of the house used to be a huge wood deck. It was too high-maintenance and took up too much of the back yard since I wanted outdoor 'rooms' that included sitting, dining, and the kitchen herb garden you see above.
The herb garden is right out the back door - perfect for snipping herbs for meals and recipe photo shoots.
The herbs I grew here:
- 3 thyme plants to the right - Common, Lemon, and Lime Thyme
- Variegated Sage
- Italian and Curled Parsley
- Greek Oregano
- 2 potted mint plants- Peppermint & Spearmint (which I use for cooking and for this amazing insect garden spray)
- Rosemary (hidden in the corner behind the mint pot since it had to be replaced this season)
- 2 common Chives
- 3 basil plants- 1 Sweet Basil, 2 Globe Basil
- 2 French Lavender plants
We kept just a small deck for steps from the French doors where I grew our sun-loving flowers in planters.
Gravel Patio & Gazebo
The rest of the huge deck was replaced with connecting gravel paths, a dining patio, and a gazebo that used an existing structure in the corner of the original deck.
You can read about these makeovers here:
This view of the backyard shows how the areas I've shared, including the sheds, flow together through the connected gravel paths.
This was the view we saw from our small master bedroom deck.
Master Bedroom Deck & Garden
We created a master bedroom deck when we added the French door to our bedroom.
The garden to the side was one of my favorites, since it was a classic cottage garden with Roses, Clematis, and Daylilies backed with Boxwoods, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, and a few other perennials like Purple Sage.
I find rose maintenance tedious in our area, so this bed was small enough that I could handle it.
It's also a bed that was seen from the corner dining room window and from the kitchen, so it was really enjoyed a lot.
Back Border Shade Garden Path
This dry shade garden under our gigantic backyard Fir tree is what is seen most from our back windows. The path and bench are mainly for show - it's a great focal point, but not the most comfortable to relax on!
In this challenging area (that I keep watered with soaker hoses) these plants seem to grow the best:
- Ladies Mantle
- Creeping Phlox
- Bishops Weed
- A small Japanese Maple
- Clumping Bamboo (it doesn't spread more than 9 feet)
Back Perennial & Shrub Border
The rest of the back border included more of the same of my favorite plants I've mentioned, plus Portuguese Laurel hedges for privacy, a flowering Crabapple tree, a Flowering Currant, Bridal Wreath Spirea, Weigela, Forsythia, and a few Blue Fescue plants.
Notice the wooden posts in the bed?
This small decorative fence and the plants in front of it hid two green raised septic covers, which used to be the focal point of this part of the yard. Yuck.
It was one of the things I figured out a way to hide right away. We made sure to create access to the area by continuing the gravel path to it on the other side, but otherwise you didn't know it was there. Mission accomplished!
Dining Patio & Island Bed
This small patio bed brought me such joy - first because this birdbath was deep enough to stay full of water so many birds use it (lesson learned!).
And second, from the plants that provide bloom all season: Hydrangea 'Little Lime,' Pee Gee Hydrangea, Boxwoods, Daylilies 'Stella D'Oro,' Hardy Geraniums, and Japanese Iris.
This was also the view we enjoyed most while eating outside - the the view you would've seen if you had joined us!
That's it - the complete tour of our previous cottage's acre yard and gardens!
I hope you've enjoyed this yard and garden tour and that you've found some useful tips, ideas, and plants you may like to use in your own yards.
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