There is a homey sound to the phrase "Grandma's Garden ”—even if your grandmother never planted a flower in her life. The romantic vision of an old-fashioned garden seems to fit the description of a traditional English Cottage Garden. It is possible to recreate an heirloom or period garden, and the plants available to us now are actually much improved. It's important to remember, though, that flowers that thrive in England’s climate may not do as well in the wide range of climates found across the United States. 

 

 

The thatched cottage and colorful garden at the childhood home of Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s wife, has been cared for and restored constantly, so that this 15th century structure and its present garden have come to represent the epitome of an old-fashioned English garden. The flowers in this garden were mentioned in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets: carnations (Dianthus caryophylus, also called gillyflowers or gillyvors), cowslips (Primula veris), flower-de-luce (Iris pseudacoris), honeysuckle, lilies, roses, violets, pansies, pinks, poppies and primroses, plus bulbs such as daffodils and crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis).

 

By the late 1800s, the ideal English garden would have likely included hardy annuals and biennials such as: China asters, larkspur, pinks, phlox, sweetpeas, stocks, snapdragons, nasturtiums, and zinnias. Popular perennials included: anemone, antirrhinum, auricula, carnations, chrysanthemums, dahlias, delphiniums, hollyhocks, iris, lilies, lobelia, peonies, pansies, penstemons, primroses, roses and a variety of daisies. Bulbs would still have included daffodils and crown imperials, as well as crocus, gladioli, hyacinths, and tulips.

 

In many cases the exact species that found favor years ago have been supplanted by hybrids, cultivars, or native species that are hardier, more disease-resistant, or that just plain perform better. Many older hybrids and cultivars—some roses, for instance—are no longer in cultivation. Seed sources and heritage seed exchanges may be able to help create a realistic replica of a period garden, but for most people, the new, improved varieties of Grandma’s old favorites come close enough to the real thing to do the trick.

 

 

Reproducing a period garden or designing your own “plants from Shakespeare” tableau can be a fun project. Once you have your idea in mind, you can decide if you'll stick to the original species, or use plants that are currently available and bred for today’s lower maintenance gardens. Reference materials aren’t hard to find, and while the plants you need might not be at your local garden center, you’ll almost certainly find them online. Have fun while you’re at it—you might incorporate some shabby chic pieces from the past, for example. Think of it as your modern day old-fashioned garden. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

  


 


 

0 Kudos
Comments
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎09-30-2009 01:33 AM

Jane S. Smith, author of THE GARDEN OF INVENTION, has been talking about hybrid plants over at B&N's Garden Book Club. Are you a purist -- do you prefer the heirloom originals? Or are you a fan of Luther Burbank and "improved" plants? Join our discussion: http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Gardening/Featured-Book-for-September-THE-GARDEN-OF-INVENTION...

About Garden Variety: The BN Gardening Blog
Welcome to Garden Variety, a common ground for gardening enthusiasts in the B&N community. Each day, our resident experts, guest bloggers, and B&N staff produce articles on evergreen topics and growing trends in the realm of landscaping. From seasonal plants and edible gardens to book suggestions and landscape innovations, this is the place where ideas flourish.

Advertisement

Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.