Finding Inspiration From Gardens Past

By Nikki Tilley | October 19, 2022
Image by AndyRoland
by Nikki Tilley
October 19, 2022

Back in the day gardens were grown for their usefulness rather than just ornamental appeal. There were no nearby grocery stores or pharmacies with food and medicines readily available. And none of the luxuries we’ve come to appreciate today. People relied on plants for food and medicine, and other things too. Other than field crops, everything was usually grown near the home all together – a wonderful mix of flowers, herbs and veggies. Most familiar of these is the less formal and carefree cottage garden. Colonial gardens also included a little of everything but were typically laid out in beds. Both are appealing to me, but the wildness of old-fashioned cottage gardens speaks to me.

My Wildly Chaotic Garden Inspired by the Past

There’s nothing wrong with formal gardens or perfectly aligned beds if that’s your thing. And if you’re into all that grooming maintenance, that’s fine too. But it’s just not for me. Finding inspiration from gardens past was important to me when I began my gardening journey so many years ago. I tried many different garden styles, but it was the old-fashioned cottage gardens that seemed to always call out to me. So I finally decided to create a garden oasis using elements commonly seen in these older garden designs, with a twist of my own.

I include all manner of plants within my garden. I have numerous ornamental plantings that include old-fashioned favorites like hollyhock, sweet william, foxglove, columbine, and roses to delight the eye. Many of my ornamental plants perform double duty in the garden with some that are edible (like daylilies) and some with medicinal uses, such as lamb’s ear (nature’s band-aid). You’ll find a number of herbs mixed in too, both culinary and medicinal. Vegetables are also scattered throughout the garden. Tomatoes, for instance, might be growing amongst borage, marigolds and basil. Kale is a great veggie but also looks nice tucked into the garden with nasturtium flowers, which are also edible, and cilantro. I grow various fruit trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses in the mix as well.

It may not always look perfect, but that’s the point. I love the wild, carefree look. Every plant within the garden serves its purpose, including those that attract wildlife and beneficial insects. I’m not worried about deadheading everything or keeping it tidy. I let nature take care of all that, simply maintaining as needed. It’s my wildly chaotic garden inspired by the past, and it’s mine.

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