A cottage garden says, Come in. Wander. Stay awhile.
It's freewheeling, not formal; generous, not stingy. Its abundance may be what you notice first: Vines clamber up porch posts, roses twine across arbors, flowers overflow their beds in the company of herbs and other edibles. "Cottage gardens are personal and embracing," says Lisa Moseley, a Santa Monica, California, designer who has created quite a few. "They're bursting with color, and their happy clutter complements the character of the house, often within the confines of a tiny lot." She adds that almost any style of home can get a charm boost from traditional cottage plants: old-fashioned hollyhocks and delphinium, iris and hydrangea, catmint and pinks, selected, of course, for local growing conditions and deployed en masse.
White climbing roses and leafy grapevines scramble up a porch's posts, while pots of kumquat and rosemary flank the steps at a cottage garden created by Santa Monica, California, designer Lisa Moseley.
Be sure to also check out the TOH editors' picks for the best plants for a cottage garden.