Think cottage, and certain old-time flowers come to mind, including roses, coneflowers, and phlox. But the list of what works is almost endless, and though blooms are sweet, not everything need flower to be fitting. Consider where you live: In the dry Southwest, rosette-shaped succulents make more sense than the thirsty foxgloves you might favor in New York. Foliage is important, too—in varying tones, textures, and shapes, which persist when blooming fades. Groundcovers, such as creeping Jenny, bellflowers, or lady's mantle, are vital, especially in suppressing weeds and reducing maintenance. For year-round interest, consider evergreens, such as dwarf conifers, in your mix, along with more-typical cottage perennials, such as peonies, columbines, and true geraniums. To extend the season, tuck in annuals like violas and calendulas. For greater impact, Moseley advises, group border plants in masses rather than ones and twos, and arrange so you can see them—short in front, taller toward the back. Choosing a color theme, such as pink, purple, and white, or yellow and lilac, keeps borders from getting overly busy.
Shown: Biennial hollyhocks, an old-fashioned favorite, bloom mid- to late summer. To grow them when and where you want, snip and save the seed pods, then plant in fall or early spring.