Plant a Pocket Garden

Explore Nantucket's island homes and gardens with author Leslie Linsley, and get tips for planting your own small space.
Nantucket Cottages & Gardens

Nantucket Cottages & Gardens

Photo by: Photo by Terry Pommett / Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing

Photo by Terry Pommett / Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing

Pocket gardens can work as cutting gardens, too, when they're planted with a succession of spring and summer blooming flowers.

Tucked behind fences, nestled into corners, spilling out of containers, and trellised over walls and doorways, Nantucket's pocket gardens are as lovely and quaint as the island cottages they belong to.

In Nantucket Cottages and Gardens: Charming Spaces on the Faraway Isle, Nantucket-based author Leslie Linsley gives readers a peek into almost thirty small homes and practically carefree gardens. 

Her book is filled with two hundred color photos of cottages, some built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the romantic, unpretentious plantings that surround them. 

Cottage gardens are typically referred to as pocket gardens when they're planted in small spaces. While they may contain a combination of herbs, perennials, annuals, bulbs, and shrubs, some also utilize dwarf or miniature varieties.

Linsley explains, "A cottage garden is a distinct style of garden that uses an informal design, often (with) dense plantings and traditional materials." Roses, herbs, daffodils and boxwoods are favorites on Nantucket. Blue and white hydrangeas, Linsley says, are also frequently planted, and they're especially popular choices for wedding flowers.

If your space is limited, try the tips below, written by Linsley especially for HGTV, to create your own sweet pocket garden.

1. Cottage gardens should never be grand or formal, but rather casual, with a mixture of ornamental and edible plants.  A cottage garden should look as if it has always been there rather than planned or contrived.

2. When you think of a cottage garden, imagine a little structure in the countryside of England, which is its origin.

3. Choose plantings for their old-fashioned appeal such as roses, lavender, herbs, hollyhocks, carnations, sweet william, marigolds, lilies, peonies, evening primrose, daisies, lily-of-the-valley and cowslips as well as vegetables and a fruit tree or two.

4. Cottage gardens can be enclosed with a rose-covered arbor.

5. Include a stone path through the garden, imperfectly laid out with curves and irregularities and plantings, such as sweet smelling lavender on both sides.

6. Modern day cottage gardens include regional perennials with lush foliage and fragrance along with annuals and free climbing plants associated with cottage gardens of the past.

7. Cottage gardens are grown in small areas, sometimes called pocket gardens, along a picket fence delineating the property or snug against the house. 

8. Hedges and boxwood can also be used to outline the garden, but they should be planted so they are not too formal, but rather artless, which gives you the freedom to be imperfect.

9. Plant densely to avoid the need for excessive watering and weeding. 

10. Something old such as a piece of twig furniture, a chair or bench or a retro glider or swing adds an air of charm to a cottage garden.

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