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“Gardening is an art that uses flowers and plants as paint and soil and sky as canvas.” — Elizabeth Murray

Gardeners who like an informal look may want to consider a charming English-type cottage garden. These gardens tend to be compact and individualistic. You make it your own. They usually are located near a front or back door. They can contain vegetables, herbs, annuals and fruits all planted closely together. Sometimes the cottage garden is enclosed by a picket fence. It also may contain arbors or trellises for vines or roses. It is typically a rustic garden. The purpose of a cottage garden is more for fun and culinary use for yourself rather than aesthetics.

The first cottage garden met the needs for food and medicinal plants. Later, flowers were added, mostly from the wild and tucked in here or there wherever a spot could be found. This garden had a kind of wild look. Fragrant flowers were especially treasured at that time when cottages were musty and poor sanitation conditions were common. The soil was amended with compost and leaves, recommendations that remain in place for healthy gardens today.

The point is, when gardening make the garden your own. You are gardening and enjoying it. Who cares what other people think?

Plan a path through your garden this year. Paths are the backbone of a garden. Winding paths add interest and invite visitors to explore. Curved paths give the illusion that a small area is larger. Natural paths create a pleasing appearance for plants growing near the path. Paths can be made of grass, wood chips, rocks, stone pavers, or gravel.

All paths need a little care and natural materials need to be replenished yearly. Grass paths need mowing and edging. Rocks need to be weeded occasionally. The same goes for gravel. Overhanging trees, shrubs and other plants should be pruned back. To make sure you can walk freely, take a pair of pruners as you stroll your garden. Paths through the gardens are nice, but like everything, they need care.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.