Skip to content
February 16, 2013 / Linda Hartong


A cottage garden needs a cottage. Try creating the feel of a cottage garden on a large suburban plot with a McMansion and it fails.

It is a distinct style incorporating informal design and dense plantings,


usually enclosed and often with a rose or vine covered gate and arbor.

IMG_0179house of roses

Hardly what my home-owners association in Kansas City has mandated.

But on the small lots in Carmel-by-the Sea, the conditions are perfect. 

Tiny front gardens thrive behind fences


swords of madeira 415

or hedges of privet and boxwood.

Stone or stucco walls enclose others.

Carmel Jan 2010 022

And other times flowers billow right out to the street.


How can we create sweet gardens like these. Let me try to walk you through some of the steps I take when designing gardens.

Step 1.

Create a sense of enclosure for your garden. In Carmel this is most often done with a combination of a fence and hedging plants.

Lincoln Inn

Step 2.

Add a gate

Carmel Cottage The Gate House

and perhaps an arbor.

Carmel August 2009 007 HDR_2

Carmel 2009 089


Let this opening create “peeks” into the garden . This gate just makes me want to step up and get a closer look.

carmel 078

Think about some baskets or planted pots to make it even more inviting.

Flowerpot detail




Step 3.

Develop meandering pathwork. The path adds stucture, character and allows you to walk around and care for the plants. 

These gardeners use pavers


Stepping stones


Carmel Stone

carme; 195Fairytale Cottage

And gravel

swords of madeira 406

A friend of ours created this smashing concrete path and embedded shells and stones she collected from all over the world. She placed each one individually. A real labor of love.


Allow plants to spill over the path


and fill the spaces between stones.




Next week, I will write about creating Focal Points around which we will start planting.


Leave a Comment
  1. Kathy / Feb 16 2013 3:48 am

    Thanks for posting this Linda! I love the gardens at the cottages. The fences and gates give so much character to the yard- I’d love my front yard to look like this!!

  2. Betty / Feb 16 2013 4:04 am

    Thank you for this lovely tutorial. Your posts give me such a lift. I love each and every one of them:)
    Happy days,

  3. Lexie / Feb 16 2013 5:58 am

    Lovely. We in Carmel are so proud of our gardens and Thank our lucky stars we have freedom to plant as we like and not follow homeowners assoc rules. No garden is more beauitful then a Carmel English cottage garden.

  4. Annie Westlake / Feb 16 2013 7:09 am

    Like encountering an oasis rising from the desert floor, your lovely post lifted my spirits and sustained my belief that someday I will have a beautiful English garden in Carmel.

  5. Miranda / Feb 16 2013 7:16 am

    Most of my garden ideas have come from my walks around Carmel. I love your garden choices. Just wonderful!
    SF Bay Area

  6. Carolyn / Feb 16 2013 1:47 pm

    These are real fantasy gardens (and cottages!) for me. The climate must be ideal. Harder to achieve where I am. I love an English cottage garden.

  7. Kathy / Feb 16 2013 2:47 pm

    All I can say is BEAUTIFUL! This is about as close as I’ll ever get to Carmel. Maybe that’s just as well, I wouldn’t want to leave.

  8. Keri / Feb 16 2013 4:46 pm

    Lovely examples & great advice. Thank you!

  9. anitacrawley / Feb 16 2013 5:22 pm

    Just when I thought living in Carmel couldn’t get any better, I ran across your blog – wow – keep it up, you definitely have me hooked. Thanks for the great ideas about how to create a cottage garden.

  10. Sonia / Feb 16 2013 9:20 pm

    So gorgeous…I am trying to create a “carmelish” garden in my own backyard! Thanks for the inspiration …I so love Carmel!
    Miss Bloomers

  11. jeanette sclar / Feb 17 2013 12:11 am

    Brilliant post brimming with ideas!

  12. Sheryl contreras / Feb 17 2013 2:14 am

    My husband,gene, myself, and my parents visited Carmel 2 years ago and that trip was so wonderful & special to all of us! Gene and myself will be returning there in 2 years for our 40th anniversary! So excited! We enjoy you writings more than you know as they transport us back to the best trip of our lives!! Thanks again! Sheryl

  13. CashmereLibrarian / Feb 18 2013 7:14 pm

    I have a cottage in Illinois, but sadly the prairie climate is not friendly to traditional English cottage plants. I try every year, though!

  14. signals forex / Mar 5 2013 12:50 pm

    We stumbled over here coming from a different website and thought I
    may as well check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you.
    Look forward to going over your web page yet again.

  15. Rose / Mar 26 2018 9:26 pm

    Just read once upon a time…carmel by the sea.. wondering how I find your next article from that week?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: