Before & After Formal Cottage Garden

In the summer it is so hard for me to stay inside long enough to write a post! (sorry I missed last Monday’s post!)

I love being outside in this weather.

Gardening and landscaping have totally taken front and center for me this spring. The gardens at our house were in desperate need of garden work. Last year we were so preoccupied with the renovations to the actual house, we didn’t even bother a bit with the landscaping. It’s been so much fun to be able to put my full attention into the landscape and garden design this year!

All that time and energy put into gardening means I’m outside with dirt on my hands and not so much time inside at the computer. Finally, I’m here and going to update you with the rest of the front of the landscaping. So far I showed you the circular garden planting bed on the east side, then I showed you the terraced garden, with a few gardening tip posts in between.

Today, I’m going to show you the front landscaping which is a formal cottage garden style.

I’m calling this a formal cottage garden, because it has both elements of a formal garden and a cottage garden. They seem like they are complete opposites, formal garden design is all about lines, shapes that bleed symmetry, while cottage garden design is all about a total relaxed chaotic style, or what appears to be chaos… yet, somehow in the juxtaposition of these two opposite garden designs, I’ve found my happy place. I blend them to create something that is so very pleasant for me to look at.

This is the before: (sort of)

before & after front garden landscaping

For the true ‘before’ check out this page, showing how the house looked a couple years ago before we renovated it! After the porch was built and the house was painted, the front landscape was in dire need of a plan.

My garden design idea for the front was to divide it into two parts…

The one design part would be across the front of the porch, and the second design area would be across the side of the garage, (where the 3 windows with window boxes are). That garage side part is much deeper than the front of the porch area.

Even though I was planning for these two parts to be somewhat different, I also wanted to maintain the entire front, including the terraced garden and east side garden, to be visually connected. I didn’t want it to feel like all separate gardens, but instead my plan was for it to feel like different areas in the same garden.

A little further down I’ll explain how I unified the gardens to feel like one…

The front of the porch garden design:

before & after front garden landscaping

These are all baby plants, and kind of hard to actually make out what is going on here in this picture…

But in front of each post, I have hydrangea, 4 in all for this area. Check at the end of this post for all the links for varieties and shopping links. In the spaces between the hydrangeas I have 3 boxwood set back closer to the porch skirting. Then in front of the boxwood, I had a great idea of white hostas, planted in a half circle shape, (repeating the scallop shape of the house trim) with Irish moss filling in the very front.

Plants for shade…

This is a very shaded garden, so I was limited with plants that would do well here. The white hosta idea came from a ‘Groupon’ ad I saw in the early spring. It sounded like a really good bargain, so I bit. The picture showed them like this:


The white hosta plants came and they were very, very small…

before & after front garden landscaping

Long story short, I thought they didn’t send enough… (there were only 4 bags instead of the 12 plants I ordered…) unfortunately, when I tried to return them, I was told that I couldn’t get an actual refund, (even though at this point we thought it was Groupon’s mistake, that’s their return policy!) So instead they would only give me ‘Groupon dollars’ back. That meant the only way I could get a refund was if I used it to buy a different Groupon bargain. No thanks! Communicating with customer service there was a joke… because of that experience and realizing their return policy, I wouldn’t recommend buying from Groupon! BTW turns out there were 3 wee little plants in each bag…

I planted the little white hosta shoots and hoped for the best. So far, I think 3 or 4 have disappeared… just withered away. I’ll see what the rest do, but I may need to buy some healthier plants to replace them with. I do love the idea of the white plants highlighting the dark shaded garden in that planting area. I have had really good luck with plants through other online sources this year, so will have to go back to one of those more reliable sources for replacements.

To unify the garden space as a single garden, I repeated the same border elements.

First,I  repeated the same brick edging, (I showed you how I installed that here). I also lined the entire front edge just on the other side of the brick edging with Boxwood that will eventually grow into a low hedge.

before & after front garden landscaping

Except for on the front of the porch, though I wanted to include the Boxwood element, I didn’t want it to be front and center. I wanted to break up that long line a bit, so that why I placed them at the back of the space, closer to the skirting of the porch.

before & after front garden landscaping

I planted this garden a few weeks ago, and it’s been growing, (except for the white hosta, lol), the hydrangeas are full of bloom buds!

before & after front garden landscaping

Ferns and urns…

The garden area by the garage side, received the Boxwood hedge and brick border treatment, but this area already had a lot of ferns growing in it. I love ferns, and they are fairly tall, but I felt it needed something sort of ‘front and center’. I contemplated topiary trees, but decided on large cement urns with flowers:

before & after front garden landscaping

They bring the height and repeat the lavender and white flower color from the rest of the garden, (another connecting element). I’ll let you in on a little secret. Instead of planting directly in the urns, I found a large hanging basket that fit inside each urn. I just placed a couple bricks in the bottom of the urn to bring it up to the right height. Now when I water the planters, the extra water can easily drain out.

Before the urns were delivered, we measured with a level and long board to make sure the 3 concrete pads we laid down were all level with each other.

before & after front garden landscaping

The final touch to the urn planters is each one is topped with a rusty wire topiary form. This repeats the rusty iron fencing and rusty arbor the clematis is growing on in the terraced garden.

The ferns are so lovely, how their fronds gracefully fill the garden area in a very relaxed way. There are a few random hosta, sundrop, and astilbe in the mix too. It’s this element of chaos in the frame of boxwood that is so appealing to my eye.

Entrance pergola…

At the very front of the sidewalk entrance to the front door, (on the driveway side) I had the carpenter make this large pergola. It repeats the beams from the front porch, and hopefully invites visitors to walk through it to come up the sidewalk to the front porch. For some reason, when the house was originally built, they never finished this concrete. You can see where we had the concrete installed… the new concrete is much lighter than the 50 year old stuff it joins in with.

I purposely made the first ‘landing pad’ that the pergola sits on extra wide to help pull visitors that way…

before & after front garden landscaping

My aunt passed away this spring.

I was her namesake… ‘Elizabeth’. Though we shared the same name, we both had different nicknames… I go by ‘Liz’ she went by ‘Betty’, ‘Betty Matthews’ to be exact.

As I was shopping on line for plants for the front garden a hardy wisteria popped up, (hard to find one hardy for zone 4) and I couldn’t believe it! It was called the ‘Betty Matthews Wisteria’!

That is what I now have planted on the west side of the pergola, a ‘Betty Matthews Wisteria’ I think of my Aunt Betty every time I water it. So far it’s doing good… I hope it truly is winter hardy.

Here are links to the plants in my front garden:

Did you know I now offer e-decorating? I can help you with your decorating needs via email, without having to step foot in your home. If you’re interested in more information, visit my e-decorating site: Frame and Frills. I’d love to help you with your project!

Here are more gardening and landscaping projects:

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This post can also be found on these other sites: Between Naps on the Porch

Reader Interactions


  1. Donnamae says

    A Betty Matthews wisteria…how could you not get it! I had never heard nor seen a white hosta…I have now. Interesting…the leaves look like paper. I’ll be curious to see how they grow later on in the season. You’ve done a fantastic job on your gardens. It’s been a very wet spring down here. Great for growing….but sure could use more sun! 😉

    • Liz says

      I know… as soon as I saw it, I just knew it was meant to be for here! We had a wet early spring, but rain has missed us the past few weeks, until yesterday finally. Thanks for your comments Donnamae! 🙂

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