Cottage or flower gardens

The cottage garden is a longstanding informal garden style characterised by diverse mixes of ornamental flowering plants, often planted together with fruit and vegetables. Lawn is generally rare in cottage gardens, and is replaced by low meadow-type plantings or drifts of assorted flowering or foliage plants. Cottage gardens can also be designed to be low-maintenance by avoiding the use of annuals that will need replacing each year and careful selection of plants that will self-seed year after year.  
A mixed cottage garden featuring a Rice Flower in full bloom. Image by Emma Rooksby.
Some plants to consider include:
Small fruit-bearing trees
Illawarra Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus)
Slow-growing medium tree with glossy green leaves and tasty purple fruit; it eventually grows large but can be kept pruned
Blue Cherry (Syzygium paniculatum)
Neat small tree with edible blue fruit good for making jam
Black Apple (Planchonella australis)
Small to medium tree with large, tasty fruit
Sandpaper Fig (Ficus coronata)
Small low-branching tree with edible (but not particularly yummy) fruit that grow directly off the stems
Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia)
Small or medium-sized tree with flowers in the form of ‘candles’ containing edible nectar
Flowering shrubs

Native Elderberry (Sambucus australasicus)
Woody shrub to 3m with three-part leaves and pleasantly scented creamy flowers; part shade and a moist position
Ricinocarpos speciosus
Rounded shrub to 3m with large white flowers in spring; full sun
Lance Beard-heath (Leucopogon lanceolatus)
Shrub to 3m, tending to woodiness, with delightful scented white flowers; part shade
Musk Daisy-bush (Olearia argophylla)
Large bushy to 3m shrub with musk-scented foliage; part shade
Twiggy Heath-myrtle (Sannantha pluriflora)
Dense shrub or small tree with masses of creamy white flowers; full sun or part shade
Bridal Daisy-bush (Olearia microphylla)
Dainty rounded small shrub to 1.5m with tiny leaves and masses of white flowers in spring; part or dappled shade
Austral Indigo (Indigofera australis)
Shrub to 1.5m with arching branches, lacy-looking foliage, purple flowers and long seed pods; part shade
Colourful climbers

Purple Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea)
Tough sun-loving climber or rambling groundcover with prolific purple flowers
Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda)
Robust climber or groundcover with attractive felty leaves and red flowers; full sun or part shade
Trailing Guinea-flower (Hibbertia dentata)
Delicate climber with beautiful red stems and yellow flowers; part shade
Climbing Guinea-flower (Hibbertia scandens)
Very hardy climber with glossy green leaves and yellow flowers; part shade
Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana)
Tough, large climber with attractive pink flowers; full sun or part shade
Native Sarsaparilla (Smilax glyciphylla)
Delicate twiner with decorative red new growth and tangy fruit; part shade
Native Raspberry (Rubus parvifolius or R. rosifolius var. commersonii)
Low climbers or groundcovers with prickly stems and edible raspberry fruits; full sun or part shade
Taller grasses and strap leaved plants

Scented-top Grass (Capillipedium parviflorum)
Clumping grass to around 80cm with lightly fragrant flowers; full sun or part shade
Black Anther Flax-lily (Dianella revoluta)
Elegant strappy leaves, purple fruit; full sun or part shade
Branching Grass-flag (Libertia paniculata)
Strap-leaved plant to 40cm, white iris-like flowers; part shade
Swamp Lily (Crinum pedunculatum)
Upright, clumping plant with tough strappy leaves and sweetly scented white flowers; full sun to part shade
Groundcovers and low plants

Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens)
Succulent groundcover for sandy sites, the fruit are tasty and young leaves can be blanched and eaten; full sun
Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides)
Low spreading plant with soft green spinach-like leaves; part shade
Cockspur Flower (Plectranthus parviflorus)
Low semi-succulent plant with lightly mint scented foliage, self-seeds readily; part shade
Bulbine bulbosa
Spring onion-like foliage and lightly scented yellow flowers on long stems; part shade
Everlasting Daisy (Xerochrysum bracteatum)
Classic paper daisies with tough long-lasting papery flowers on tall stalks; full sun
Grass Daisy (Brachyscome graminea)
Low-growing perennial with pretty purple flowers, self-seeding; full sun
Native Bluebell (Wahlenbergia communis)
Dainty annual with small blue bell-flowers, self-seeding; full sun
Native Violet (Viola hederacea)
Spreading low plant with charming purple and white flowers that stand proud of the leaves; part shade
Whiteroot (Pratia purpurascens)
Tiny creeping plant with pretty toothed leaves and dainty white flowers; part shade
Trailing Speedwell (Veronica plebeia)
Small creeping plant with sweet little purple flowers; part shade

Sydney Rock Orchid (Dendrobium speciosum)
Large orchid with spectacular flowers, that can be grown on rocks close to the ground; full sun or part shade
The cheerful Grass Daisy (Brachyscome graminea) is an ideal plant for cottage gardens. It usually develops a low rounded form, and flowers well. Image by Scott Miller ©.

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