Creating a Cottage Garden: My Journey with Roses and Essential Tips

Roses are a quintessential element of any cottage-style garden. In my garden here at Old Castle Cottage, these blooming beauties hold a special place in my heart. In this blog post, I will take you on a journey through the current roses I have in my garden, sharing insights, tips, and answering the most frequently asked questions about these enchanting flowers.

As you step into my garden, you will be greeted with a pastel display of roses in shades of pinks and whites. I often get asked about my favorite variety, and to be honest, each variety adds its own unique charm to the garden.

Let me start with my first ever rose that started my addiction: Olivia Rose by David Austin. She is the first to bloom in my garden, is a prolific bloomer, and has the most amazing scent. She boasts beautiful large pink buds that unfurl into exquisite rosettes, displaying a stunning pink hue. If you want to start with a rose in your garden, this would be my choice for a beginner.

Other favorites of mine are Gentle Hermione by David Austin. She blooms after Olivia in my garden. She showcases perfectly formed shallow cups that start out light pink and fade to a soft blush, almost cream, on the outer petals. Her growth habit is similar to Olivia.

Queen of Sweden, by David Austin is listed as a pink rose, but she starts off more apricot and then transforms into a soft pink over time. What I love about Queen of Sweden is she can handle some shade, so I plant her in a slightly shadier area than I do Olivia or Gentle Hermione. Her growth habit is also slightly different; she grows more upright and narrower, perfect for a narrower area in the garden.

New to me this year are Emily Bronte by David Austin. I love that each bloom is a lovely soft pink with the center being more apricot. Her blooms are neater and flatter compared to Olivia and Gentle Hermione, which is nice for variety.

Gabriel Oak by David Austin was chosen because I wanted a deep pink rose in my garden, and she is also known for her strong fruity fragrance. Sharifa Asma by David Austin is a lovely rose with delicate blush pink, rosette-shaped blooms. Like Queen of Sweden, she has an upright growth habit. I planted all three in my Parterre Garden, so I will keep you posted on how they do.

Finally, Scarborough Fair by David Austin was chosen for her light pink delicate flowers and also because she is a very tough and healthy rose. Unfortunately, she was only supposed to get 3½ feet tall and is almost 4½ feet tall, so I will have to move her in the fall, but her blooms are so pretty.

Sweet Rose of Mine by Jackson and Perkins is a Floribunda rose. What I love about this rose is its unusual bloom color. Light pink buds open to cuppy flowers with a pink center and light pink, almost white, outer petals. I chose her because of her compact size, making her perfect for small garden spaces and containers. I do find that I have to spray this rose with neem oil to prevent black spot, but her blooms and size are so worth it.

No cottage garden would be complete without climbing roses. It’s important to look at the climbing height before you plant, which I did not. Lesson learned. I think Strawberry Hill by David Austin is my favorite; she features small clusters of large mid-pink cupped rosettes and is ideal for trellises, obelisks, or walls. She is currently growing up a trellis by my kitchen window. I will have to plant another because she is considered a short climber and will only get 10 feet tall.

Strawberry Hill

Claire Austin by David Austin, with her creamy white flowers, is a good climber and tolerates shade. However, I’ve noticed that her petals can be somewhat delicate compared to my other roses, so her blooms do not last as long. But I do love that I can have a climber in partial shade; she climbs up to 12 feet.

Claire Austin

I just planted four Generous Gardener by David Austin climbing roses last spring, one on each side of my new arbor. She has a beautiful fragrance for a climber and climbs up to 15 feet. Her flowers are a very pale pink, almost cream. I really like her, however, for me personally, against my white arbor, I wish the blooms were a darker pink. I think this climber would stand out more against a darker background.

Generous Gardener

The New Dawn by David Austin climbing rose is a medium climber that produces clusters of sweetly fragrant soft pink flowers. I love this climber because it really blooms most of the season for me if I keep up with the deadheading and fertilize after the first flush.

New Dawn

If roses are intimidating to you, fear not. I just started growing them in my garden about six years ago because I too was intimidated. Here are my five tips and tricks so you can be on your way to creating a stunning cottage garden filled with beautiful roses:

  1. Choose the right varieties: When selecting roses for your cottage garden, opt for old-fashioned, heirloom varieties that have a romantic feel. I just listed my favorites for my Zone 6b garden.
  2. Plant in the right spot: Roses thrive in full sun, so be sure to plant them where they receive at least 6-8 hours of sun. I listed some roses that can handle some shade. They prefer well-draining soil, so amend your soil with compost to improve drainage.
  3. Prune regularly: See my post here on pruning and my favorite pruners here.
  4. Feed and water regularly: Roses are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization to thrive. I fertilize just as the rose begins to leaf out with this. After the first flush, I fertilize again. Water deeply and consistently, especially during hot, dry weather. Mulch around the base to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
  5. Control pests and diseases: Keep a close eye on your roses for signs of pests or diseases, such as aphids, black spot, or powdery mildew. Treat promptly. Most of the roses I listed are bred for health, and the 3-in-1 fertilizer helps. If you underplant with allium, nepeta, or lavender, that also helps. But if you are having a problem, treat issues promptly as needed using organic spray or chemical controls as needed. I used Rose RX this year on some of my roses.

I hope by following these tips and tricks, you will be on your way to creating a beautiful cottage garden filled with fragrant roses. As always, friends, happy gardening!

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  1. You have quite an eye for cottage style gardening. Your shared photos are just beautiful as you can tell this is your passion. I am interested in planting New Dawn Rose as a climber for my arbor. Does you have any tips on this variety? What is the best overall Rosecare system to Deter pests and other rose diseases. I live in MA zone 6B.

    1. Hi Jennifer! New Dawn is a hardy climber. It climbs fast! You should fertilize in spring and after the first flush. Dead head and you should be good to go! I will say, I planted her up at my bird house, and she should have been climbing up an arbor. I hope this helps!

  2. I have a bought a charisma rose and I’m struggling we’re to plant it in my garden. I currently have a hydrangea, dwarf buddelia and a Salix in this new flower bed. Can you advise please.

    1. Hi Karen! Make sure that you put the rose in an area that gets the most sun and 2-3 feet from other plants. It gets to be 3-4 feet high so I recommend putting it in the back of the bed. Your butterfly bush will only get 2-3 feet tall so that could be in front of the rose. However, it is hard to make those decisions without seeing the actual garden bed. If you want to send a picture, you can e-mail me at Thank you!

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