Friday, July 9, 2010

The Big Reveal - The Cottage Transformed

Definition: cot.tage, kot'ij, n. A small dwelling of humble character; a small country residence.



Several of you have requested that I show our house. Well it's finally ready for the Big Reveal. Our house is definitely a cottage - and it has been transformed. It is a 25-30 year old manufactured home on one level which is perfect for us. We painted it a darker gray to 'plant' it more firmly into the environment---and to add sparkle we painted the trim and screen door with the whitest white and added black shutters to the already black windows. To help the proportion on the long front face, we added the rose trellis and the cottage birdhouse. I love it! See the before and after pictures above; hopefully you agree that we did this little cottage proud.

We painted the deck gray as well. The deck was previously barn red - obviously leftover paint from the barn. Country folk are practical but not always concerned about aesthetics. I think we got this right too. The white rocking chairs look darn good here now.

I have been working on the flower beds surrounding the cottage with both perennials and annuals in blue, lavender, pink, rose, green and white.

The north side of the cottage is the entry and it is in deep shade most of the day so it was a challenge to find plants that would thrive here while providing color in spring and summer. I used astilbe with their wonderful pink and plum plumes, burgundy coral bells, purple columbine, blue lobelia, green ferns, white sweet woodruff, and pink impatiens for the deepest shade on the NW side of the front entry steps.

On the NE side of the entry steps with more sun, I planted deep rose astrantia, pink impatiens, blue lobelia, white lily of the valley and green hostas plus a spectacular pink climbing rose, named Zephirine Douhin, that sits in a way that it gets good sun on the north side and smells fantastic. I can't wait to see how it performs this summer. The rose seems well rooted and is putting on rosebuds so I'm hopeful! We had a beautiful spring in our cottage garden with all the bulbs I planted last fall.

The south cottage garden is truly a cottage garden with a mixture of lavender, daisy's, black-eyed susans, purple coneflower, purple and pink petunias, white allysium, hot pink geraniums, and many fragrant roses including a couple David Austen roses; Golden Celebration - my only non-pink rose & Ambridge Rose (see above) , a Knockout Rose and a couple roses including another climber, from The Antique Rose Emporium nursery in Texas.
The two roses are Baronne Provost and Marchioness of Londonberry - a spectacular pink climbing rose, picture at right. The company was started when the owners began looking for "old" roses in old cemeteries and deserted homesteads around Texas and from that they brought back many old roses which are disease resistant and lovely - and available again today. If you are a rose lover, check them out here:

The east cottage garden features peonies which are just getting established so I'm hopeful I've planted them successfully so I have lots of luscious floozy blooms next year. I LOVE peonies - they are gorgeous and smell heavenly. They live among some lavender, daisy's and other flowers that are filling in spaces until the peonies are established and producing in all their glory.

The west side of the cottage is the deck. Surrounding the deck I've planted sedums that were given to me by a dear friend. They have really set in and are looking great. They should grow big enough to cover the lower area of the deck that we covered with trellis to finish off the space. Mark built me a garden box that sits next to the deck under the trees on the west. It is so handy to keep my garden tools and supplies near the garden rather than have to go to the barn.

I've been attempting to identify all our trees and bushes around the place. There was one tree that stumped me. I checked online for some time and kept getting directed to black walnut but the flowers weren't right so I took a sample to the Extension Office. We checked the tree books and learned it is an exotic called, Tree of Heaven. It is a Chinese sumac, very unusual and just beautiful but invasive as we discovered during the week of lots of rain and no mowing. We had a mini-forest growing in the lawn. Mowing helps keep them under control.

One day while mowing I noticed a group of bushes that normally looked unspectacular were covered with tiny honey smelling white flowers. They were also covered with butterflies - Monarchs and Black Swallowtail, blue Summer Azure, yellow Meadow Fritillary, and orange Red Admiral - and many bees. I looked up the butterflies online and identified all that I saw. I've planted 3 butterfly bushes but they are still infants so no use to the butterflies yet. It is exciting to see so many colorful butterflies. It gives me hope that we have a healthy environment for them and the birds. I took a sample of the bushes to the Extension Office for identification but haven't learned anything as yet.Butterfly on rocker!

MONARCH Butterfly

It is exciting to identify the plants we have inherited. It's important to me so I can be sure to manage them correctly. It is also exciting to make our mark on the landscape here; and to mold the property into our vision. Our country place, both cottage and land, is reflecting the TLC we have been lavishing on it and it's a great feeling.

Our next big project is to paint the barn - geranium RED! It will be the same red as on the door of The Dot House. BTW, hollyhocks are growing at the front of the barn. They are such an old fashioned flower, and one that Mark and I both remember fondly from childhood on farms in South Dakota so we had to have them here. We'll do the big reveal of the barn once it is done.

After that it will be maintenance of the property - pastures, garden, trees and shrubs, flowers, yard and buildings. It looks like it will have taken us about one and a half years to turn this place into the modest little jewel it is from the dilapitated property with great bones that we originally saw. That is something I've always wanted to do - fix up a house and garden. I can check it off the list and just enjoy now.

If you are a gardener, you might want to check out my FAVORITE gardening blog, called A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach. She is fantastic with excellent credentials and has a new gardening book coming out. Check her out at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...'s all so lovely........We had no idea you had so many trees. The house looks perfect. You two are awesome. You choice to become "country folk" is perfect for you. And, when I come to visit, I'll bring you some canning jars. I have way to many for a person with just a few toamto plants.