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Baby steps on my 'Dream Cottage Garden'...

In the last few weeks – when I haven’t been writing – I’ve been spending every spare moment outside, busily trying to create my “Dream Cottage Garden”!

It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve spent hours online, reading all about annuals vs perennials, “deep shade” vs “part-sun”, fertilisers, fish emulsion and foliage feeds… not to mention all the nasty creepy-crawlies that want to munch on your plants!

I have to say, I felt a bit overwhelmed at first – there seemed to be so much to learn! I’d never even grown a weed before and I was terrified of getting things wrong.

Still, sometimes life makes it easy… like walking into the garden centre and seeing this:

OMG! Look at those colours!! I have a terrible weakness for anything pink (with purple coming a close second) so in the end, I decided not to worry too much about trying to get everything right and just buy whatever caught my eye! ;-)

Meanwhile, back at home, with all the old bushes and grasses ripped out from the garden bed, I had a completely blank slate…

… which can be a bit daunting! Where do I start? How do I fill all that empty space?

Pretty much the only thing left from the old garden was our little frangipani tree. Several of you were asking me about the tree after my last post. It’s also known as Plumeria and it’s native to the tropics – you see tons of them in the Polynesian Islands, like Tahiti and the Cook Islands, and also in Asia too. And they’re very popular in the warmer parts of Australia as well.

They produce beautiful fragrant flowers, which are worn by many of the islanders in their hair, tucked behind an ear. You also always seem to see the flowers in advertisements for spas! ;-)

When we got this one, I picked a variety with pink flowers (of course!) and I didn’t know at the time that the white flowers are more fragrant – so I’m slightly regretful now! But it’s still very pretty to look at…

Anyway, going back to my Cottage Garden Project…

Muesli and I had great fun laying out all the little pots of flowers I’d bought, trying to decide which combination of colours to plant together. It was a bit difficult sometimes because many of the plants were only babies – but I had to keep looking up the information for how big they would eventually grow to – I didn’t want to plant something that would grow to 3 feet in front of all the little dwarf flowers!

Luckily, the garden centres here offer a lot of “Potted Colour” – 5 little pots for $12 – and you can mix and match. They had all the usual cottage garden favourites, like salvias and pansies, daisies and sweet alyssum, and my favourite: stocks – and in LOTS of different shades of pinks and purples! ;-) 

There is also a long narrow bed on the other side of the garden, which is completely shaded by the garage wall – so it never gets sunshine. But funnily enough, it was actually easier to fill this bed, because there are only so many plants that will grow in full shade – especially if I still want colourful flowers.

I ended up going with New Guinea impatiens (glorious big pink & white flowers!), Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ (my favourite! love the beautiful, dainty lavender flowers on tall stalks), some fire lilies (Clivia miniata), some heuchera and a couple of ferns, as well as some big New Zealand rock lilies, with their graceful strapping leaves in the background. Oh, and a star jasmine to climb up the wall and hopefully grow along the side of the garage and cover it in fragrant white blooms!

Our living room has French windows which look out onto a wooden deck at the back, and that’s always been very bare – so I found some mini replica wine barrel containers and filled them with flowers.

Here’s one that smells gorgeous, filled with Heliotrope ‘Cherry Pie’ (yes, it really does smell like vanilla & cherry pie!!), stocks, sweet alyssum and some petunias…

… and d’you remember the container with the baby blueberry bush I was telling you about in my last “Dream Cottage Garden” post?

Guess what? The bush has started flowering! :-) I was so excited when I spotted the first dainty little white flowers…

The bush has been growing really well too – so hopefully, we might be picking fresh blueberries in a few months! This variety is called “Blueberry Burst” and it’s a dwarf bush, which apparently still produces huge berries. We’ll see…!

Meanwhile, there’s still work to be done in the new garden bed…

Now is a good time to be planting as it’s mid-winter in Western Australia and the weather is lovely: cool and crisp, with lots of sunshine and occasional rain. We don’t get frosts in Perth and it’s so mild and sunny, many plants don’t really go dormant but keep growing (and even blooming!) all through winter.

Come on, Muesli! No time to have a nap – we’ve got lots of planting to do!


Muesli told me to go out and start first… She’d follow in a minute…


What do you think? Is it starting to look like a cottage garden?? ;-)

And finally… Ta-Da!

(Well, there’s still loads of the bed to fill – but it’s a start. I need to find some bigger/taller bushes to plant at the back. I’m thinking of getting some foxgloves & hollyhocks – cottage garden favourites! And maybe a couple more rose bushes…)


And here’s the shady bed, all planted in too:

(Look, I found some Rhoeo spathacea (a.k.a. “Moses-in-the-cradle”) – in stripey light PINK! They were made for me – hee! hee!)

Of course, now that I’ve done all the hard work, Muesli wakes up and saunters out to inspect the results… typical cat!


Well, at least she can do a bit of feline modelling for me. I love this picture of her posing in the golden late afternoon sunshine…

I hope you’re enjoying coming on this journey with me as I create my Dream Cottage Garden. More photos & updates coming soon!



















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I love it! You’ve done amazingly well in such a short time. I love foxglove too, but be careful if Muesli is out there, foxglove is poisonous. I’d recommend some plants, but my growing requirements here in WNY are vastly different. I do have a mini blueberry bush which is giving me great fruit. Good luck with yours!

Dorothy Schelske

You are TOTALLY AMAZING! This truly is a DREAM Cottage Garden!

Dennis the Vizsla

hello hy hanna its dennis the vizsla dog hay wot pritty flowers espeshly the plumeria!!! we hav wun heer but we hav to kover it up in winter so the frost wont kill it!!! ok bye


HahahaHAhaHAHAhahahaHAha. Hello Dennis! My gang are suitably impressed at your blogging prowess!!

Laurie Iglesias

It’s looking lovely already!!


I love pink shades as well and you are doing a fantastic job on your cottage garden. Have you thought of adding lilies? There are some wonderful Asiatic varieties with beautiful cream and pink colouring. I’m so enjoying watching your progress.


Lilies are very poisonous for cats!


Yes, my cat spent a week at the emergency vets after chewing on a lily petal. The ASPCA website has a list of plants toxic to pets and after I almost lost my little Dickens, I never plant anything on that list or bring them in the house. Foxglove is on the list, also. There are a lot of plants I was surprised to see, so it’s a good idea to check that list before planting.


Oops, I also meant to say that Muesli is a beautiful cat and your garden looks lovely!


Beautiful pics and gorgeous colors! I am partial to pink and purple as well, only reversed–as purple is my passion. :) Thanks for sharing!

Cherie Gibbons

I too thought i would mess every thing up the first time i started planting when we bought our home back in 2001. Finally someone said to me ‘if you plant something and it doesn’t do well where you placed it just dig it up and move it…plants are stronger than you think’ . Sure enough Your planting is beautiful my only suggestion is to plant in some plain green plants to have a place for your eye to rest when looking around the flowers…it also helps the colors to stand out …I learned this in my art classes. I… Read more »


Dear Hsin-Yi
What a beautiful palette of colors, shapes, and sizes you have planted, your gardens look wonderful! Good job, I know you will enjoy them as they grow and change and as you add a few and move things around a bit. Obviously you have many hidden artistic talents besides writing, dancing with a Great Dane (!), and everything else you do!

Take care,
Lucy (Troy, Ohio)


Your garden is looking fabulous! I discovered your Gemma books about 2 weeks ago on Kindle and now have read them all! Of course you must come out with a half a dozen more immediately! Ha! If I were a flower in your garden, I suppose I would be “impatiens.” (wink wink)

Mavis Hunt

Absolutely beautiful