Sweet Pea Flowers for the Aromatic Cottage Garden
Sweet Pea Flowers for the Aromatic Cottage Garden

Traditional cottage garden flowers were a mix of annual and perennial flowers, many of them scented. Cottage gardens were also “working” gardens and many were filled with aromatic herbs and flowers used in the kitchen, scented plants for homemade “beauty” products, and perhaps some cut flowers for the table (a growing trend today among flower farmers). British cottage gardens were originally the home of Britain’s laborers, a style followed thereafter by the higher classes, who coveted these pretty gardens, and added their own elements to the cottage garden style.

Today, many people are starting to return to the way of the cottage garden, as herbalists, gardeners, and a growing number of aromatherapists get back to the real roots of the source of plants and oils and establish their own style of cottage gardens. This article looks at which traditional cottage flowers can be used as cut flowers for an aromatic summer bouquet.

Types of Traditional Flowers for a Cottage Garden

Many annual flowers in a cottage garden are chosen for the brightly colored blooms more than their aromatic aromas whereas many perennial flowers and plants are aromatic. However, it is possible to have both! Annual plants will usually bloom for one season; perennial plants will return the following year if the climate and growing conditions are right for them. Many cottage garden flowers are tall, making them ideal for an long, elegant vase display.

In my experience, here in northern Arizona, some annual plants and flowers will return the following year, if overwintered indoors. Tender perennial plants may not survive the winter unless they are wrapped accordingly and protected from frost and cold weather.

Aromatic Annual Flowers for Cottage Gardens

If you looking for aromatic annual flowers that are reminiscent of the traditional cottage garden flowers, you may consider the following:

  • Stock (Mathiola incana) – a member of the Brassicaceae plant family, stock flowers from early spring through late summer depending upon the location and climate. Stock traditionally grows tall (up to 30 inches in height), but smaller dwarf species are now available. Stock is lavender, white, pale pink, purple, yellow, or even red in color. It is native to the Mediterranean area. Stock may come back as a perennial the following year (in my experience) even if overwintered outside.

  • Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) – a member of the Fabaceae plant family, sweet pea is a tall, fragrant flower which was traditionally found in cottage gardens, as far back as the 17th century; depending on the species of sweet pea, the sweet pea vine can grow to a height of up to nine feet. Sweet peas are various colors of pink, yellow, lavender, purple, white, and red. Sweet pea is also available as a perennial flower but be aware that many species today may not be traditionally fragrant. The sweet pea species blooms from late spring to early summer and provides lasting blooms even when used as a cut flower. It is a flower I remember well from my childhood!

Aromatic Perennial Flowers for Cottage Gardens

The following perennial aromatic flowers should last for more than one season in your garden, if cared for appropriately. They compliment the above annual aromatic flowers beautifully:

  • Delphinium – a member of the Ranunculaceae plant family, delphinium refers to a collective genus of plants which includes approximately 300 flowering perennials. The classic cottage garden delphinium is a tall, colorful plant, traditionally available in shades of blue, purple, and white. Delphiniums are also known by the name larkspur; cottage garden delphiniums can grow to a height of five feet, depending on the species. Delphiniums traditionally flower throughout the summer months in the Northern hemisphere. It should be be noted that delphiniums are poisonous.

  • Peony – a member of the Paeoniaceae plant family, peonies are native to Asia, southern Europe, and North America. Most perennial peony species grow to a height of up to five feet but some species of peony grow taller. Traditional cottage garden peonies flower throughout the spring and summer; cottage garden peonies are large flowers in shades of pink, white. and yellow. Some peony flowers are fragrant whereas others are not, so choose accordingly.

Other Aromatic Cutting Flowers for Cottage Gardens

Of course, the flowers mentioned above a just a few of those available as cutting flowers for a traditional cottage garden, but I believe they are some of the most popular species.

Cottage garden flowers are traditionally a mix of climbing, tall and fragrant plants including herbs and roses for aromatherapy use, some of which I will be looking at more closely in subsequent posts.

Learn More About Aromatic Plants with Sedona Aromatics

If you would like to learn more about aromatic plants and how many are utilized in aromatherapy, take a look at the Sedona Aromatics Certificate in Holistic Aromatherapy.


  • Gardener’s Network website accessed May 30, 2016

  • Garden Guides website accessed May 30, 2016

  • BBC Gardening website accessed May 30, 2016

  • Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author and editor in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.

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