A cottage garden

Gardens: A cottage garden

A cottage garden

Annuals, perennials and edibles bloom from early spring to late fall

Story: Greta Weiderman

Photos: John Dixon

Passers-by enjoy ever-changing eye candy when they peek past the white picket fence that lines Rosellen Bohlen’s front yard.

The sunny cottage garden on West Green Street in Champaign has a path running through it and is planted with bulbs, annuals, biennials, perennials, trees, scrubs and small fruits that all peak in different seasons. Cottage gardens have fruits and vegetables interspersed with flowers.

In the spring, daffodils, grape hyacinth, purple tulips, rhubarb and sweet william biennials bloom in the front yard. Peonies bloom in late May and daylilies later in the season. Roses and a five-in-one apple tree also inhabit the front yard.

By late June or early July, Bohlen harvests a quart of raspberries a day. They border the narrow walk on the right side of her house.”These are my pride and joy,” she said about the raspberries.

She harvests them twice — the old canes in late June/early July and the new canes in the fall — a heavier harvest of about 2 quarts a day. “They really thrive on benign neglect,” Bohlen said.
She does, however, cover them with netting to keep the birds away. She also grows strawberries, her favorite fruit. Thornless blackberries border the walk along the left side of her house, and her garden includes a sour cherry tree and two sweet cherry trees.

In the mostly shaded backyard, viburnum provide shade for ferns, hostas and a ground cover called vinca that has tiny, purple blooms.

Giant, showy zinnias bloom bright in the front yard, poking their heads through the picket fence in late August.

“Living on this busy street, people will stop and ask me, ‘What kind of seeds did you plant this year?'” Bohlen said.

Neighborhood children appreciate Bohlen’s garden, and she said she plants snapdragons and enjoys showing children how to make the flower head grab their fingertip.
As far as vegetables are concerned, the garden includes beans, green peppers, spinach and Swiss chard. An herb garden outside the kitchen door includes lettuce, oregano, cilantro, rosemary, chives, basil, parsley and thyme.

A moon garden surrounds the screened-in porch and features scented white flowers that show well in the dusk, like white climbing roses, white 4 o’clocks, white-flowering dianthus, sweet-autumn clematis and reseeding white nicotiana, which Bohlen started from seed.

“I really like having annuals that reseed themselves,” she said.

After gardening, Bohlen relaxes on the porch swings she inherited from her grandmother.

Her husband, Dennis Potten, appreciates Bohlen’s gardening efforts immensely. Potten and Bohlen vacation in their recreational vehicle, and Bohlen hires people to tend to her garden while she travels. “He fully supports my paying a friend to come watch it while I’m gone,” Bohlen said.

In spring 2010, Bohlen visited France for two weeks through a Master Gardeners program. While she was gone, Potten refurbished the garage as a surprise for her, turning it into a garden shed/studio with organized storage.

Bohlen’s garden was featured in a Wall Street Journal article about moon gardens in July 2010.