7 Rare and Unusual Plants for Your Cottage Garden

Creating a fascinating and vibrant Cottage garden requires a little forethought and a subtle balance of interesting and perpetually blooming plants. To this end a gardener should include some unusual plants that will not only capture the eye, but evoke remarks from your garden visitors.  I have suggested below some of my cottage garden favorites, you will not find these in your local nursery, but instead will have to locate seeds,  it is definitely worth the time and effort.

1.      Crocosmia
Common Name: montbretia
Crocosmia is a small genus of flowering plants in the iris family, Iridaceae. It is native to the grasslands of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. They can be evergreen or deciduous perennials that grow from basal underground corms. Type: Bulb

When I first saw this plant in Holland I thought it was an orchid, it was so lovely. The first bulbs I bought were “Lucifer” and from 10 bulbs within a few years I had hundreds. This is a striking plant in the garden.  It grows to 4 ft. tall and blooms from June to August. I might add they seem to prefer some shade.

Grow in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist soils in full sun. Plant corms in spring 2-3" deep and 6-8" apart. Only reliably winter hardy to areas where winter temperatures do not dip below 0 F.  In USDA Zone 5 (and possibly Zone 6), it is strongly recommended that the corms be dug up in fall and stored over winter in somewhat the same manner as for gladiolus (but do not allow them to dry out completely). Propagate by division or by corm offsets. Tolerant of summer heat and in humidity.


 2.     Verbascum Common Name: Mullein
Drought tolerant.

Erect stems bearing profuse saucer-shaped flowers that are usually yellow, but also white, brownish-red, or purple. Individual flowers are short lived but numerous, and flowering takes place over a long time. Most plants in the genus Verbascum are biennials or short lived perennials and a few are annuals; some have semi-evergreen or evergreen rosettes. Most species self-sow, but not as a nuisance, and many seedlings vary slightly from the parent cultivar, thereby creating welcome surprises. Most species are found on dry, stony hillsides and open woodlands, but different species are well-adapted to cottage, gravel, rock gardens, or naturalized areas.
Noteworthy characteristics: Tall, upright flower spikes with small bright flowers bloom over a long period and create vertical accents in the garden. Leaves are often fuzzy and cast with a silvery sheen.
 Care: Fuzzy-leaved species prefer full sun, others will tolerate partial shade. Grow in any

well-drained soil. Verbascums tend to flop in fertile soil.
Propagation: Sow seeds of annuals and biennials in spring in containers under a cold frame. Divide in spring. Take root cuttings in winter. Take semi-ripe cuttings of shrubby species in late winter. These hardy plants grow to 3 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. Pink Flower; Purple/ Lavender Flower; White Flower/ Use in Cottage Garden, Beds and Borders, Naturalizing, Suitable as Annual Style.

3.     Phlomis
Common Name: Jerusalem sage
Jerusalem sage is a shrubby evergreen in USDA Zones 8-10. Plants typically die to the ground in winter in USDA Zones 5, 6 and 7, with roots usually surviving. It is best grown in organically rich, fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants tolerate some dry soils. Stems may be cut back after flowering to promote additional bloom.

Native to the Mediterranean, Jerusalem sage is a pubescent, mounding, shrubby perennial that grows to 2-4’ tall. Plants perform best in USDA Zones 8-10 where they remain evergreen in winter. Wrinkled, ovate to lanceolate, gray-green leaves (to 5” long) of this mint family member have a sage-like appearance but no aroma or taste. Whorls of yellow flowers bloom in spherical clusters (verticillasters) along the upper half of stems and at the stem ends in summer. Additional flushes of bloom may occur throughout the remainder of the growing season if stems are promptly cut back after flowering. It is a shame this plant is so hard to find.  When I lived in Ohio a local herb farm sold these plants and I bought one not knowing what it was until later. The blooms are so unusual and the odd shade of the leaf made this a most talked about plant in my Cottage garden.

4.     Amaranthus, Love Lies Bleeding
Brilliant red seed heads dangle liker rubies.
HEIRLOOM. Brilliant red seed heads dangle like shimmering ruby necklaces from the tops of sturdy, 3-5 ft. plants. With long-lasting color, they're great in arrangements, fresh-cut or dried. Amaranthus needs heat and a long season. Start in containers and set out 6-week plants after frost. The tiny seeds take 2 weeks to sprout. Many parts of the plants, including the leaves and seeds, are edible, and are frequently used as a source of food in India and South America —this plant is an annual but self-sows, so it should come up year after year. It grows to five feet or more in hot dry climates and less so in cooler climates or zones with a short growing season.  My plant I pruned into a tree and it blooms continuously. It is a lovely plant in the Cottage garden.


5.     Helenium
 Pretty and tough! Drought tolerant Grows and shines in heat, drought, humidity and rain.
This North American native is one of the most weather-tolerant annual plants we've ever grown. This champion is both pretty and tough, taking all the heat, drought, humidity, rain, and anything else that comes its way. Neatly mounded plants are covered with 1" yellow daisy-like blooms that self-clean, keeping plants in tip-top shape all season. Use either as dramatic accents or as fillers. Its loose, airy habit lets the cheerful flowers peek through other annuals such as salvias, gazanias and celosias. Very easy to grow and fast to flower. Long-blooming helenium lights up the late-season garden with showy daisy flowers in brilliant yellows, browns, and mahogany, centered with prominent yellow or brown discs. Many of the best cultivars are hybrids. All are excellent for cutting. Deadhead to extend bloom time, and divide the clumps every couple of years to ensure vigor. This plant likes plenty of sun and does well in zones 3-8, but I live in Zone 9 and it grows splendidly. Is grows between 2-5 feet and is about 2 ft. wide. Special Features: Flowers, Cut Flowers, Attracts Birds, Attracts Butterflies, Tolerates Wet Soil, Deer Resistant, Easy to Grow


6.     Felicia heterophylla 'The Blues'
Drought Tolerant.  Commonly referred to as the ‘true blue’ or ‘kingfisher’ daisy, it is one of the few Felicia’s with entirely blue flowers; both the ray and disc florets are a stunning electric-blue in contrast to others with yellow centres surrounded by blue/purple or white 'petals'.  Very easily grown from seed, this fast growing annual plant is ideal for any bare, sunny area. Growing to around 12 in tall use them as an edging plant along an informal border. They work exceptionally well in containers and planters. The gorgeous blue flowers are borne above tidy, compact foliage. Flowering in just 8 to 10 weeks from sowing they will flower prolifically on sunny days with their happy flowers facing the sun. Felicia will do well in average soil, but do require good drainage. Place them in full sun to enable their blooms to be at their best and provide shelter from winds. Felicia are very easy to maintain, they are  but would appreciate watering during dry summer months. Deadhead regularly for a constant supply of fresh blooms. Plant Uses: Cottage/Informal Gardens, Borders and Beds, Paths and edging, Drought Tolerant, Container Planting


7.     Cerinthe Blue Shrimp Pride Of Gibraltar Flower Seeds
Blue Shrimp Plant
Cerinthe major purpurascens
Sometimes referred to as 'Blue Kiwi' and 'Pride of Gibraltar', the Blue Shrimp Plant is one of the most asked about plants in our garden. It’s almost steel blue-green foliage and sensational deep blue bracts and small purple flowers make a wonderful impact in the garden. Early in the season this unusual plant resembles a garden pea but as the stems lengthen, they branch to produce showy blue flower bracts with small purple bells that seem to grow out of the leaves and stems. Very attractive to bees. Heat tolerant throughout the summer and also hardy down to at least 23 degrees F. Cooler nights in fall produce an even deeper blue color. While technically an annual, this self-sowing hardy plant will drop its large pea sized seeds throughout late summer and early autumn and will grow in and around the same patch for quite some years. Growing to approximately 18-24 inches tall, this rare heirloom variety is a subtle but beautiful plant that is quite easy to grow and low maintenance.
This beautiful and unusual plant draws hummingbirds and bees. Instructions included. Self-sows from its own seeds