Midsummer Cottage Garden

The merest mention of an English cottage garden instantly conjures up romantic images of billowing borders spilling over with fragrant flowers, set against a backdrop of birdsong and softly buzzing bees. Harking back to a bygone era when the pace of life was slower, a picture postcard garden is a rare treat in our fast-moving times. 'I've always loved cottage gardens, and the first thing I do when I get up is to look out on the garden. There's hardly a day that I don't venture out,' says Val Mills, dress designer and christening gown embroiderer, who, with her late husband David, a builder, has created a glorious cottage garden round their 1830s semi-detached cottage in Worcestershire. It was no overnight wonder, but a gradual evolution.

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