Cottage Garden

– Posted in: Garden Plants

Cottage Garden

In Fran Sorin’s March 4, 2009 post ‘Favorite Seed and Plant Mail Order Sources: From our GGW Contributors’ Steve Silk and I both mentioned Cottage Garden in southwestern Illinois as a ‘favorite’ mail order resource for their vast range of unique plants. Fortunately, I live about 45 minutes from Cottage Garden. My visits there are always informative and inspirational. I feel a more detailed post is appropriate.

For over twenty years, Chris Kelley and her husband Bill have worked to create a popular destination nursery just outside Saint Louis, Missouri. They specialize in plants that really work in our hot and humid summer climate with cold winters. Their selection of tropical plants is impressive (including over 100 new tropicals for ’09), all of which are trial tested in containers (another specialty) and display beds throughout the nursery.

Talavara containers in entrance garden. Plantings include: Agapanthus ‘Elaine’, Petunia ‘Aladdin Nautical Mixture’, agastache and salvias. Image courtesy Cottage Garden.

Talavera containers in entrance garden. Plantings include: Agapanthus ‘Elaine’, Petunia ‘Aladdin Nautical Mixture’, agastache and salvias. Image courtesy Cottage Garden. For creative container combinations check out the 'Tropicalismo of the Prairie' section of Cottage Garden's web site (

Chris says, ‘one of the greatest advantages of growing tropicals is their ability to adapt to container culture’. I couldn’t agree more! This spring I found several unique items for client’s containers including:

Cottage Garden has a large selection of sun and shade perennials, hosta, vines, shrubs and grasses too. Several of which caught my eye, including: hummingbird mint (Agastache x ‘Tutti Frutti’), Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Pink Elephant’, narrow-leaf ironweed (Veronia lettermanni ‘Iron Butterfly’), Hosta ‘Faith’, Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ and chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus ‘Abbeville Blue’).

The Kelley’s grow on and finish all plant material on site. Perennials are grown outside, therefore they do not require acclimatization when you receive them. Annuals and tropicals are greenhouse grown, although they are acclimated to somewhat cooler temperatures before shipping in spring.

They are one of the few nurseries who have succeeded in juggling a retail walk-in business with a shipping department.

With such a diversified plant palette that never seems to stop growing, Chris is not ashamed to admit she is among the ‘horticulturally addicted’. She loves the ‘color, texture and architecture in her plants’.

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff has practiced garden design since 1995. He trained as a Botanist at Eastern Illinois University. Woodruff attributes his unique design aesthetic, naturalism with a twist, to early college exposures to a diverse range of plants and environments (collecting trips in local prairies, field excursions to bogs in Canada and treks through forests of the Northeast). He also maintained the campus greenhouse, where he fell in love with tropicals. In recent years, influences on his designs include travels abroad to Europe, Asia and the Yucatan peninsula as well as observation of the work of great plantsmen such as Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik. Woodruff’s designs often combine grasses, prairie natives and perennials with lush tropical foliage and seasonal blooms. This harmonious blending of plant material that is not conventionally grouped together is the ‘twist’ that makes his style unique.
Adam Woodruff

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6 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Lisa at Greenbow June 21, 2009, 6:53 am

Sounds like my kind of place.

Good morning Lisa. Thanks for your comment. Check out their site.


Steve Silk June 21, 2009, 9:59 am

Hey Adam-Nice post on a favorite (and for me, virtual) spot. Wish Cottage Garden was close enough to visit. I ordered that gold agave too. It’s a sweet one.

Hi Steve. The PPA’s Perennial Plant Symposium will be held in St. Louis July 19-24. It’s a perfect time to visit! Cottage Garden is one of the tour destinations.


barry June 21, 2009, 3:48 pm

i like your use of buckets etc. as an alternative of pots

The Talavera pottery is very colorful.


healingmagichands June 22, 2009, 2:20 pm

Makes me wish I lived closer to St. Louis.

After today’s weather, anywhere cooler sounds better to me. But seriously . . . try mail order from Cottage Garden.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter June 23, 2009, 9:47 pm

Southwestern Illinois is like another State to us in Chicagoland. I’ve heard they can grow peach trees down there. This looks like a great place. I love the photo with the dogs wandering about. I’ll take check out their website next time I’m thinking about ordering plants.

healingmagichands July 1, 2009, 4:57 pm

I have to say thank you so much for the info on Cottage Garden. I got up to the St. Louis area last weekend and went out there largely because of your review. I met Bill Kelley while I was there and he was personable and knowledgeable. I loved my visit and wished I had a LOT more money to spend there!

Glad to hear you made it to Cottage Garden! It’s a great local and mail order resource.


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