11 Old-Fashioned Flowers to Create a Vintage Vibe in Your Garden

Winter can be a melancholic time for avid gardeners, but I like to use the frosty months to make plans for my summer garden. I’ve been slowly adding old-fashioned flowers in the yard to create a vintage vibe. There’s something romantic about the flowers of yesteryear. Today, I’m sharing a few of my favorites with you.

1. Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks were the first vintage flower I planted in the yard after buying our circa 1875 house. My thought was to add flowers that might have first been planted when the house was built. Hollyhocks have been around since colonial times. They’re a biennial plant which means they won’t produce flowers until the second year, and they typically bloom only once. So while this flower is beautiful, it’s short-lived. They can grow up to eight feet tall, so be prepared to stake them if they get a little floppy. I lean mine against my picket fence.

Pink hollyhock flower in the garden.


beautiful hollyhock flower or althaea flower


2. Delphinium

This is a beautiful flower that’s available in about 300 different species. It’s a true show-stopper with its height and full spike of flowers. They prefer six to eight hours of sunlight and aren’t happy if it’s too hot and humid. I added a few more of these beauties to my front yard last summer and am anxious to see them again. You can use these as cut flowers for indoor arrangements.

blue delphinium - old-fashioned flowers


delphinium flowers in the garden


3. Poppies

When you need a shot of bold color in the garden, consider the glorious poppy. Last summer I added Icelandic poppies to my yard after seeing gorgeous California poppies during lasty year’s trip to Ferndale, CA. Icelandic poppies are smaller and so dainty. Some of my poppies struggled, others were quite happy. I’m curious to see how they fare this coming year.

California poppies


Glorious red poppies - old-fashioned flowers


4. Cosmos

I have a love affair with Cosmos. If you’re going to plant any old-fashioned flowers in your garden, be sure to choose this dainty gem. They’re so easy to grow and look so light and airy. We keep adding more and more of them. Cosmos can get quite lanky, however, but you can cut them back to make them bushier which in turn makes them less likely to fall over. Buy starter plants or grow them from seeds.

Dainty cosmos flower


Dainty cosmos flowers by a fence


5. Bachelor Buttons

Frilly blue blooms grow atop stems that reach from two to three-feet tall. You might remember this charmer from your grandmother’s garden. They love sun and are easy to grow. Add them to a rock garden if you have one. They look great next to pink and orange flowers.

Bachelor button flowers


6. Foxglove

My neighbor once had a sea of foxglove flowers in her backyard and their appearance was simply mesmerizing. I keep adding them to my own garden hoping to one day recreate the magic from her yard. She’s since moved to Tennessee and the fellow who purchased her home removed all the flowers from the yard. I was so sad to see that happen, but he just wasn’t into gardening. If you want a tall flower, choose foxglove which can grow up to six feet in height, depending on the variety. I’ve had shorter versions in my flower beds which are just as pretty.

Foxglove - old-fashioned flowers


7. Bleeding Heart

It’s easy to see where this shade-loving flower gets its name. Tiny heart-like blooms suspend daintily from arching branches. If you want to add spring/early summer color in a shady location, bleeding heart is a great option. Be advised it looks like it dies off in the summer, but it will come back the following year.

Bleeding heart - a shade perennial that blooms in spring


8. Peony

Another spring and early summer bloomer is the beautiful peony. They grow in a bush-like format with large blooms that make great cut flowers. Ants love this plant so don’t be surprised if you find ants crawling out of the blooms after you bring them inside for floral arrangements. Most people choose white or pink peonies. I’ve got yellow ones in my front yard but hope to add a few pink ones, too.

Beautiful fresh yellow peony flower in full bloom in the garden


Pink peonies


9. Bellflower

Also known as Campanula, bellflowers are available in hundreds of varieties, from annuals to biennials and perennials. They bloom most proficiently in June and July and available in pink, white, blue, and lavender. Bellflower is easy to care for and is a popular choice for cottage gardens.

Blue flowers of Campanula Persicifolia in garden


10. Columbine

My mother had columbine flowers in her garden so it’s no surprise I have several in mine, too. She was always drawn to flowers with unusual shapes and columbine certainly is unique and enchanting. You’ll find this perennial in a range of colors. Mine like to spread throughout the garden bed and I’m always surprised to see a new one pop up. I cut back dead leaves, stems and flowers. They sometimes will bloom again, if I’m lucky.

Columbine flower - perennial


Colorado blue columbine flowers


11. Dianthus

Dianthus is another great choice among the field of old-fashioned flowers. I’ve planted two varieties of it in the rock garden surrounding my pond. It creates a great show of color among the rocks. The leaves are like a grassy carpet so after the blooms fade (I cut them back when they turn brown), the leaves still look great.

Double flowers of cottage pink plant (Dianthus plumarius) plants


Do you have any of these old-fashioned flowers in your garden? Are there any you think you might add this year?



    1. Hi Marlene!

      For your potted balcony plants, follow the same instructions for the flowers as if they were planted in the ground. The only difference is watering requirements – you’ll need to water them more frequently than those that are planted in the ground. To keep potted flowers looking their best, be sure to remove faded blooms so the plant puts its energy into the new blooms. Hope this helps!

  1. Nice to think about a cottage type garden filled with old timy flowers on this cold rainy Jan day. I have never had much luck with foxglove or delphinium but my pinks, cosmos and poppies have all done well. Every year I add more Peonies and old fashion. Roses to my garden and this year will give Hollyhocks and Larkspur a try against the barn.

    1. Hi Kathy! I tried roses but kept getting black spot so I gave up on them. I had trouble one year with Delphinium but last year they did great so I planted a few more. We’ll see what this summer brings. Happy gardening!

  2. I love the peony and have both herbaceous and tree form. I learned that if you want a peony of a certain color buy it at a local greenhouse so you can see it in bloom. I bought mine from an online store and they came as tubers which took a few years to bloom…the wrong color I ordered! I won’t do that again.
    I keep buying roses but we deal with the Japanese beetles for 4-5 weeks of the summer and I end up covering them with netting. Why do I keep buying them:0)
    All the old fashioned flowers are wonderful and I wish I had the space for them.
    Soon, it will be spring!

  3. I remember the hollyhocks at my grandma’s house. She referred to them as privy roses because that’s where she had them planted. They would return every year and in various colors a great way to camouflage the privy. We recently purchased a small farm homestead and will be building a house there. The barn and coops are still there I can’t wait to make flower beds with my wife and granddaughter. Thanks for all your suggestions

  4. I love all these old-fashioned flowers. I have had most of these at one time or another. Sadly, my trees have gotten so big that I don’t get the sun needed for most of them anymore. I still have some Peonies, a Bleeding Heart, Iris, Lavender, and a few pots of annuals to brighten things up in the shade. I miss the Holly Hocks and the hummingbirds that visited them. Cosmos was another favorite that has been shaded out. All part of gardening and learning to enjoy what Mother Nature provides.

  5. O Jen all so wonderful. I assume that was your beautiful pond and yummy hot tub in the one picture. WOW. I am certainly glad for you. Lots of hard work.

  6. I love your ideas! I have a questions, though about the use of dianthus around the pond. if you have fish in your pond (as I do) have you had concerns about toxicity? I only read about this on one website…so I am interested in getting additional information and/or experiences with fish and dianthus. Thank you!

    1. Hi Kerry! Although dianthus can be toxic, I’ve not had any problem using them around my pond. They’re far enough away from the pond’s edge that spent blooms don’t fall into the water. I usually have to cut faded blooms off the plant anyway. The blooms turn brown but hang onto the stems forever. My pond is also filtered to help remove any toxins that might enter the water.

  7. My hollyhocks always get rust and the leaves look awful. If there a rust resistant variety or a way to treat/prevent this? Thank you!

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