By the time of the Renaissance, gardens became part of the European lifestyle. Most of the earliest gardens, however–especially those that were associated with large estates–were formal and unnatural. Probably in reaction to the Plague, as a place to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables, commoners also began to garden. During the Middle Ages, peasant gardeners were more interested in meats, honey, herbs, and other medicinal plants than they were on flowering plants. Their gardens were focused on functionality.
Primroses – A Cottage Garden Flower Common by the 1800’s
By the 1800’s, gardeners began to grow flowers for decoration–as well as for their practical value. Yet, even then, the decorative flowers selected often had a dual purpose. For instance, the primroses and calendulas were used in cooking.
Hollyhocks – An Early Cottage Garden Flower Grown Merely for Its Beauty.
In the book The Cottage Garden, Sweet Williams and Hollyhocks are listed as listed as the early cottage garden flowers grown simply for their beauty:
By the 1800’s, the informal style of Cottage Gardens had more popular and they were more widespread. The writings of the Irish gardener William Robinson had much to do with its increasing popularity. He was prominent in the Arts and Crafts Movement.
Delphiniums were popular during the 19th century and became staples of the Cottage Garden.
Pansies were, too.
Cottage Gardens were typically enclosed spaces, and fragrant roses often arched the entrances into them.