The cottage garden style was the first style in garden design where women played an officially recognised role in garden planning, a development which can be seen in connection with the introduction of suffrage at the beginning of the last century. The image of the woman in the garden changed from that of a refined lady sitting beneath a parasol with her embroidery to that of a woman who actively turned her attention to the design of house and garden, even taking up gardening tools herself if the need arose. Poetry about rural life served as a source of inspiration when plants were being selected.

Although country life was strongly idealised, it was probably the wives of leaseholders and craftsmen who were responsible for cultivating and preserving hardy varieties, fragrant herbs and climbing roses down the centuries. These plants formed the ingredients of the “mixed borders”, where colourful groups of wild plants were combined with hardy, cultivated herbaceous perennials, the latter being among the most important elements of the cottage garden.