For eons. Cottage gardens stretch back hundreds of years to the time when people used herbs for everything and grew most of their own food. These gardens acquired their name from the country cottage around which they grew. I love cottage gardens best of all and strive to have my own. However, there are drawbacks. I live in a boxy white farm house, not a cottage, and our yard and gardens are rather sprawling for that overflowing, filled to the brim, in a compact sort of way look. Like mine, these small gardens are (and were) a mix of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. I strongly associate cottage gardens with the British Isles, because of our shared history and the influence of the Mother Country on the New World. But other countries have them too.
People acquired the plants for their cottage gardens from friends and family in the form of ‘starts’ (root divisions) cuttings, and seeds. Very much as I do today, only I have the added benefit of seed catalogs. They are called passalong plants. Sometimes these gifts of plant starts to others have come back to me when my own died out. Thank heavens, I’m generous. 🙂
Back to the garden, encourage beneficial insects to make their home among the plants and experiment with companion planting. Avoid monochromatic schemes and think variety. And remember the old-time, non hybrid varieties of flowers and vegetables. A great book about growing heirloom plants and sharing them with others is Passalong Plants. A delightful read chocked full of information. And Happy gardening!