Hollyhocks and cabbages, roses and runner beans: the English cottage garden combined beauty and utility, pride and productivity. But what was the reality of the space immortalised in images of thatched cottages with floral borders and ducks on the path? For many the garden was crucial in keeping food on the table, for many simply a status symbol and blaze of colour; and gardens did not just appeal to the senses, but played a philosophical and moral role in society, and thus in our social history. Visions of the rural cottager were never far from the mind of the Victorian middle classes, whether as a shining example to the indigent urban poor or as an aesthetic and social ideal of a utopian ‘merrie England’. The Cottage Garden is the history of this varied and important phenomenon and its myriad concepts and incarnations.