"The Nightingale and the Rose" is set in a whimsical garden that is characteristic of fairy tales that take place in universal, ambiguous contexts—that is, contexts that are unbound by a specific time or place. The lack of details about the garden's precise location ultimately places it beyond the world of everyday life, thus giving it a mysterious and imaginative quality. The fact that the animals and plants can speak in this garden further emphasizes its fantastical elements. The garden setting also provides an idyllic natural backdrop that references to the Garden of Eden.
However, though no specific date is referenced, there are hints in the story that allude to the context of Victorian England, which was actually the context in which Oscar Wilde himself wrote the story. For example, the Student's championing of reason references the values of the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries that championed knowledge and reason. Such values were very popular in Victorian England. The Student's dismissal of art as pointless is also reminiscent of the types of criticism to which Wilde's works were subjected. The luxury commodities of the girl (her jewels, silk, and toy dog) also hint at the materialist setting of Victorian England, where mass consumerism was becoming widespread.
The setting of "The Nightingale and the Rose" thus incorporates a fairy tale's sense of whimsy and timelessness while also betraying influences of the Victorian context in which Wilde was writing.