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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Victorian Garden


I recently was both delighted and shocked when my gardens were accused of being of the Victorian Style. I absolutely LOVE Victorian decorating in my home…but in my garden??? I had no idea that I was doing any particular design style…I was just being me!

Curious as to what exactly Victorian style gardens looked like…and what hallmarks they were known for…I did some research. I learned that I do in fact primarily garden in a Victorian style, however, I do like a lot of other styles of gardening, and therefore have blended them into my landscape.


The most prominent attributes of Victorian garden design seem to be order and neatness. It is a classic style that any gardener would find pride in.


The Victorian style is known for Ornate decor, over-the-top gardens and geometrically pleasing designs, immaculately kept lawns and well-groomed hedges and flower beds . This style of gardening gained enormous popularity between 1850 and 1890, an era best noted as the Victorian period.

yard 08 pic for blog

Ornate edging in the form of plantings, and hedges were planted (and trimmed to perfection) to create the sharp and straight lines that Victorian gardens are so well known for.


The Victorian garden has always been all about show. It is a garden that is meant to be noticed, looked at, wandered through and admired. They are high-maintenance gardens – but are in no way supposed to look that way. I suspect that those who adopt this type of garden love to spend time maintaining them.


When planting the flower beds, the objective is the bolder the better. Flamboyant colour choices and vivid hues are HUGE in a Victorian garden. Beds of bold and beautiful flowers are typically planted along borders or within rectangular or circular beds. Always did you see crisp edges and immaculately kept grass around them. Gravel, or stone pavers were then used to create garden pathways throughout the gardens to add a sense of unity to the overall look of the garden, and in some cases, to separate the beds from one another.

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The Victorians often had access to a wide range of exotic plants from around the world and their use in the garden was seen as a sign of wealth and prestige. Often they would make the exotic plant the centerpiece of a planting or container, and in many cases used greenhouses to propagate and maintain these plants in the off season.


Green grass surrounding the gardens - the lawns in Victorian times were always immaculately kept and managed.


In more modern Victorian gardens the lawns may be somewhat minimized and replaced by paved areas for seating and relaxing.


Examples of common flowers found in a Victoria garden include bluebells, impatiens, petunias, verbena, zinnia, chrysanthemums, geraniums, begonias, nasturtium, hollyhocks and snapdragons.


For the Victorian gardener, it is all about being bold. They want to put their gardens on a stage for everyone to see. (in my case…for you guys, as most of my garden efforts are in the back yard where not many even know they exist!)



Planting things like marigolds and coleus or pansy will lend only to enhance this type of garden.


Ornaments such as cement or metal benches, urns, fountains, sundials, sculptures and birdbaths are all common features in a Victorian garden.


They are often left untouched with brightly colored paints, as to lend a feeling of natural beauty to the garden.


In my case, I don’t have ornate sundials or things as such…I tend to use ‘olden’ things, (or things that I build/create) that are pretty that will offset the flowers in the displays I create with them.


Structures such as building foundations, sheds, and fences are viewed by the Victorian gardener as unsightly necessities, and are often camouflaged with vines, plantings or potted displays.



Keeping in mind that there are several key elements in a Victorian garden, always remember that there is always flexibility in how each gardener will use the different components.

Where do I begin to create my own Victorian Garden you ask???

Here’s the DIY of it all…the fundamentals if you will:

Begin by planting a fine blade grass in your garden. Soft and luxurious lawns that are immaculately manicured on a regular basis are a mainstay to a Victorian garden. Every edge must be cut and squared off to create a polished look.


When possible, thick shrubs and hedges may be planted around the edge of your garden to hide property lines and fences, as well as to create privacy.


Strategically place some trees in your garden. You can use any type of tree however weeping willows, weeping birches and other interesting and unusual trees are the most popular additions to the traditional Victorian garden. The trees will provide a source of shade, and add interest to the garden. Some trees are even used to create topiaries to add interest or planted to become focal points in different areas of the space.


Fencing depending on the style of fence you use, you can always grow some vines or plant hedges to hide the structures. If you choose an ornately decorated fence, having a vine here and there is not out of the question, but is not a necessity, as it will only add beauty and interest to the garden! Oh how I wish I had either a lot more vines, or a beautiful cast iron fence!

I discuss hiding an unsightly structure in your garden here

july 2 2006 069

Flowers….DO NOT FORGET THE FLOWERS!! The more the merrier, the bigger the better the brighter…well you get the idea…Just make sure you are arranging them in an appealing and eye catching way!

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You could make all the flowers one height…or you can plan your flower beds and make them graduating in height from lowest growing in the front to tallest in the back. I teach you all about the planning of a flower bed here.


I am offering another short list of common Victorian favorites:

Azalea, Holly, Hydrangea, Rose, Lilac, Forsythia, Andromeda, Barberry, Peony and Quince. Prized vines might include: Clematis, Ivy, Wisteria, Morning Glory and Honeysuckle.
Commonly planted perennials and annuals include: Delphinium, Aster, Alyssum, Chrysanthemum, Tulip, Pansy, Violet, Lavender, Daylily, Hosta and Yarrow.


Keep in mind, that the Victorians LOVED their flowers, and the list of favorites is far to long for me to publish to you. I recommend planting what YOU like to see…it seems to me that the Victorians did!


Add yourself a little garden art.


Go with your gut.


I discussed above the different types of things that were traditional to the Victorian Garden, but you are the gardener…and what pleases your eye…is perfect.


Go ahead, add a little whimsy! However I would not recommend garden gnomes and the like…they may not be quite formal or fancy enough for a Victorian Style Garden.


Well planned plantings, and ornamental garden props will go a long way in reshaping your space into one reminiscent of Victorian times.


Whatever your budget, the possibilities are endless to capture this romantic era in your yard, no matter if you live in a simple cottage, modern bungalow….or whatever style of house. You absolutely do not have to live in one of the lovely and esteemed ‘painted ladies’ to successfully create with Victorian style.

Do you garden Victorian Style? If so…share it! Flaunt it on Friday for all the world to see…If not…what is YOUR favorite garden design style? I’d love to see you flaunt that too!

Friday’s flaunt is JUST around the corner…consider this your personal invitation to join us in this weekly parade of gorgeous and inspiring gardens!

I do hope you all enjoyed your tour of my Victorian Garden. The photos were a collection of years past…to the present day.

Until next time…Happy Gardening!

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