9 Victorian Garden Design Ideas

Cassidy Moody / Missouri Botanical Garden

With the growth of industrialization, advances in science and technology, and the fascination with innovation and exotic destinations, the Victorian era became a time of immense creativity and experimentation in the garden. “As public gardens became more prevalent in England and the United States, more and more people fell in love with gardening,” says Dana Rizzo, horticulturist and senior designer, South Garden Parterres in Victorian Missouri. Botanical Garden. “The growing middle class now had the free time and disposable income to fill their gardens.”

Elements of Victorian design add even more elegance and whimsy to modern gardens. “You don’t have to recreate an entire Victorian garden to look great,” says Leslie Harris, certified horticulturist and host of the Into the Garden podcast. “You can incorporate simple elements or design a corner of your garden with these features without overwhelming your space.”

Here are the most enduring Victorian garden design traditions and tips for incorporating them into your own garden.

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1

Topiary and pruned greens

Carefully trimmed hedges and greens in elaborate shapes were the norm in Victorian gardens. Traditionally, topiary was a formal feature in large estate gardens and was considered a status symbol. “You had to show up,” Rizzo said. “Your garden was competing with others, and garden designers were competing for orders from wealthy clients.”

Plant this look: If you’re not ready to hire a full-time gardener or deal with regular topiary maintenance, consider adding plants that maintain their symmetrical shapes without pruning, such as round shrubs.

SEE ROUND SHRUBS

2

Tropical and exotic plants

Driven by increased exploration and travel, gardeners have had more access to a number of new and unique plants from around the world. “Plant explorers brought back new seeds and exotic specimens to display at home under glass or in a glass veranda on the estate, while plant breeders experimented with new plants,” says Harris. Tropical plants, and especially ferns, were immensely popular and gave an exotic touch to gardens. Pteridomania, or “fern fever”, was at its height in the mid-1800s, with collectors traveling the world in support of this new hobby.

Plant this look: Display potted tropical plants, like the parlor palm, a Victorian favorite, in containers around your patio or indoors. Or plant ferns outdoors in shady areas of the garden.

SHOP PARLOR FINS

For Victorians, more was also more! “It really was an explosion of color,” says Harris. “Large, breezy gardens bursting with bright, bold colors showcased new plants.” There was not just one type of plant used, but popular flowers included dahlias, roses, petunias, and especially geraniums. Cottage gardens, which combined flowers and edibles in an informal way, also evolved towards the end of the Victorian era.

Plant this look: Instead of focusing on a specific, restricted color palette, plant many different flower colors in containers and beds to bring a sense of unbridled joy to your garden.

SHOP DAHLIAS

“The well-planted garden beds were laid out with lots of color and pattern,” says Rizzo. “There was a tight ‘cushion’ planting with no visible bare soil. Typically, there were 2-3 species of flowers in the bed to form a geometric pattern. Basically, you should cram as many plants as possible to achieve a mosaic effect. The technique is also sometimes called carpet bedding because the design resembles a patterned carpet.

Plant this look: Plant a container tightly for an instantly lush feel, or create small geometric shaped beds.

SHOP BEDDING PLANTS

5

Statuaries, sundials, urns and other garden structures

While statues were part of earlier garden styles in Italy and France, the Victorian garden also featured statues, sundials, obelisks, observation balls, urns and ironwork of all kinds, says Harris. . An ornate trellis, arbor or orangery, where citrus trees were protected from the cold, were also part of many Victorian gardens.

Plant this look: Incorporate a few decorative pieces to punctuate your garden, such as a pair of urns, which don’t necessarily need to be planted to add style.

SEE GARDEN URN

Wrought iron became particularly popular and was often used in decorative fences or benches. In large estates, benches allowed you to rest and admire the garden, says Rizzo.

Plant this look: A garden bench is always a wonderful way to stop and admire the view. Also, you can use salvaged iron fence pieces as accents or backdrops in flower beds if you don’t want to fence off an entire area.

SEE GARDEN BENCHES

Estate homes would feature a large outdoor fountain, but a cottage garden might include a birdbath or two, Harris says.

Plant this look: Small wrought iron or concrete birdbaths offer a touch of Victorian flair without requiring a garden overhaul.

SHOP BIRD BATHS

The Victorian cottage garden style includes many types of flowers and edibles, and the Victorians had a particular love for aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary, thyme and scented geraniums, says senior horticulturist Elizabeth Fogel. at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.

Add this look: Fragrant plants never go out of style because scent adds another layer of enjoyment to your garden. Plant them in containers, along the edges of the hardscape to soften the edges, and in beds in wide swaths.

SEE THE LAVENDER PLANTS

The Victorians created mini-habitats to showcase their newly discovered plants, such as alpines and ferns, Harris says. The idea was to mimic what you would find in a natural setting on a rocky cliff or mountainside.

Add this look: Although you may not be able to turn your garden into a mini-mountain, you can create a small rock garden with plants nestled among strategically and artistically placed rocks.

SEE ROCK GRILL PLANTS

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