5 Victorian Garden Ideas for Your Yard

Transform your small yard into an old-world garden by implementing these Victorian garden design principles.

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The Victorian era was the beginning of the modern lawn and garden (partly thanks to a newly-patented lawnmower). With a flourishing global market, amateur gardeners could get their hands on exotic plants and design plans. This heirloom garden wasn’t your typical native plant variety. Instead, there are shaped garden beds in the middle of the lawn, wildflower beds, shapely shrubs, and garden statuary and decor. Each garden was either heavily manicured to perfection or let to fill in and be more ‘natural.’ Let’s look back at some garden publications and see what tips we can use in our garden today.

Victorian Garden Design Tips

1. Keep your shrubs well-manicured.

victorian garden with hedges
Ian Kirkland / Unsplash

Shrubs were an integral part of a Victorian garden. Gardeners used them to define walkways, flank entryways, and as focal points in the middle of meticulously designed garden beds.

Try these shrubs in your garden:

  • Arborvitae
  • Azalea
  • Boxwood
  • Forsythia
  • Hydrangea

2. Add garden beds to the middle of your lawn.

This garden idea might not be practical for every yard, but it was a popular design layout in the 19th century. The article above was printed in 1884 and demonstrated how lawns were interrupted with various geometrical garden beds. Some homeowners would designate beds with a different theme. For example, each garden bed might hold flowers from a specific part of the world.

If you don’t want to take up a part of your front lawn, experiment with some asymmetry in your garden and keep your garden edging on the front bed rounded. Place your walkway off to the side and have it curve around your property.

3. Combine well-shaped shrubs with various beds.

victorian cottage garden
Abbilyn Zavgorodniaia / Unsplash

The Victorians were great at being innovative in the garden. They didn’t just have shrubs or flower beds; they usually had both. As a result, the garden style above has the free-flowing feel of a cottage garden while also being very regimented. You can make this garden design easier to maintain by using only a few focal flowers in the garden bed. For example, one entire bed might just have flowering hydrangea shrubs, which will fill in the space and cut down on weeding.

4. Add Victorian-era furniture and decor.

victorian gardening book

Chicago: The Gardening Company, 1905

Chicago: The Gardening Company, 1905

The Victorians had a wide array of plants from all over the world in their gardens; they also had an eclectic mix of decor. The most popular garden accent for the Victorians were castiron or wicker garden furniture and patio sets. You’d also see a lot of stone sculptures, birdbaths, and planters in whimsical shapes. So get creative with carving out a space in your yard for a bistro set like you see in the publication above from 1905.

5. Create a cottage garden with wildflowers.

victorian cottage style garden
Ludovic Charlet / Unsplash

Some Victorian gardeners preferred a “cottage garden” style, which includes a lot of self-seeding, wild, and colorful perennials in various heights. Instead of defining beds and blocking off boundaries with shrubs, a cottage garden is very much a freestyle garden.

Try these flowering plants in your garden:

  • Asters
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Dahlias
  • Hibiscus
  • Hyacinths
  • Irises
  • Lilies
  • Roses

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