The Victorian era was the beginning of the modern lawn and garden (partly in thanks to a newly-patented lawnmower). With a flourishing global market, amateur gardeners could get their hands on exotic plants and design plans—their heirloom gardens weren’t your typical native plant variety. Instead, there were geometric garden beds in the middle of the lawn, colorful annuals and perennials, shapely shrubs, and garden statuary and decor. Each garden was either heavily manicured to perfection or left to fill in and be more “natural.” Take a look at these antique garden publications and see which tips you can use in your garden today.
Victorian Garden Design Tips
1. Keep your shrubs well-manicured.
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.
These shrubs were common during the Victorian era:
- Heirloom rose
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 shows how lawns were interrupted with various circular garden beds. Some homeowners would designate beds with different themes. 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 flower beds.
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. Create a cottage garden with flowering perennials and annuals.
Some Victorian gardeners preferred a “cottage garden” style, which includes a lot of self-seeding, wild, and colorful perennials and annuals in various heights. Instead of defining beds and blocking off boundaries with shrubs, a cottage garden is very much a freestyle garden.
To create a vintage-inspired cottage garden, plant some of these old-world flowers:
5. Add Victorian-era furniture and decor.
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 cast iron or wicker garden furniture and patio sets. You’d also see a lot of stone sculptures, birdbaths, and planters in whimsical shapes. The Victorians were great at entertaining, so get creative with carving out space for a bistro set or a small table so you can do the same in your garden.
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