I am Trying to Design a "Victorian" Era Garden?

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Kew Gardens Formal Bedding by Bestfor

Q: I have recently purchased a 1905 home in Melbourne’s Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Australia. I’m currently renovating the house, in a classic traditional style and I want the garden to match. Any thoughts/ideas/ on plant types or style/design tips? www.justinbishop.com.au

A: The underlying theme of the Victorian garden, as in much of Victorian life in general, was man’s conquest over the elements. Nothing exemplifies this so much as the lawn. A front and rear lawn were considered imperative in a formal garden. The push mower, for more modest lawns, was patented during Victoria’s reign. The previous eras had cottage gardens. This was a garden for the household’s use so it contained a lot of medicinal and food plants in as little space as possible. This meant no grand views but a lot of scrap or twig trellises to hold sprawling plants from taking to much ground. Nothing was planned but all was meant for utility. Trees were also used to frame the carriage drive or approach to the house. In the city, trees were often planted along the street to aid in privacy. This was the era of exploration and discovery in plants so specimen trees with unusual shape or color were popular. Garden ornaments were very popular. Increasing technology made made ornaments more available and affordable. Cast iron, glass gazing balls, and concrete. Concrete was made into fences, fountains and buildings, often with fantastic detail. A bird bath might look just like a tree stump when made from precast stone. Carpet bedding, the use of same-height flora, was popular. Most often used to depict a motif or design such as a clock or badge. Old-fashioned plants typical of grandmother’s garden cottage garden, such as hollyhocks, sunflowers, daylilies, sweet-williams, blood-red peonies, poppies, nasturtiums, larkspurs, snapdragons, and pansies were out of style. These were replaced in Victorian gardens with large and bold foliage plants such as castor beans, cannas, dahlias, lilies, and ornamental grasses. Bedding plants included ageratum, celosia, convolvulus, four o’clock, geranium, portulaca, salvia, sweet alyssum, gladiolus, petunia, and begonias. Foundation plantings are more modern in concept. The great vegetable gardens of the Victorian era gave us items such as glass cucumber straighteners, rhubarb forcers, cloches and unusual garden tools, all interesting additions to the potager or potting shed. Then there were the gardening vicars. They bred many of our modern cultivars.

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