Victorian Landscape Design
Eight professional tips for designing in this style
Victorian Landscape Style Guide
Use this design sheet to help you create the perfect Victorian-inspired landscape. You'll get ideas for color, décor, materials, plants and fabric. It is a great starting point for any landscaping project.
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Lynn's Plant Suggestions
Classic garden plants:
Ferns (in urns or hanging pots)
Perennials for color
Mediterranean climate plants:
Australian bluebell creeper
White cyclamen (winter color for small pots)
Low water plants:
Fortnight lily (Dietes)
Dwarf yeddo hawthorn (boxwood substitute)
Ray Hartman California lilac
Pacific wax myrtle
True myrtle (Myrtus)
California bush anemone
White Kalanchoe in pots
The Victorian era blended ornate embellishments with the classic refinement of an English garden. While the manicured hedges and clean lines of the landscape might lead you to believe the Victorians were stuffy, in fact, says landscape designer Donna Lynn, "they had a marvelous sense of experimentation and loved to incorporate exotic plants and whimsical décor touches into the landscape." Lynn has been designing landscapes for over 20 years, and here she shares her professional tips for creating a Victorian-inspired garden.
- Do divide your space into garden rooms. Creating outdoor nooks and divided sections in the garden allows you to have transitions between different color and décor styles throughout the garden. Clipped hedges help define the space without feeling too constricting.
- Do have fun with garden ornament. Bird baths and fountains, trellises and arbors, and iron furniture all make great features in the Victorian garden.
- Do use gravel pathways to connect different areas. Gravel was often used in Victorian garden paths because its fine texture recedes visually and allows the hedges and plantings to take center stage. Harmonize the color of the gravel with the color of your home.
- Do choose urn-shaped pots on pedestals, or hanging planters. The Victorian style is opulent and abundant, so lushly overflowing planters make the perfect focal point in the garden.
- Don't let it get messy. "Having lots of detail and visual interest need not look messy if designed right," says Lynn. "Use greenery to create garden structure, and repeat plant species throughout the landscape for a soothing feeling of continuity."
- Don't leave wood unfinished or use other earthy elements. "The Victorian style is more manicured and has strong attention to detail. Instead of leaving wood unfinished, paint it white for a crisp, bright appearance," says Lynn.
- Don't use contemporary design elements. While modern and Victorian design share clean lines, the similarities end there. The modern minimalist look, with silver, chartreuse, black and orange, doesn't mesh well with the lavish, old-world colors and décor of the Victorian times.
- Don't feel limited to pastels or classic English garden plants. "People in the Victorian era loved specimen trees and plants with unusual or weeping forms such as tree ferns or monkey puzzle trees," explains Lynn. "They definitely loved to try new and different plants."
How does the Victorian garden fit into modern times? Lynn says, "My interpretation of a modern-day Victorian-style landscape is lower-maintenance. By creating structure with green shrubs and confining high-maintenance flowers to large urn plantings or groupings of smaller pots, you can enjoy the beauty of a Victorian style with less work." In climates where water use is a concern, "keep lawn areas small or refrain from having lawn altogether," she suggests. "And in Mediterranean climate areas, plants that need little water can be substituted for traditional garden plants."
Lynn's background in art and photography has given her a strong color sense and excellent understanding of design principles. By using 3-D rendering and computer imaging, she creates landscape plans that are easy for clients to visualize and interact with, so her finished landscapes can better reflect the personality of the people she designs for.
Genevieve Schmidt, contributing writer for Landscaping Network and owner of North Coast Gardening