Victorian Landscaping

The Victorian Era saw an enormous change in the lifestyles of Americans as the advances in technology altered our nation of farmers from 94% to less than 50% of the population. With new opportunities, wealth began to accumulate and the era of exaggeration began.

The landscape designs of Victorian homes reflected this new ornamental lifestyle found inside as well as out. Colors were bold and vibrant and at times mixed with little heed or restraint.

If you own a Victorian home and wish to keep the landscape design in tune, there are a few design basics that most Victorians followed that would still be in keeping with modern times.

Foundation plantings
The Victorian Era was the first that foundation plantings became popular. Houses were built high off the ground, so it became necessary to attempt to hide the mass of exposed foundation.

Shrubs were planted so that each one would stand on its own rather than blending together. A variety of plants were chosen for uniqueness in blossom, shape or variety. The point was not the overall aesthetics of a grouping but the showiness and uniqueness of individual plants. The goal seemed to be to find that special specimen that no other could find.

Walkways meandered about the yard and were considered aesthetically pleasing. Shrubs and trees were always planted in groupings along crossing points to hide the destination of the next path, lending an intriguing coziness to the landscape design.

Most houses had at least one large expanse of lawn uninterrupted by garden beds or tree groupings to give a good view of the house from the road or vice-versa.

Many yards were enclosed by fences. In those days fences were designed to keep out the animals rather than the prying eyes of neighbors. Privacy was not an issue like it is today. If hedges were planted along a fence, they were kept low and sparse to hide the fence, not the view. Victorians wanted to be seen.

Functional spaces
Clotheslines, work sheds or any other functional spaces were kept hidden from the view from the road and front drive. These spaces were set off by groups of shrubbery and trees.

Ornamental features were highly popular, and the Victorians filled their landscapes with them. Chairs, fountains and statues were scattered about the landscape to a degree that depended upon the restraint of the owner.

Architecturally cohesive
Though it was a time of excess (and not all homeowners possessed such self-restraint), the landscape designs were usually in keeping with the size and architectural design of the house. A smaller home would not have a yard filled with gardens, instead choosing one modestly grand grouping of shrubbery and flowers and a row of modest shrubbery along the fence border.

Overall impression
It was a time of bright, vibrant colors. People wanted to show off new money and new things, so it became quite popular to acquire new and exciting varieties of plant material. Ornate accent pieces were highly popular to break up the landscape, and almost every plant stood on its own as a spectacular find.

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