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Glossary: Victorian Garden

Victoria color bed
Waddesdon Manor. Image by ukgardenphotos

Landscape Theme

Victorian Garden: Hail to Queen Victoria! Primarily formal gardens with clipped borders filled with plant collections that may be “staged” to enhance architecture, such as an ornate Victorian home.  Victorian gardens both predate and overlap with the Arts & Crafts Movement, yet the garden styles have distinct differences. In their introduction in Outside the Bungalow: America’s Arts & Crafts Garden, authors Paul Duchscherer and Douglas Keister compare Victorian gardens as stylistically highly controlled.  “For fear of making their garden appear neglected or forlorn, most people avoided any garden effect that appeared too loosely naturalistic or wild. Instead of being a place for the free expression of natural beauty, Victorian social conventions dictated that the garden should be a decorative frame or backdrop for the house” (p. 1).  I would add highly ornate, reminding me of Baroque garden designs but with much more diversity from world plant explorations and subsequent introductions to a collecting-minded society.

Cultural Influences:

The Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution introduced scientific advances and technologies. Global exploration leads to extensive and exotic plant collections for both indoor (the invention of conservatories) and outdoor plant exhibits (at estates but more prominently in public view at parks and botanical gardens).

Design Principal:

Symmetrical and asymmetrical designs with emphasis on ornateness.  Parterres might be a part of the design, but clear borders between plantings and pathways provide clean boundaries and order.



Lawns. Mass planted floral displays we call color beds. Numerous collections from explorations worldwide.  The Victorian era might be when we first saw “foundation plantings” to hide unattractive building bases.

Site Furnishings and Features:

Ornate fabrications include cast-iron benches and urns depicting botanical details like vines or branches.  Statuary, fountains, columns, and greenhouses are also fabricated from cast iron.


Conservatories or “glass houses,” thematic plant collections, refined pathways.  Pathways for leisurely strolling.

California Bias: 

We have numerous Victorian gardens to observe and visit, particularly in San Francisco: Golden Gate Park and its Hall of Flowers.  Our temperate climate allowed many tropical species to be grown outdoors.  Are there any “authentic” Victorian gardens in California?



Duchscherer, P., Keister, D. (1999). Outside the Bungalow: America's Arts and Crafts Garden. New York: Penguin Studio.


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