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The Victorian Cottage Garden

Updated on March 27, 2015
LisaRoppolo profile image

Lisa is a writer & gardener with an extensive knowledge of plants and plant care. Her articles focus on easy care tips for home gardeners.

History of the Victorian Garden

When I think of Victorian gardens, it harkens me back to a time where life was about enjoying simple pleasures; sipping lemonade on your front porch, entertaining some friends and neighbors in your garden or simply stretching out on a bench on a covered porch reading a good book.

The Victorian era is considered one of the greatest eras for gardening. People used their gardens as an extension of their homes and took great care in picking out plants and décor for esthetics as well as to impress their family and friends while entertaining. The summer months were usually spent tending to their gardens and spending lots of leisure time outdoors (especially in the times before air conditioning!).

Foxgloves and Catmint
Foxgloves and Catmint | Source
Garden Décor-A wooden Angel with marbles
Garden Décor-A wooden Angel with marbles | Source
Tall Phlox "Europa"
Tall Phlox "Europa" | Source

Using Heirloom Plants in the Victorian Garden

Victorian gardens were both romantic and ethereal, therefore using heirloom plants can re-create these aesthetics. A good combination of both Perennial and Annual plants are recommended, as well as including edibles such as vegetables and herbs. Some great Victorian-era plants include:

  • Yarrow
  • Hollyhocks
  • Clematis and other climbing plants
  • Roses
  • Peony
  • Cosmos
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Nasturtiums
  • Love-in-a-Mist
  • Daisy
  • Coneflower
  • Phlox
  • Foxgloves
  • Sunflowers
  • Asters


  • Borage
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • oregano
  • Tomatoes

Other types of plants:

  • Flowering Shrubs
  • Flowering Dwarf Trees
  • Fruit-bearing Trees
  • Shade Trees

Hollyhock "Country Romance Mix"
Hollyhock "Country Romance Mix" | Source

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Tips for Creating a Victorian Planting Bed

To create that Victorian feel, here are some useful tips on arranging your planting bed:

  1. Situate your planting bed or beds near a walkway or create a walking path in the middle of your beds. As the plants grow, they will soften the walkway as they start to hang over the edge. This technique isn't just about looks; people walking the path can enjoy the scents of the plants or witness beneficial bees and butterflies enjoying the plants as well.
  2. When planning your planting bed, consider the varying heights of the plants. You want to create a stepped-effect, meaning, low growing plants in the front of the bed, followed by medium height plants in the center of the bed and the tallest plants at the back of the bed. Consider how this bed will look from all sides.
  3. Place the plants densely in the bed. This will create a lush look. It also serves to strangle out weeds, so you can spend more time enjoying your garden and less time weeding.
  4. Group the same plants together in clusters of groupings.
  5. Consider choosing a color scheme and then repeat it throughout the garden to create continuity and guide the eye. Popular colors in Victorian times were pinks, purples, blues and whites.

Clematis on an arbor near my garage
Clematis on an arbor near my garage | Source

Using Décor and Furniture in your Victorian Garden

The Victorian garden is about creating areas of rest while taking in the scenery. Using garden benches, especially in shaded areas are a great way to do this. To visually stimulate you or your guests, traditional items used in Victorian gardens run the gamut from simple to elaborate to whimsical:

  • Picket Fences
  • Stepping Stones to guide you or your guests to areas of rest.
  • Trellises and Arbors for vining plants.
  • Gazing Balls
  • Birdbaths
  • Reflecting ponds or pools
  • Fountains
  • Urns and decorative planters
  • Gazebos or Pergolas

Wrought Iron and Wood Bench
Wrought Iron and Wood Bench | Source

Utilizing Spaces

Victorian gardens use all spaces available on the exterior of the home. Creating separate areas around your property provides different views/perspectives and provides mini-areas of rest. Separate areas are very visually interesting and stimulating.

A few areas that can be enhanced on your property that often get overlooked are the side of the garage and the sides of your house. In my own yard, I've placed an arbor on the side of the garage and planted clematis to climb up the arbor. It softens the look of the garage and incorporates the garage into the whole "look" of the garden. The garage is not just a garage, it is a structural element now in the garden.

Birdbath with found rocks border
Birdbath with found rocks border | Source

How to Create a Concrete Stepping Stone

Using Found Items

Recycling and up-cycling isn't a new concept in garden design; the Victorian garden also incorporated whimsical elements and found elements in their design.

Using items such as old wheelbarrows used as planters, old chairs painted in vibrant colors, wagon wheels and even rocks and boulders found on the property were a decorative element in the garden.

Trading furniture between neighbors is also a great way to recycle or up-cycle (Hello, garage sales!). Victorians didn't have the luxury of going to a garden center or big box store for their planting needs so many people would divide plants and free-cycle them to their neighbors and friends or collect the seeds and propagate plants that way.

Gazing Ball with Stand
Gazing Ball with Stand | Source

Victorian Cottage Gardens are Easy!

By following the advice in this article, you can easily create your Victorian garden. Use your imagination and experiment with colors, shapes and sizes to design your dream space!


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© 2014 Lisa Roppolo


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    • LisaRoppolo profile image

      Lisa Roppolo 3 years ago from Joliet, IL

      Thank you!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      Very pretty hub. Wish I could grow Foxgloves but the die every year. Voted up

    • LisaRoppolo profile image

      Lisa Roppolo 3 years ago from Joliet, IL

      Thank you!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      What a beautiful garden. I tend to neglect my garden once it has been planted, but all these gorgeous pictures are inspiring. Voted up.

    • LisaRoppolo profile image

      Lisa Roppolo 3 years ago from Joliet, IL

      No problem, thanks for stopping by!

    • prestonandkate profile image

      Preston and Kate 3 years ago from the Midwest

      Thanks so much for the list of Victorian-era plants. With spring on its way, this will be very helpful for us! -Kate

    • LisaRoppolo profile image

      Lisa Roppolo 3 years ago from Joliet, IL

      Thank you! :)

    • healthy meals profile image

      healthy meals 3 years ago from Europe

      very helpful. Pin it for future reference, I'll be aiming to recreate the birdbath, its lovely!