What is your Garden Style?

Crawford House Front Entrance

Crawford House Front Entrance

I am in the midst of a renovation right now but my mind is already way ahead to our project for next summer – and that is to redo the landscaping in the front of our 1912 house. I always do a lot of research to get ideas and I am especially interested in gardens for old houses – of course. I have been reading voraciously and one of my favorite books was “Arts and Crafts Gardens” by Wendy Hitchmough.

In reading this book I came to understand that the philosophy for Victorian gardening versus “modern” or Arts and Crafts gardens are what set the two apart. Are you curious to find out which one you most closely relate to? Take this quick five question quiz and find out for yourself:

1. Do you like your gardens A. ?to be organized, with well maintained clipped hedges surrounding flower beds or does your heart flutter when you see B. loose, unstructured flower borders. ??

2. Do you prefer to have gardens that are A. symmetrical (for example matching urns on either side of a doorway) or B.asymmetrical (where things are not the same on either side).

3. Do you like the A. bold colours of annuals such as red, yellow, white, pink and blue or do prefer B. less contrast in your colours – for example low ground covers with small flowers, hostas and grasses?

4. Do you like the A. challenge of growing plants that don’t always work for others just to see if you can do it or do you like to stick with B.the tried and true?

5. Do you A. Separate your flowers into “rooms” such as a rose garden or do you B. Plant those roses whereever you fancy?

Count the number of A’s and B’s. The A’s represent the concepts and ideals that were very much a part of the Victorian era. The B’s represent Arts and Crafts philosophies. Victorian gardens mirror the attitude that was just as applicable in their interiors. Show gardens were very important just as a parlour was important in the home. Gardening was done primarily by tradesmen – the gardeners. They were obsessed with plants and their botanical properties, names etc. Wealthy Victorians had greenhouses where the head gardener could explore new cultivars and start plants from seedling.

Crawford House Fountain

Crawford House Fountain

Victorian gardens were symmetrical, formal and geometric in shape. By using bold coloured flowers they could create interesting “carpets” of flowers that were seen to advantage from the second floors of their homes. It was a case of man taming the environment. Big lawns were popular because that signalled wealth and land ownership. They used lots of fountains, statuary, and black or white wrought iron for seating and fences. The pictures at left are more Victorian in style.

Arts and Crafts gardens were considered an example of “modern” gardening. Arts and Crafts gardens revolved around the idea that the entire household should live and work in harmony with nature. It was considered, at the time, to be a “wild but natural style”. It made good use of the concept of livable rooms – gardens not created for show but for function.

Arts and Crafts gardens used a lot of plants that were known to grow easily so that maintenance was low – at least as compared to the manicured gardens of the Victorian period. It is easy to understand why this style of gardening is becoming even more popular today than it was back then. And… another big reason this style of garden became popular is because gardening became a pastime for the amateur rather than needing a staff of gardeners.

I hope you enjoy your garden this summer – regardless of which style appeals to you!

3 responses to “What is your Garden Style?

  1. Wonderful blog entry! I had 4B’s and one A…I like to try new plants, even if they are not recommended for Zone 3.

    I am at present engaged in a huge re-landscaping of the back and front yards as my husband insists on having a new garage built in the back yard with a concrete driveway. This necessitated moving 8 trees, removing 2, and relocating all of my perennials in a 30ft bed- mostly peonies, lillies and irises. This flower bed was constructed with retaining walls on both sides, as it arced on one side of the lawn. The retaining walls were made of quartz and marble cast offs from a countertop fabrication shop that had a bin of freebies out back. I spent two winters hauling rock…there is no point trying to haul the rock in the summer as everyone and thier dog empties the bin out very early in the day. In the winter months, I would go around 3 in the afternoon, when the sun had been shining on the bin, and armed with my chisel, pry bar and hammer, would spend an hour or two picking rock- and I would have the bins all to myself.

    I have developed moderate to severe RA, so my days of getting on my knees to play in the dirt are done-rock for flower beds was collected pre-RA.

    Instead of making a new flower bed for the perennials I found places for them in existing beds- a friend did most of the planting at my direction. – The only new bed I planted was created for me when we tore down the old shed- turns out the best soil on the place was underneath it. We transplanted 8 tower poplar seedlings in the corner of the fence as the neighbour’s deck is above the level of the fence, giving them a clear view into our yard. They are pretty good about it, but I planted a privacy screen anyway. Tower poplars grow fast, doubling thier height every year to maturity and they are a tall narrow tree, which takes well to hedging- be sure to plant the non suckering kind.

    I put in an archway and planted a John Cabot climbing rose on either side of it…I was so excited to find this variety I dont even know what colour the blooms will be! This is a hardy (Zone2) climber developed in MB for our harsh climate.

    Then I filled the corner with lillies, irises and peonies, as well as some California poppies. Surprisingly, they survived- I transplanted everything in the rain last week- it decreases risk of shock for the plants.

    My hubby laid a large slab of quartz in between the arch, with a quartz pathway leading up to it(polished side down, as polished quartz is dangerously slippery when wet) …and in between the arch set a bench made by my step father years ago. When everything grows in, it will be a comfortable spot to sit in the shade when the sun is setting.

    With the rest of the rock, I have made planters for annuals, so I dont have to kneel. Hubby hauled all the rock for me and did the heaviest part of the work like levelling, laying the base stones and lifting sold.
    First, we lifted the sod and made the ground level.
    Then we laid some large pieces of quartz for a base, and made sure they were level too.
    I then centred a garbage pail on the base and used this for my pattern form.
    I laid courses of rock, staggering where they met, like laying bricks…using construction adhesive to secure each layer to the one below it- ensuring that each layer is made up of rock that is the same thickness. I continued in this way until the stone “well” was about 24″ high. Then I removed the garbage pail, and laid the last course of stone, which is a nice beige and rosy coloured quartz.

    We took some old yard waste bins that had broken handles and put some draining holes in them using a door knob drill bit. Then we cut the bins with a hack saw, about an inch shorter than the top course of stone- and inserted them into the wells and filled them with dirt. The finished stone well planters are about 2 ft high and 3 wide. I am going to plant them with petunias and some trailing plants next week once danger of frost has passed. They look very nice if I do say so myself. And the best part is- they were free! We have located the planters in between the newly transplanted trees which form a general circle defining a sitting area around an outdoor fire place. I can also put some solar lights in the planters which will provide some gentle night time lighting and ambiance.

    Beverly LaPorte

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