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.
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!