In 18th century England, the trend for garden landscapes was that of picturesque "wild" settings that highlighted the natural landscape's beauty. By stark contrast, the Victorian period -- roughly from 1840 to 1900 -- led to garden designers creating intricate flower bed designs that focused on geometric bed shapes teeming with plants of contrasting foliage textures and flower colours. Massed plantings of plants, incorporating annuals, perennials and shrubs, combined to show off the wealth of plant materials being discovered across the world during this era of colonisation and exploration.
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A Victorian garden includes shrubbery with exotic-looking foliage or bold and large flowers. Roses are a central necessary shrub for a Victorian garden, especially types with a somewhat spreading, wild-form habit, much like modern landscape roses. Lots of flowers on a mixed massing of rose plants creates a natural floral bouquet. Camellias, hydrangeas, forsythias, butterfly bushes, magnolias, mockoranges, lilacs, spiraeas and viburnums all contribute to the excessive feel and floral look within a Victorian landscape. Rhododendrons and azaleas take centre stage and must be used heavily in any Victorian garden.
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A Victorian garden doesn't need to stay geometric and pure in bed design size and shape, nor with only a few flower species. Interplant perennial flowers among shrubs to show off foliage and seasonal flowers. Especially revered in the Victorian age were cut flowers to embellish the home. Peonies, bearded irises, delphiniums, hollyhocks, Oriental poppies, lilies, bleeding hearts, lilies of the Nile and pinks became staples in mixed flower beds and borders in the garden and around the property.
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Spring-flowering bulbs prove to be a reliable way to bring flower colour to the Victorian garden as well as provide cut flowers for bouquets. Tulips, hyacinths, snowdrops and daffodils filled both formal bed designs as well as to carpet lawns or the barren soil under tall trees at the edges of woodlands or in isolated groves.
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Climbing roses incorporate well into any Victorian garden, especially on trellis walls located in the rear of flower beds. Brightly coloured clematis vines also make good choices for gardens of this era. For intense fragrance, honeysuckle vine bears spring and summer flowers. If the climate allows, any winter-blooming jasmine would be an ideal addition to a Victorian landscape.
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Annuals provide the reliable spring to fall flower colour in the Victorian garden, especially in parterres or expansive beds where ornate designs are made with plants. Pansies and violas are a must-have in any design, as are verbena and love-lies-bleeding plants, also known as amaranthus. Snapdragons, South African geraniums, salvias, lobelias and petunias neatly grow within the confines of a designated pattern within a low-growing, carpet flower bed.