Transform your outdoors into a lively Victorian garden

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By Hoesa Omole

The reign of Queen Victoria was a period of great prosperity for the British. Reaching its climax between 1850 and 1890, the period was marked by relative peace and strong economic growth buoyed by profits from the overseas British Empire as well as growth of local industries.

Changing perceptions of beauty and nature among the middle class influenced every form of art. Many artistic styles and literary schools flourished back then and many styles of art were born.

Landscape design was not left behind. Gardens in the Victorian era told stories of good times. They were not simply beautiful but were also considered outdoor parlours for both entertaining and impressing guests.

The gardens flowed with abundance with extensive manicured lawns carpeting the undulating landscape. The flowerbeds were drenched in bloom and no dime was spared for the best garden art and dÈcor.

To date, Victorian gardens remain some of the most popular garden styles around the world wherever the climate allows. Armed with the driving philosophy and the basic concepts behind this legendary style, you can easily adapt it to a wide range of environments and settings.

Here are a few ideas to help you transform your outdoor space into one reminiscent of the Victorian times:

Manicured lawns

This is at the heart of the classic Victorian garden. The lawn mower had just been invented and it took gardening by storm. Today, the lawn still abounds in Victorian gardens. Its quality contributes in a big way to the character and aesthetics of the garden and forms the template upon which a garden is embedded.

The lawn is also a multi-purpose surface for a wide range of outdoor activities associated with Victorian gardens.

The flipside is the cost of lawn care. Back then in the days of environmental abundance, this was hardly a problem. Today, before you decide to go Victorian, it is important to plan well for lawn maintenance.

Mowing, weeding, feeding, watering and pest control will be regular items in your garden itinerary. To save costs and stress without compromising your Victorian style, choose a less demanding grass and reduce the size of your lawn.

Flowering shrubs and herbs form strong elements in a Victorian garden. Back then, exotic species from oversees colonies were the in-thing and gardeners went to great lengths to make them thrive in their yards.

Flower beds

Today, variety is everything. Information about plant species from all over the world has become more readily available. With a bit of research, you can easily get a hundred different species that will thrive in your region.

Flowers are planted in beds with well defined edges at the threshold with the lawn. The beds follow the configuration of the borders, paths, building foundations and other hardscape elements. The edge treatment is an artistic detail in itself.

Traditionally, antique Victorian tiles were used. More available alternatives such as terracotta tiles have, however, become widely acceptable.

Victorians loved to ornament their gardens with urns, statues, sculptures, birdbaths, sundials and seats.

Garden furniture was typically curved from stone or cast iron. Gazebos and decks formed the grand focal points at the heart of the garden where outdoor living took place.

Elaborate garden furniture and dÈcor are still very much part of a Victorian garden. Incorporating some antique pieces can truly reinforce your Victorian style.

In the absence of these, working with the idea and strategically place stone sculptures, water features and planters around the garden to accentuate the space.

Other great additions to your Victorian scheme are carefully selected exotic ornaments.

The writer is a professional landscape architect.