Perennials changed Victorian gardening.
Perennials play an important role in our gardens today. It’s as if we could not garden without them
In the history of the American garden that was not always the case.
As in Victorian England, in the mid nineteenth century annuals became the important plant, especially the bright and colorful varieties imported into the country from Asia, Africa, and South America. Such plants added constant color to the summer garden.
Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) advocated for the use of perennials in the garden. He wrote in his magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly in 1880, “The wealth of beauty presented by the hardy perennials is inexhaustible, and we can only pity those who are content to confine their attention to a few beds of tender plants, however bright and gay they may be while in their best conditions.”
Look at this glorious garden in the landscape of an eighteenth century mansion in Scotland called Carolside. [below] Perennials abound in this garden.
Perennials and annuals can be used together, especially because the flowers of most perennials usually last for only a short length of time. Annuals, on the other hand, give us their best the whole growing season.
The English recognized a change in gardening that included perennials. In the July 1880 issue of his magazine Vick quoted the English publication called The Gardener, “The flower garden of the present time seems to be undergoing a slow transition. There is a blending of tender with hardy plants which is most desirable; tender and hardy plants appear only to have rival claims until they are placed side by side, when it is found that the attractions of either are about evenly balanced.”
By the end of the nineteenth century when English landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll laid out a garden, she insisted on an array of perennials to give color and structure to the garden.
To this day perennials provide much of the beauty in the garden.