Victorian gardens featured carpet bedding.
Untill 1890 the English garden included a garden fashion called ‘carpet bedding.’
In this style a particular plant provided a color for a design, which might be a diamond or a circle, while a contrasting color came from another plant.
In this Peter Henderson Seed Company catalog cover from 1886 red and white plants provided color for the diamond and the half-moon on the lawn. [below]
This form of gardening was also referred to as ‘bedding out,’ repeating the same plant in a design to achieve a certain mass color.
Tom Carter wrote about this garden fashion in his book The Victorian Garden. He said, “Without the bedding system, the new style of flower-gardening would not have been possible. Bedding-out, in turn, was a response to the introduction of many plants, many half-hardy annuals in the 1820s and 1830s.”
In the mid-nineteenth century English gardeners welcomed annuals from where ever plant hunters traveled including Asia, Africa, and South America.
Carter wrote, “The bedding-out system was an indispensable part of the high Victorian style of gardening which became first established in the 1850s.”
For example, it was the color of the coleus leaf, or the lobelia flower, or that special tint from the alternanthera that gardeners loved, including that plant in a design on the lawn.
David Stuart wrote an amazing book called The Garden Triumphant: A Victorian Legacy. He said, “”In the early Victorian bedding or grouping system, plant individualities were of no importance, each individual merely yielding the colour of its flowers to the general show…The obsession with ‘show’ with plants merely as a ‘blaze of colours’ was all.”
Below is a modern version of carpet bedding or bedding out that comes from Italy. [below]So when you garden using a grouping of one plant, remember that the Victorians promoted that form of gardening.
Before that time it was considered a violation of garden etiquette to place one plant next to another of the same color and variety.