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Victorian Flower Beds of a Single Plant Defied Tradition

Today we assume that flowerbeds can take an array of both annuals and perennials and even shrubs.

Borders of flowers often provide summer color, texture, and with the plant’s particular size also that needed filling of a certain space whether vertical or horizontal.

Sometimes we even plant an extensive area of one flower or colorful leafed plant.  What you may not know is that such mass planting represents a form of garden rebellion.

The Victorian garden of the nineteenth century introduced the mass planting of one variety to flower beds, but only as a shift in the earlier tradition of planting several varieties of flowers in a bed or border.

In his book The Garden Triumphant: A Victorian Legacy artist and garden writer David Stuart provides some background in understanding that break in garden tradition.

He writes, “The old method of planting garden flowers was in a mixture, and flowers had been planted that way since the seventeenth century. It was once believed that to have two flowers of the same sort next to one another was a grave error of taste, and it seems likely that such planting ideas had an even more ancient past.”

Yet we know that Victorian gardens enjoyed circles, rows, ribbons, and all sorts of other designs, of a single plant variety, like the coleus or the lobelia, in the fashion of the day called carpet bedding and ribbon bedding.

Stuart says, “The idea of grouping flowers, so that only one sort was to be seen in each bed, was as much a major departure from the conventions of history as was the passion for informal landscape gardens of the previous century.”

Since we know that gardening is all about fashion and style, the English Victorian garden made a shift in the nineteenth century to mass planting of one variety, usually of an annual.

America soon followed the same style of planting flower beds.

Today it is quite common to find beds of one plant variety as in the garden at the grand Victorian Missouri Botanical Garden [below] even though that style of gardening was at one time an innovation and a break from garden tradition.

Missouri Botaniacal garden
Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis
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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I am new to your blog, and oh what I have missed. I was directed here by another blogger and glad for that. I love gardening and history so this is a perfect blend. Now that I am subscribed I hope to visit often. This was fascinating and I had no idea about the history of garden beds. Looking forward to learning so much more.

    1. Thank you so much for coming on board. I hope you enjoy the blog, made of a combination of gardening and history with a pinch of marketing.

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