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The intricate, multi layered Victorian Bedding Schemes like all Victoriana , could never be described as subtle,( patriotic schemes in red , white and blue were especially popular.)
A small island bed in the lawn of the modern garden certainly would add the "Wow" factor.
Substituting the garish colours for the currently favoured pastels ,would add elegance to any modern garden.
The original varieties of plants are listed, with my suggestions for modern-day varieties at in similar colours at the end
The Dot Plants
To give some height to the bed, space some Fuchsia triphylla "Andeken Au H. Henkel"( Salmon flowers & Bronze foliage), thinly throughout the bed.
The Main Planting
Plant alternately Geranium "Mrs Quilter"( red flowers, bronze and yellow foliage 18" tall), Centaurea candissima : silver foliage. 2ft tall)
Plant a double row of the Lobelia "Blue Stone" at the edge of the bed/border. 4" Tall , light blue flowers.
Modern varieties that might be more readily available are:
Fuchsia "Thalia" Orange flowers with bronze foliage.
Main Planting.: You can still buy the original Geranium, but any scarlet flowered type would give a similar effect. Similarly Centaurea candidissima is still available, but Cineraria "Silver Dust" is more readily available.
Edging: Lobelia "Cambridge Blue"
Once again, the original varieties are listed and modern, easily available substitutions at the article end.
The Dot Plants
Space at 3 ft intervals some standard Fuchsias "Royal Velvet" (Large double red and purple).
The Main Planting : Space widely some Geranium "Verona,"( Golden foliage, pink flowers 18"tall ).
In the spaces in-between , plant Viola "Pickering Blue". 8 "tall
Begonia semperflorens " Vernon Tom Thumb" Scarlet flowers 6" Tall.
Modern varieties that might be more readily available are:
The Above listed Fuchsia is still available, but any dark flowered modern type, grown as a standard would work well
Main Planting.: Any modern pink hybrid Geranium would give a similar effect.
The Viola listed is available from specialist growers, but modern blue Pansies or Violas would be similar.
Edging: Any bright scarlet Begonia semperflorens, such as "Victory Scarlet," would work just as well.
A major drawback to cutting out intricate shapes in the lawn is that mowing around them can be difficlt and time consuming.
A single circle or an irregularly curved island bed in the lawn can look tasteful, rather than over-the top.
A small bed joined on to a patio or deck can also look superb.
With so many annuals introduced during the 19th Century, it would be easier to list what the Victorians did not use.
A far greater range of annual plants were used than today.
To supplement the new Half Hardy Annuals, the Victorians also used Hardy annuals, tender shrubs, Palms, rock plants , cacti and succulents, biennial plants, vegetables, herbs and bulbs in varying degrees.
The grander the display and the great variety of plants used was a measure of wealth . Outdoing the neighbours was "The Name Of The Game"
Carpet bedding was a style of gardening much loved by the Victorians, that basically consisted of pictures panels made up with thousands of plants.
This style of gardening was featured in many grand gardens and parks in Britain during the 19th Century.
The designs became more elaborate, often depicting complex coats of arms.
The Victorians were great purists,insisting that no flowering plants were used, (flowers were clipped off if they appeared!).
Carpet bedding as an art form, reached a pinnacle of popularity at the turn of the last century, but went in to decline after the first world war.
Municipal carpet bedding, remained in many cities throughout Britain, especially in seaside resorts.
Carpet bedding in Britain, has, of late witnessed a resurgance in interest. Many large corporations now include carpet beds, displaying the company logo, outside their offices.
Historically the skills and high labor requirements of this form of horticulture has limited it's widespread use.
In the last five years ,however, a highly enterprising and inovative company called "Kernock Park Plants", offers a marvelous new service. They will produce detailed computer generated plans for you and grow the plants in the form of the design.
The boxes are numbered and when delivered you lay them like turf.The system is called "instaplants" and is like childsplay to lay.
For the amatuer,Carpet Bedding can easily be scaled down for home use.
Imagine a wedding, birth or anniversary commemorated in your front garden,by a picture made with plants!
Formal, geometrical shapes such as circles, diamonds, pointed cross (both St George and St Andrews crosses were favoured .), Semi circles, squares, rectangles, cresent moons, ovals triangles , hexagons, octagons, stars, lozenges, fleur de lys and scallops were the norm.
A combination of several of the above shapes , set out on a large lawn was not uncommon.
The ninteenth century was one of discovery. Plant hunters were dispatched all over the world and literally hundreds of exotic annual plant species were discovered and introduced.
A craze for intricately designed , often geometrically shaped beds planted with these wonderful new plants took off.
From the country estates to small town houses the old gardening styles were swept away to be replaced by this extremely formal style of gardening. The craze swept Europe and North America.
Many horticultural experts of the day , including Gertrude Jekyll despised the vulgarity of the style and the demise of the simple garden flowers that in many cases disappeared
This section is devoted to some of the planting plans that Victorian Gardeners used.
As you will see, the style was for layers of colour at different heights in the bed and has for many years been thought of as overly fussy. This type of planting suits formal bed and borders.
I have listed authentic varieties used and if you cannot get hold of them, use modern types of the same plants.
You could vary things by using modern pastel colours, sticking to the species of plants. Have a go! You won't be disappointed.
Naturally many plants the Victorians used in their bedding schemes exist and are still commonly used for this purpose today. Please see below:
Ageratum, Alyssum, Antirrhinum, Aster, Begonias, Cannas, Cineraria maritima, Pelargoniums, Mesembryanthemums, Lobelia, Petunia, Marigolds,(African, French and Mexican.), Nemesia, Pansy, Salvia, Stock, Violas and Zinnia.
Massed formal bedding on a large scale reached it's pinnacle during the early 1900s and was all but killed off by the First World War. Many gardeners never returned from active service and the spiraling costs of fuel forced a return to more naturalistic landscaping techniques using hardy plants.
There were masses of half hardy Annuals that the Victorians loved to use as part of their bedding schemes, that have since fallen out of favour and in some cases are largely ignored by modern day bedding plant growers. A few are:
Alonsea, Amaranthus triclor, Arcotis, Balsam, Bartonia, Celosia, Heliotrope, Mignonette, Nierembergia, Perilla, Pyrethrum, Rhodanthe, Scabious, Silene and Torenia.