When Patty Bigelow landscaped her Long Island property, she wanted to stay true to the style of the main house, a Victorian built in 1892. “The house has a lovely large back porch that we use as an outdoor living room in the summer,” Patty explains. Long and narrow, the property has two additional structures in the back: a large 4-bedroom guesthouse for when her daughters visit, and a smaller building her husband uses as an office. Patty searched through magazines for design ideas before hiring a local landscape architect to plan her Victorian garden “parlor.”
The Victorians thought of their gardens as outdoor parlors and used them for both entertaining and impressing guests. A Victorian garden usually contained a fine blade grass for the lawn where they played lawn games, including croquet and lawn tennis; hence, Patty planted the grassy areas and marked property borders. Also predominant in Victorian gardens were lush, well-defined shrubbery and hedges, which could hide unsightly fences or create “natural fences” between neighboring properties. Accordingly, Patty planted tall bamboo along the back of the Bigelow property to maximize privacy and other varieties of smaller trees in front of the perennial garden.
Patty also added a trellis archway as a focal point from the back porch. She planted classic Victorian flowers in neat flowerbeds throughout, as well as along walkways. While most Victorian-era gardens included an ornate cast-iron fence, Patty chose to install a wooden fence around the pool area that matches the architectural elements of the guest house and office in the back of the property.
Other Victorian elements Patty incorporated include surrounding vegetable patches with garden tiles and edging stones to keep them from merging into one another. She lined the pathway to her Victorian home with old brick and the back patio and pool area with brick pavers and bluestone.
As a valued extension of the home, a Victorian garden could be enjoyed even during spring rains thanks to tall windows and wrap-around porches. “The first thing I want our guests to see from our back porch looking is our Victorian garden,” Patty says. “The diversity of colors and textures shift with each season, and the tall trees and lawn beg to be touched.”
by Cheryl Johannes
Photography by Jacqueline deMontravel