Match your garden to your
Photo Credit: Photo contributed by Texas Parks and Wildlife
The Fulton Mansion State Historic Site, near Rockport, in the French Second Empire style has symmetrical plantings of palms flanking a broad sweeping lawn. Order is established with the water feature and associated walkway, and a circular carriage drive.
Two common styles in Victoria area
differ in construction appearance

August 28, 2008

By Beth Ellis, Victoria County Master Gardener

Edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Photo Credit: Photo contributed by Dr. C-K Shene/Michigan Tech University
The Texas Governor’s mansion in Greek Revival style is shown landscaped in symmetry and neatness of heirloom planted beds with grouped colors and textural effects. The paired urns at the base of the center steps offset the broad manicured lawn.
The porch of this home is an important element of both the Craftsman architecture and the landscaping in the way that it combines the home with its natural surroundings.
Landscaping plans for your garden can be as simple as something that appeals to your eye and taste, and as complex as matching the style to the architecture of your home. Somewhere in between, you need to consider growing conditions, maintenance and cost to best meet your needs.

While there are many new homes in the area, this article will focus on two common styles of historical homes – the grand romantic revivals and the more humble Arts and Crafts – found near Victoria. Wildly different in construction and appearance, these two architectural styles reflect very different philosophies stemming from the Victorian era.

Revivals embrace the concepts of mass production and artificial creation, while the Craftsman style embraces the perfection of individual handwork and naturalism.

And of course, these styles approach home landscaping in completely different ways. So whether you live in a sprawling two-story Revival, or a small one-story Craftsman, consider matching the appropriate landscape to the architecture of your home. Both types are historical gems – but to make the most of them, they need to be in the right setting.


During the Victorian era practically everything was designed to impress. The Victorians were enthralled with controlling nature, and their architectural and gardening aspirations reflected this attitude. Homes and gardens of the well-to-do stood out as distinct, well ordered and separate from the natural environment. Armed with money and servants, such families led the social conventions of the day, and homes constructed in the many high styles of the period reigned supreme.

Elements of a Victorian Garden

The Victorian era was “The Age of the Collector.” Unusual and exotic plants were avidly collected. The more perfect and artificial in appearance, the better.

Flower beds were designed to highlight these specimen plants through the use of formal, geometric beds on trimmed and sprawling lawns (yes indeed, the lawnmower had been invented by this time much to the delight of many an upwardly mobile Victorian homeowner).

The Victorians embraced the concept of harnessing and controlling nature, and as a result, everything in the garden was well-ordered and carefully placed.

Symmetry ruled over flower beds packed full of neatly placed plants grouped by color. Drama was provided by specimen plants of contrasting color or texture. Subtlety was avoided with vivid colors and heavy fragrance ruling the day.

Gardens were ornamented with accents such as pairs of cast iron or concrete urns used to frame walkways or views. Classical statuary was another favorite. The Victorian conceit of man over nature even extended to avoiding natural materials in favor of cast iron in the creation of garden furniture in the shape of tree branches, ivy and ferns.

Symmetry and Order

When planning a Victorian garden of your own, embrace the idea of order. Keep your lawn manicured, and use formal bed layouts. Maintain orderly color placement and punctuate flower beds with unique specimen plants. Consider using pairs of formal garden urns. Remember the watchwords of the high style Victorian garden: “symmetry and order, with nary a plant (or anything else) out of place.”


The “Arts and Crafts” movement appeared in the later part of the Victorian era, and reached its greatest popularity in America after the turn of the 20th century. In contrast to the mass production embraced by the Victorians via the Industrial Revolution, the Arts and Crafts movement championed the worth of individual artistry and craftsmanship in all things. Because the movement supported the idea of a return to the simple life and closeness to nature, it appealed to the middle class that could not afford to employ servants or run large households.

The Arts and Crafts movement also promoted an architectural and gardening style completely at odds with earlier monied Victorian ideals.

Elements of an Arts and Crafts Garden

In direct contrast to the notion that buildings should stand apart from nature, the Arts and Crafts movement believed that the homes should be borne of nature. The ideal Craftsman home was meant to be a part of the landscape, not distinct from it. Often times river rock or brick were used to create the foundations and porch pillars of a home to enhance the connectedness to the earth.

Foundation plantings were favored for the same reason and for the utilitarian purpose of hiding pier and beam construction. Porches became a very important element of both architecture and landscaping because they exemplified the concept of combining the home with its natural surroundings.

Nature and Informality

When creating landscaping for your Craftsman home, remember the importance of informality.

Use a planting plan that capitalizes on the natural appearance of plants and avoid rigid order. Focus primarily on native and heirloom plants and de-emphasize use of unique exotics.

Enfold your home with foundation plantings of various heights, and consider using vines to enhance the connection of your home to nature. Minimize lawns in favor of gently curving planting beds that invite visitors into your yard and home. Employ vine-covered, rustic wood trellises and arbors and use natural stone as garden accents. Remember the watchwords of the Craftsman garden: “Nature and informality - the more the better.”

Landscaping around a Victorian era or Craftsman homesite contrasts one another, with the architecture making a difference in the landscape plans.

If you are the proud owner of a more recently built home, look for garden elements that complement its architectural style.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is edited by Charla Borchers Leon and is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at

For more ideas on landscaping your Victorian or Arts and Crafts home, check out these great sources:

William C. Welch and Greg Grant
The Southern Heirloom Garden,” 1995 Taylor Publishing Company. Dallas, Texas.

Duchscherer, Paul and Douglas Keister
Outside the Bungalow – America’s Arts and Crafts Garden,” 1999. Penguin Putman Inc. New York, New York.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee
A Field Guide to American Houses,” 1994. Alfred A. Knopf. New York, New York.