Victorian-Style LandscapeHow do you landscape a Victorian-style home in a dry climate? Master gardener Linda King came up with the perfect solution: She married the favorite plants in turn-of-the-19th-century gardens with the low-water-use plants ideal for the Mediterranean-like climate.
HGTV's Dream Home 2009 landscape offers plenty of the color and fragrance that Victorians loved in their gardens. Roses; hydrangeas; rhododendrons; and a collection of perennials and annuals like rudbeckia, echinacea, flowering tobacco, coreopsis and zinnias also give the landscape the romantic, soft-and-rounded look that was so beloved in Victorian yards. Says Linda, "A lot of grasses and architectural plants wouldn't have suited this style of house."
A Fragrant WelcomeMyrtle flanks the front walk. Pleasant to brush up against, its aromatic leaves release a lovely scent when bruised. Its flowers, also fragrant, appear off and on throughout the year, mainly in the winter and spring. Not only was myrtle an important plant in the Victorian garden, but it's also drought-tolerant.
Planters filled with drought-tolerant perennials like pennisteum, vinca 'Variegata' and heuchera help anchor the entrance. Pansies add bright spots of color.
Kitchen GardenA kitchen garden, planted in four easy-to-work raised beds, holds a variety of veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, kale and lettuce) and herbs (rosemary, thyme, tarragon, oregano, marjarom, sage, parsley) — all within steps of the kitchen.
"No garden in California is complete without a kitchen garden and because we have gophers, we tend to put our veggies in raised beds," says Linda. "The beds are lined with hardware cloth. Gophers can get over a 12-inch barrier, so these beds are about 18 inches up."
The beds also contain plants like echinacea, sage and milkweed, which serve as host plants for beneficial insects.
The growing media is a mixture of compost and regular soil, a rich but light blend that's fluffy, rich and well-draining. The boxes are lined with a waterproof barrier so the wood won't rot.
Nearby are tangerine trees, and — right by the kitchen door — a Meyer lemon tree.
Also in this sunny area is a collection of rose standards (roses that have been grown as trees, a plant that was common in Victorian gardens), using repeat-blooming varieties like 'Amber Waves', 'Secret', 'Bonica' and 'Lady X'. "Probably for eight to nine months out of the year, there will be roses in bloom," Linda says.
Mini VineyardPlanted with about 100 Zinfindel grapevines, the mini vineyard in the backyard is expected to produce two cases of wine per year, beginning in three to five years.
"Quite a few people in Sonoma County have small vineyards, and they bottle their own wine," says Linda. "There are vineyards that will do your crush for you, or you could set it up in your garage and do your own. Or you can sell your grapes to a vineyard."
Unusual GroundcoverAll about practicality and sustainability, Linda wanted to expand the edible qualities of the landscape, so near the garage where she needed a drought-tolerant groundcover, she used strawberries. The flowers are pink, and the fruit delicious.
Still more strawberry plants — an inedible variety called 'Lipstick' — line the driveway. "I didn't think people would be thrilled about eating strawberries that they've just driven over, so that strawberry is ornamental. It does fruit but it's not edible." The flowers are white, the fruit red.
Exotic PlantA palm tree was a late addition to the Dream Home landscape.
It's a very typical Victorian element, Linda says. "Almost inevitably if you drive by an old Victorian house here, you'll see palms outside. There was so much excitement [in the Victorian era] with the whole idea of exotic plants. And palm trees were considered an exotic plant. Most people who came out here had never seen a palm tree. So the idea of having one just became very popular. Even in England during the Victorian times, palms were very, very popular. If you look at pictures of old Victorian living rooms, you'll often see palm trees in pots."
The plants in the front yard were chosen for their ability to thrive in the shade of the large oaks in front. Rhododendron, daphne (a spring-blooming variety), hydrangeas, breath of heaven and Japanese anemone all prefer shade.