Victorian Carpet Bedding Plans
Learn how to design your own Victorian-style bed,
or try our colorful two-season plan.
- Kristin Beane Sullivan From Garden Gate Issue
20, April 1998
Designing a Victorian-style carpet bed of your own isn't difficult.
Simply draw out a pattern you like on paper and plan for maximum
color contrast. Try planting blue and yellow next to each other.
Or lay out purple next to orange or red next to green. The brighter,
In general, simple designs are easier to pull off. Once you've
decided on a pattern, the trick is to recreate it on the ground.
Victorians sometimes had templates they used in the garden. You
could make your own by cutting out shapes of cardboard. You'll probably
also need to use a tape measure and the garden hose. Once a bed's
tilled, lay out the lines with the hose or the template and then
use flour or spray paint to outline the pattern in the bed. Mark
the entire bed first so you can stand back, visualize and make adjustments
before you plant.
The first season is spring. In typical carpet beds, all the bloom
times coincided. We've modified the concept in our plan: The crocuses
will bloom first, followed by the hyacinths and daffodils together.
As they're finishing, the tulips will start to peak. This way, the
bed maintains some color throughout the spring. After the bulbs
are finished, it's time to plant for summer-long show. You can plant
most of the annuals right over the top of the bulbs. The one exception
is the cannas. Canna rhizomes grow large over the course of the
summer and can crowd tulip bulbs. So either plan to replant new
tulips each fall. Or allow the tulip foliage to ripen, then dig
the bulbs to store until fall, when you can replant them and dig
and store the tender canna rhizomes.
Victorians often put borders around carpet beds. Low-growing lobelia
makes a compact edging plant, but you could also substitute sweet
alyssum. If you're having trouble finding chartreuse coleus, golden
feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum') would be a good alternative.
You can direct-sow its seeds in the garden.
It's easy to see why old-fashioned cockscomb's wrinkled, bright-red
flower heads appealed to Victorians' sense of the unusual. Other
Victorian-era possibilities include red salvia and geraniums.
Taking care of a carpet bed is no more difficult than maintaining
the rest of your garden. Once a bed is planted, keep it watered
and weeded. Other than that, check the garden weekly for branches
crossing color lines or lanky plants that need to be cut back. Don't
be timid about snipping those that overstretch their boundaries.
Spring Bed: Plant List
||No. to Buy
||Tulip Tulipa 'Coleur Cardinal'
||Daffodil Narcissus 'Rip van Winkle'
||Crocus Crocus chrysanthus 'Elegance'
||Hyacinth Hyacinthus orientalis 'Bismarck'
Summer Bed: Plant List
||No. to Buy
||Canna Canna 'Florence Vaughn'
||Coleus Solenostemon scutellarioides 'The Line'
||Trailing lobelia Lobelia erinus 'Sapphire'
||Cockscomb Celosia argentea 'Olympia'
||Cockscomb Celosia argentea 'Fire Chief'