Growing Victorian Herbs – What Is A Victorian Herb Garden

A Victorian Style Herb Garden Full Of Plants
(Image credit: Yola Watrucka)

What is a Victorian herb garden? In the simplest sense, it's a garden containing herbs that were popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. Growing Victorian herbs can be so much more. The rich botanical history of this era takes us back to the period of time when the study of plants began to blossom. Learning more about this intriguing period may even inspire you to grow a Victorian herb garden in your own backyard.

What is a Victorian Herb Garden

Herb gardens were a popular feature of Victorian landscaping. Fragrant flowers symbolized emotions and were used as a nonverbal expression of feelings. Just as a red rose embodied love, a bouquet of rosemary represented remembrance. In addition, herbs from the Victorian era had many medicinal as well as culinary uses. 

While modern society no longer imparts this level of significance to garden greenery, many botanical gardens and historical houses continue to grow a Victorian herb garden as a means of preserving this gardening heritage. These formal gardens often contained features such as ornate iron fencing, gazing balls, and fountains. The herbs, however, remain the focal point.

Herbs from the Victorian Era

When recreating a Victorian-era garden, consider choosing herbs for the emotions and meanings they symbolize as well as their fragrance, usefulness, and beauty. Here's a list of popular herbs from the Victorian era along with their meanings and uses in this historical time period.

Bee Balm – This member of the mint family is a popular pick when growing Victorian herbs. Used as a treatment for colds and headaches, Bee Balm added a citrus flavor to medicinal teas. Meaning: Sweet virtue

Catmint – Another mint family member, Catmint creates a euphoric state in cats much like catnip. Victorians used this herb as a sleep aid and to soothe colicky infants. Meaning: Deep love

Chamomile – Still grown today for its soothing properties, Chamomile was used in Victorian times as a sedative. The bright daisy-like flowers and feathery foliage add beauty to the landscape making this plant a top choice for those wishing to grow a Victorian herb garden. Meaning: Comfort

Dill – This modern-day pickling herb had many medicinal uses in Victorian times. Believed to boost the intestinal tract, dill was also used to induce sleep. Meaning: Good spirits

Lavender – Definitely the quintessential plant to cultivate when growing Victorian herbs, Lavender imparted a heavenly scent when freshening clothing and bed linens in historic times. Meaning: Devotion and loyalty

Lemon Balm – The citrus-scented leaves from this mint family member were used for their antibacterial and antiviral properties. The essential oils in Lemon Balm create a lasting fragrant potpourri: Meaning: Sympathy

Rosemary – A Victorian favorite, Rosemary was applied externally to relieve stomach pain, rinse away dandruff, and dress wounds. Meaning: Remembrance

Laura Miller

Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.