The White Glove Gardener: A Victorian Garden Guide

A compendium of knowledge and know-how for the horticulturally inclined

Volume 1: Flowers

Every proper Victorian lady needed to know a great deal about flowers. She needed, for example, to know their forms and colors when selecting her dress brocades, the fine  wallpaper for her boudoir, and the details of the upholstery of her parlor furnishings.

This Fenway Roomset wallpaper illustrates Iris, tulips, and stalks of wheat, in the Indigo option. The Camron-Stanford House has a similar motif in some of its rooms. (Image courtesy of Bradbury & Bradbury, Art Wallpapers, Benicia, California.)

Illustration showing a young boy holding two tussie mussies. Image courtesy of

Our lady knew which flowers were pleasantly fragrant, yet “delicate and floral” for bouquets, which herbs would freshen a room, and which could be fashioned into a small boutonnière for her jacket, which she wore to her friends’ “at homes.”  A fragrant ambiance was of essential value in an era when the populace wore many layers of clothing, even in steamy summer heat, and where full-immersion bathing was considered for use mostly as therapeutic, and wide-spread indoor plumbing was a dream for the future. Fresh jasmine, lilac and roses would bring fresh scents to the home and one’s self.

Our lady and her daughters studied the Language of Flowers and the art of creating beautiful bouquets and floral gifts for their family and friends. Young women made custom floral nosegays, or tussie mussies to send special messages to close friends or a special beaux.

To send a sentimental message to a new gentleman friend, a young lady might create a nosegay combining a full-blown rose placed over two rose buds to indicate secrecy. When paired with garden daisies, meaning “I share your sentiments,” her message would be clear to the recipient.

A close friend who recently lost her dear mother might receive a nosegay combining Myrtle leaves for love, Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) leaves representing tears, and flowering stems of fragrant Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). As Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet reminded us, “There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.”

The dainty snowdrop (Galanthus species) popping up from its bulb in late winter sends a message of  “calm and consolation, plus hopes for better days ahead.”

Close up of Queen Victoria’s wedding portrait, showcasing her orange blossom floral crown. Image courtesy the Royal Collection Trust, UK.

Brides traditionally wove orange blossoms into their bridal bouquets to signify “eternal love”. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she wore a headdress of orange blossoms.

The Camron-Stanford House Victorian Garden  features plants that would have been cultivated in a Victorian home garden. Our favorites? – Rosemary, Myrtle, Mint, Thyme, Iris, Phlox, Shasta Daisy, Calendula, Breath of Heaven, Clematis and many old-fashioned fragrant Roses. What a cornucopia to choose from! We hope that you will be able to come visit us very soon to make your own special tussie mussie.

We hope that you enjoyed this first issue of The White Glove Gardener. Our next issue will discuss more Floral Arts  in the Victorian home.

The White Glove Gardener was written by Bobbi Feyerabend, Camron-Stanford House Board Secretary and landscape architect.

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Photographs of Camron-Stanford House by Reenie Raschke Photography