THE early English gardens were enclosed by high walls of brick or stone and often surrounded by a moat.
If such materials were not available Osier fences were used instead or pickets painted green.
Privet, Box and Yew were used for hedges, allowed to grow from eight to ten feet high, and kept carefully clipped and trimmed. American gardens have rarely been enclosed by high walls, except in cities and towns where it was necessary to screen some objectionable object, or where proximity to the traffic of the street interfered with the privacy that a garden should primarily possess. The idea of high-walled seclusion is foreign to this country and opposed to the spirit of freedom one is supposed to breathe under its radiant sun and soft blue sky.
The flower garden, however, should be definitely bounded and at least partly enclosed if not actually walled or hedged in. The word garden is derived from the old English garth, which means enclosure. Natural boundaries such as old walls, banks, terraces, ponds or brooks should be retained and worked into the plan, as they are desirable features. Supplement these by hedges, walls of stone or brick, fences, groups of trees or shrubs and screens to complete the form of enclosure. Plant the trees and shrubs in a semi-formal manner, but do not use any exaggerated formal effects on small grounds as they destroy the harmony that should exist between house and garden. Landscape gardeners endeavour to produce imposing vistas and counterfeit perspective in a small area, which is too suggestive of the theatre to be acceptable to anyone who cares in the least for Nature. There should not be anything unnatural or over-conventional about the common sense garden. For that reason geometrical parterres, intricate and bewildering to the eye, should be avoided, as they present a miniature, toylike appearance that belittles the house. The planting of such parterres is characterless, too, and is only for colour in carpet effects which should be very large to be at all imposing as decorations.
An exception to such parterres might be made when the miniature garden is between the house and a broad river or other large body of water beyond which the opposite shore is visible, where an extensive panorama lies spread out. The eye then engages an unlimited prospect and is so influenced by the broadness of the surroundings that it does not notice the insignificant appearance of the garden that otherwise would seem small and mean. Such a garden then becomes an incident not a feature. Even then the beds should not be made too small and complicated, or they will be hard to plant effectively.
Old Walled English Garden.
If the house is situated in an empty lot or field, that is to say one that is quite bare of trees or shrubs, make the garden enclosure of the material that you think would conform best to the design and colour of the house and which at the same time is convenient to use. With half-timbered work brick composes well; with stucco, stone or brick; with an old frame house or one of colonial design, white pickets or white pickets on a low brick wall, a combination much used in the South and a very pleasing one; or with any of the above-mentioned designs a hedge of Privet, Hemlock or Box, or a hedge combined with a fence or wall. A little thought, with perhaps the aid of a temporary section of enclosure, will enable you to determine the most appropriate materials or combinations if you are unable to focus well your mind's eye, and any consideration of this most important subject will be well repaid.
For such a garden a setting will have to be made by planting good trees, trees that will be beautiful and interesting in Winter when divested of their foliage as well as in Summer when in their full-fledged glory. These should be set out both in relation to the house and garden, and the necessary shading and filling in given with evergreens and shrubs, not set in stiff, unsightly clumps like old-fashioned bouquets, but used intelligently both as to form and colour; single specimens or two or three together in modulated groups. Do not try to out-nature Nature, however, by building up a diversified landscape on your two or three acre demesne, after the manner of the late lamented school of landscape gardeners, for artificial mountains, valleys, cliffs, cascades and gorges only look well in menageries when inhabited by wild beasts; such efforts fail utterly to either beautify or improve. On a small estate the more harmony that exists between the house and garden, the more one fits imperceptibly into the other, the more one seems absolutely necessary to the other, just so much more success you may be sure you have achieved.
Harmony is the keynote that should forever be ringing in your ears.
An Enclosed English Garden.
Sunken gardens, deliberately sunken ones, that is to say deep pits dug in level ground and not depending upon any natural features of the land for their sunken condition or appearance are quite meaningless, except perhaps in a large park or system of gardens where they might find a place as examples of a type. They are conspicuous on account of their freakishness, which is a characteristic that should be avoided in small gardens.
There is no more reason for digging a pit in the ground in which to plant flowers than there is for building a platform several feet high on which to lay out a garden. Simplicity is above all things important on a small place, simplicity both in planning and planting; few furnishings but good ones; not many plants but the very best varieties and colours of those you use. Give play to the same instincts and tastes that you would employ in furnishing and decorating an important room of your house.
The habit of tacking on Italian gardens to houses of nondescript style, or to those of Colonial, Gothic or English-cottage design is one that is apt to put the neighbourhood for a considerable radius out of tune. The idea is not artistic. One comes upon colonies of houses, often handsome, elaborate houses built on an acre or two of land, which are overburdened with gardens supposed to be Italian in style, - gardens that are cluttered up with all sorts of continental refuse placed generally without meaning; antique garden furnishings and bad reproductions purchased abroad for large sums to give "colour" and "atmosphere" to these bedizened back yards, and which only serve to call attention to the bad taste of the owners. In this class of garden which is becoming more common every year because it is the "fashion," a pergola is conspicuous, in fact it is a sort of hall-mark without which none is considered genuine.
A Garden Fence.
Italian pergolas are good things to avoid in common sense gardens. Do not connect the garden and the house by one, nor let one lean familiarly up against the wall of the mansion. A pergola should not be built in the flower garden at all unless it is in the shape of a small, simple arbour, and then only if you intend to smother it quickly with Honeysuckles or Roses. Such Rose pergolas are common in English gardens where climbing Roses flourish exceedingly, but they are always placed where they have some meaning; as a dividing line between the flower garden and the kitchen garden; or at the end of a path; or as an approach to a terrace or a plantation.
There is a pergola at Arlington, near Washington, which matches in its proportions the house, a massive structure of classic design. This pergola is a most elaborate affair and is very beautiful. It would not look as well anywhere else, and time has added greatly to its beauty. The vines, for the most part Wistaria and Grape, have developed into enormous fantastic growths that have completely entwined the pillars and beams of this great structure. If it was an adjunct to any house except this bepillared classic hall it would look out of place and ineffective. Perhaps it is more appropriate to-day in the grounds of a National Cemetery than anywhere else that it could be put.
In Central Park, New York, there are several rustic pergolas on which Wistaria has been trained, and their effect in Springtime is enchanting. There used to be one at least a hundred and fifty feet long that spanned the bridle-path where it runs beside the West drive not far below Mc-Gowan's Pass. After a few clays of blooming the ground beneath the vines would become completely covered with the purple petals that every zephyr sent fluttering downwards in a twinkling shower. The combination of the delicate colouring of the many graceful clusters, and the fresh green of the surrounding trees was enchanting for the few days it lasted. The writer of these lines has never forgotten the fairylike impression that this pergola made upon his mind when as a very small boy he used to canter through it on his pony of an early May morning. These rustic pergolas were in a public park and were built when rustic work was much in vogue; there is no excuse for using them anywhere now.
The Pergola at Arlington.
Small Italian gardens are not effective and should never be Used unless the house is in the Italian style. Most of the Italian gardens one sees are shams, pretending to be something that they are not and never will be. The old gardens cannot be reproduced in miniature; the modern ones are enormously expensive and cover many acres of ground. Beautiful effects that are natural in Italy are badly imitated in the neighbourhood of New York, so that the result reminds one of a scene in a comic opera. Italian gardens need space, long avenues of trees, vistas of mountains, topiary work that cannot be reproduced here; their furnishings are marble fountains elaborately carved, vases, beautiful statues, colonnades and flights of steps; and above all is the colouring of landscape and sky and foliage, a semi-tropical note that cannot be imported and set up like a sun-dial or box of flowers.
In America one associates such theatrical pleasure grounds with the over-rich, or with men of new wealth who seize upon every opportunity to call attention to their riches. In Italy the man of modest means does not have a flower garden; he is quite satisfied with Nature's garden that lies spread out ever before his appreciative gaze in a mist of dazzling colours, exhaling the softest perfumes. In England, where garden-making and garden-planting have been an art for centuries, the Italian garden is let severely alone. True garden-lovers are never satisfied with make-believe gardens.