The typical American home may be defined as a suburban residence costing from four to fifteen thousand dollars, and having a lot from sixty to two hundred feet wide. It is planted more or less intelligently as a rule, but it can be safely said that a judicious use of plant material is not one of the distinguishing characteristics of the American suburban home. There is too great a tendency to use plants because the neighbors use them, or because the traveling nurseryman has forced them upon one, or, a better reason, though not always followed by a better result, because they happen to be favorites.
When unsuccessful planting is found about suburban homes it is particularly tragic, since it is really a love of plants and a vague groping after the beautiful that have inspired many a pathetic planting scheme. Lack of success in suburban planting can usually be traced directly to a readiness to plant something just to see it grow, and to a failure to grasp the principles which underlie intelligent planting-an understanding of the economic and the esthetic sides, each with its peculiar function.
Figure 38. EAST AVENUE, ROCHESTER, N. Y. A good type of community planting.
The simple beauty of a well-kept lawn, with its smooth texture, is too little appreciated for its effect in setting the house well back from the street, and creating the idea of spaciousness which is always desirable (Fig. 38). Too often the middle of a fine stretch of grass is grubbed up ruthlessly, and the inevitable round bed of red geraniums or King Humbert cannas introduced. Geraniums and cannas are all very well in their place, but that place is certainly not the middle of a lawn at the front or the side of a house. It is this sort of mistake which is most frequently made. Things interesting or beautiful in themselves are put in positions that minimize not only their own beauty, but that of their surroundings.
In designing the landscaping for a moderate-priced American estate, the tastes of the owner must be understood and his personal likes and dislikes weighed and scrutinized carefully, for the house and grounds are his property, and should not only appear to advantage, but ought to reflect his taste as well. It must be admitted that it is often necessary to educate the client's taste considerably, but the results will justify the extra effort.
If the client likes flowers, a garden may be included in the scheme, and planting of an intimate and diversified character may be employed, as his interest will insure their care and maintenance. If, on the contrary, he is not particularly interested in things horticultural, the planting should be more formal, and such as may be easily kept up.
The first large considerations of the design are general approach, circulation, and views obtainable. The best rooms should of course be located so as to obtain the best views. The service portions of the house and grounds should be separated as definitely as possible from the rest of the estate.
If the lawns are to be used for entertaining, they should be kept free of planting, and screened about the edges to give some degree of privacy; but if guests are not to use the lawns, the shrub masses may divide them to a great extent.
In its broadest aspect, the lay-out of the design problem may be divided into three parts: first, the private portion for family use; second, the semi-public part, which is to be seen by the guests, and lastly the service portion, which is for strictly utilitarian purposes.
The private part of the grounds should contain the family flower-garden, and that is the only place where flowers should appear except for accent purposes. The garden should be ample in extent, and should communicate directly with the living portion of the house. It will be divided from other parts of the grounds by economic planting; that is, screens of shrub masses.
The semipublic divisions of the estate include the entrance walk and drives, and such other parts of the grounds as may be accessible to guests. Here the planting is simpler and more formal, with less individual interest. It consists mainly of shrubbery masses the primary purpose of which is divisional and for screening; and if the space is sufficient, there may be a few trees. The space is to be used as an outdoor room and for purposes which do not suggest its own (horticultural) interest. Consequently, the second quality of shrubs will usually be chosen.
The service walk should go by the most direct way to the service entrance. If the grocer-boy wears a path across the grass, the owner should thank him for pointing out a weakness in the design ; for if the path had been located properly, he would have used it. The object of a service walk or drive is to secure the promptest and most efficient service. Any "landscaping" of service circulation which interferes with convenience is meretricious. If lack of space or difficulties of grade necessitate that the service walk be in part combined with the main entrance, the service part should be treated in the simplest fashion, and even the main entrance portion less elaborately, otherwise the contrast will be too marked.
The most interesting and varied planting must be reserved for the private portions of the grounds. Here the trees and shrubs are to bear close scrutiny, and flower value is very desirable. If any exotic planting is to be used, this is the place for it. There may well be an emphasis of horticultural interest, and an informality that would not be in keeping with other parts of the scheme.
The semi-public part of the grounds is planted in masses, the object being to tie the house in with its surroundings and make the transition from plant material to brick, wood, and stone as little of a shock as possible (Fig. 7). Shrubs should be planted about the base of a house to break the line of transition. Vines are also useful for this purpose. It is not necessary to plant a regular group of shrubs all about, like a "feather boa"; in fact, that sort of planting does not improve appearances. It will be better if the shrubs are massed rather irregularly, with emphasis at the corners of the house.
Figure 39. A BALD TREATMENT OF A SMALL CITY STREET.
Figure 40. UNKEMPT SURROUNDINGS.
Two plans of distinctly different treatments of the same problem are here shown (Figs. 41, 43). They may serve to give an idea of the many and various possibilities.
In the rendered plan shown in Figure 41 the entrance and service drives are combined, and there is a public and semi-public portion, the latter containing a service court, a garage, a laundry-yard, and a vegetable garden. The small private garden, laid out on formal lines, with its turf panel and its rose garden, is sharply separated from the semi-public part by high and thick planting.
The colors in the planting scheme (Fig. 42) have been chosen so as to separate the yellow and the blue greens, putting the blue green at the farther end to exaggerate the color impression of perspective. Blue greens and yellow greens never seem to go well together without intermediates, and they have consequently been separated here. A decrease in leaf size will also heighten the illusion of distance. The planting about the private lawn is first for screening; interest of outline is a secondary consideration. Lastly there is some consideration paid to the individual interests of the plants, but this is considered of minor importance.
Where individual interest appears, it is centered in the accent plants. In the plan shown these are the spiraea Van Houttei, spiraea Anthony Waterer, and Deutzias. The middle of the rose garden is occupied by a sun-dial, the only architectural accent. Other flowering shrubs used are lilacs, Ker-ria Japonica, hydrangeas, and the Viburnum sterile, or snowball.
In the second plan (Fig. 43) different material is used, and a number of flowering-shrubs, well distributed in seasonal development, appear.
Places of a smaller scale may be treated with an even greater degree of informality, though the observance of the principles of design-that is, the direct and beautiful expression of function-must always be insisted upon (Fig. 13).