It is remarkable to note how few people have grasped this very simple principle. In many of our cities, particularly in the Middle West, it would seem as if the owners had scraped away from the building all planting possible, and deposited it at a safe distance, for as a rule none of the plant material seems to bear any relation to the building itself. (See Fig. 39.)
The architect can often help in making a building suitable for planting. For instance, in architectural gardens a simple wall treatment will be more in keeping with the composition of large areas than a more complex handling of the architectural surfaces. But where the planting is restricted to a few varieties and is elaborated only by a careful selection of accent plants, the wall surface may be designed so as to attract more attention than in the preceding instance; for this may be done without danger of competition between plant and architectural features.
If a complex and conventional treatment is imposed by surroundings, it may be more readily expressed when formal planting lines are the ruling factor. Planting and architecture, when used together, are interdependent, and must possess similar characteristics.
Walls emphasize the architectural features, and in planting a walled garden care should be taken that the plants are not out of scale with the garden by being too large or too small. On account of the dominance of the walled inclosure, it is not necessary to insist too strongly upon repetition in the planting; consequently plants used in a garden scheme of this type may be more gardenesque and highly specialized, both as regards the filler and accent shrubs (see planting chapter). Contrast, always an element of interest, is gained by this arrangement.
The use of walls, gates, stairways, balustrades, and other constructive and decorative features concerns the landscape-designer as much as the architect, and he has every right to use them as freely as plant material wherever the occasion warrants. He may use a wall instead of a hedge, or substitute steps for a grade wherever the formality of architectural surroundings seems to demand. While the major emphasis is here laid upon plant material, it is not intended in the least to minimize the importance of architectural features in landscape work.
Naturalistic planting does not necessarily imply the use of the informal style, nor does formal planting necessitate topiary work and parterre bedding. In many cases, such as Thomas Circle in Washington, D. C, bedding plants are used to their best advantage amid formal surroundings. In fact, conditions like these are best for the use of bedding plants, inasmuch as they will withstand city conditions, and on account of their formality and very evident subordination to lines and forms, they possess the requisite stiffness and precision.
Most people, when seeing a bit of greenery, think only of the interest of the plant itself, whether it be worthy or not. The idea of something growing finds a ready response anywhere, and consequently naturalistic planting within city limits would detract from the building or monument with which it was associated. Any very evident grouping and clipping of bedding plants to produce a certain definite effect leaves no doubt in the mind of the beholder as to just what the effect was which the designer wished to produce, irrespective of the success of his design.
While, theoretically, the trained landscape-designer should have an absolutely free hand, and should know which scheme of all others would be best suited to his problem, the tastes of his client must nevertheless be taken into consideration to a greater or less extent. Here the determining factor will be the balance struck between the tact-fulness of the designer and the obstinacy of the client.
Every design scheme has natural limitations which clip the wings of imagination, and the tastes of a client who has little or no education along esthetic lines is a limitation second to none. Moreover, the difficulty will be increased by the fact that people who have little esthetic development are seldom aware of this lack. If the designer is able, by broad training and experience, to produce in such circumstances a result that will please a comparatively uneducated taste, and yet appeal as beautiful to those who understand the subject, it should be a source of greater satisfaction to him than if he had had a free hand, and no limitations with which to cope. A designer who conceives a scheme without consulting his client's tastes and wishes will meet with occasional disappointments, and he certainly deserves to do so.
All types of design deal first with the total area of the problem as a boundary line. In the formal type this area is to be cut up and divided into smaller areas by means of lines. In this connection, walls, hedges, walks, or bedding (Fig. 8) are considered as line-divisions. The line is therefore the dominant factor in the disposition of the areas in the formal type, and attention is paid rather to the arrangement of the material employed than to the character of the material itself. Accordingly the areas in formal design are close, compact, and severe, and the planting is restrained (Fig. 9). The idea is to create certain shapes which shall serve the purposes of practicability and beauty, but the internal composition of these masses is a matter of decidedly secondary importance. It is a design of form rather than of color, and the individual interests of plants are not considered of much moment.
A greater freedom characterizes informal design both in its arrangement and in the class of the material used. Line, the outlines of areas, is here considered as subordinate to the mass or area itself, and is studied only after the areas have been placed in proper relationships. The large areas, whether considered as planting masses or as open lawn, may be moved about freely so as to appear to the best advantage within the limits of the property before the character of their own boundaries as lines is determined upon (Fig. 10). Of course this is all done in rough preliminary sketches, only sufficiently accurate to convey the idea.
Figure 8. A FORMAL PLAN SHOWING STRONGLY MARKED GEOMETRICAL CHARACTER OF DIVISIONS.