It will be seen that the composition of the planting masses is nothing more nor less than the thoughtful and satisfactory location of areas. Balance, rhythm, and repetition enter here as dominant factors in the design, when it is first considered in the abstract.
The axes in all design are very important, although so far as general appearances are concerned, they do not figure as prominently in the informal design as the formal.
An axis is a geometrical line-the major structural line of a design-about which, and in relation to which, all the parts are arranged. There are primary and secondary axes. The primary axis is the one of greatest importance, and the secondary axes, of which there are several, are arranged in harmonious relations with it. When an "existing axis" is spoken of, the meaning is that all the elements of the subject under consideration are arranged in such a manner as to make clearly evident the dominance of the axial line and its position.
Axes may exist on account of conditions or they may be created. In the most ordinary form of landscape design the axis of a view from a window or doorway is chosen as the major structural axis of the design, and this is emphasized by planting.
Existing axes-that is, axes that are at once apparent-may be divided into two classes, that which is perceived from the inside of the house, and that which is perceived from the outside. Focus along axial lines in the first case is brought about by the enframement of a window, a door, or a terrace; and some object of interest, usually called a "feature," is generally placed on the axis to insure stability and emphasis. In looking from a window at an informal scheme, however naturalistic the planting may be, there is frequently either a sun-dial, or some other architectural or sculptural feature, set directly on the axis. It serves to attract the gaze, and unconsciously satisfies the mind in regard to the underlying structural lines. Where the axis is perceived from the outside, it is usually made to coincide with the axis of a view or a vista of some sort which focuses upon a distant valley and mountain, a river or a village.
In designing the planting for a scheme, existing axes must always be taken into consideration, and where axes are to be created, not having existed before, they are the first things to be decided upon in determining the proportions of the design. Cre-ated axes are almost always found in formal planting, particularly in the formal garden, where their position is frequently emphasized by the parallel direction of walks or drives. Sometimes they will cross at right angles. Since the axis is considered the backbone of the design scheme, it would seem very strange to have a main drive, unless there were one on each side, run parallel with it rather than along it, for this would destroy, in the eye of the spectator, the idea of symmetry, always an essential in formal design.
The material used will probably be grouped according to the above study of axes, directing the eye toward some distant object of interest. Very often, however, a fountain, a statue, or a building is placed at the intersection of major and minor axes. In fact, anything the individual interest of which is sufficient to repay the attention may be used here as an accent.
In a much less symmetrical way in informal design plant material is used to enframe views which determine axes; for informal axes, as has recently been pointed out, are generally determined by views from within or without the house, as the case may be. Plant material is sometimes used on an axis where some one definite point is to be accentuated, but accent material is always employed for this purpose. In formal design the positions of the axes determine the positions of all walks and the placing of all garden accessories.
Every problem, when finished, should have positive qualities, a certain character of its own. There should be no doubt in the mind of the spectator as to what the desired effect is, and it should be perceived directly. It must not, of course, assault the intelligence of the beholder and clamor for attention, but should nevertheless tell its story and accomplish its purpose in a straightforward fashion.
Sir Joshua Reynolds had something to say in connection with painting that will apply with equal force to landscape:
The great end of the art is to strike the imagination. The painter therefore is to make no ostentation of the means by which this is done; the spectator is only to feel the result in his bosom. An inferior artist is unwilling that any part of his industry should be lost upon the spectator. He takes as much pains to discover as the greater artist does to conceal the marks of his subordinate assiduity. In works of the lower kind, everything appears studied, and encumbered; it is all boastful art and open affectation. The ignorant often part from such pictures with wonder in their mouths, and indifference in their hearts.
In a way, every landscape problem that comes up is a law unto itself, and yet all successful landscape schemes have obeyed the general laws of design. The most essential things to bear in mind are, first the fitness of the design for its function, the subordination of all details to the general idea, and finally a careful working out of these details in such a way as to enhance the first favorable impression which has been gained without close scrutiny.
Whatever the problem in hand, and whatever the medium employed, the primary requisite of good design is fitness for the function which it is to perform.