This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
We now come to consider the details or filling up of our picture, such as the shrubberies and flower-garden proper, with their various accessories. A fanciful method of planting, formerly more in vogue than at the present day, was a series of hedges and walks termed a maze or labyrinth, so arranged as to cause a considerable amount of walking to the uninitiated, in order to arrive at the centre. Fig. 263 is a representation of a maze, designed by Claude Mollet in 1653. The hedges may be composed of Yew, Hornbeam, Beech, Arbor-Vitae, or espalier fruit-trees, according to taste, and the distance apart according to available space, but it should not be great. The height of the hedges would be regulated by the nature of the ground, whether flat or gradually rising towards the centre.
Fig. 263. Plan Of A Maze.
A rockery or artificial arrangement of stonework for the cultivation of Alpine plants is a thing not to be attempted by those who have not proper materials for constructing it, and ample time to devote to the care of its occupants. A rockery in perfection is one of the most expensive luxuries of gardening. A fair collection of Alpine and rock plants, it is true, may now be purchased for a comparatively trifling sum; but to keep them in health requires more than ordinary skill, combined with an intimate knowledge of their natural habitats and peculiarities of constitution. A tastefully constructed rockwork, in a suitable position, well clothed with the gems of the higher mountains and northern regions, is a continual feast for the lovers of nature's more modest yet curious productions, and therefore we cannot pass it over without a few words. The scale of such a construction would naturally be in proportion to the extent of the garden and the site chosen. It should be as simple as possible, and all embellishments in the way of ornamental stones or other accessories should be eschewed. In the choice of site we must be guided by the wants of the plants - plenty of air, facilities for supplying water in profusion, and freedom from the drip of trees - and also by the nature of the ground at our disposal. Porous rock and sandy peaty soil, so disposed as to leave interstices large enough for the bigger plants, and to afford shade to those requiring it, are indispensable conditions. Every portion must be well-drained, for, though they revel in moisture overhead at certain seasons, they are almost without exception very impatient of stagnant water at the roots. In building a rockery, the principal things to keep in view are proper pre-ss 2 portion, and simplicity and naturalness of design. Stones and pieces of rock belonging to different formations should not be indiscriminately mixed up together. But as there are special works on this branch of horticulture, necessary to those who undertake the cultivation of any except the hardier kinds of this class of plants, we forbear going into details, and for the same reason most of the rare species and those difficult to preserve have been omitted from the descriptive part of this work.
The principal feature of an English pleasure-garden is the lawn, for which the natural conditions of our climate are so favourable that with very little trouble we can have a perfect and luxuriant green turf all through the summer. The form of the lawn is determined by the outline of the area and by the course of the walks, so that no specific rules can be laid down as to the character of the plan most desirable for a place of given dimensions. Much would depend upon the nature of the ground, whether nearly level, or with any considerable fall from the house. "Where the slope is very abrupt, the ground may be brought to two or three different levels, forming terraces; but a gentle incline is far more pleasing to the eye than a dead level of any extent, and unless there be sufficient fall for a terrace proportionate in height to the size of the place, it is better left alone. A drop of two or three feet in a place of large extent would not be sufficient to form an effective terrace, though for a more limited area it might be allowed. But even then it is folly to attempt to crowd the details of a large garden into a confined space. One of the most important details connected with the plantations around and approaches to the house, is to contrive them in such a way as to secure privacy for the flower-gardens, and to provide attractive scenes from the windows of the principal rooms. According to the extent there will be shrubberies and rosaries, mixed beds and borders, and the geometrical garden destined for the modern bedding-out system. And this would admit of the introduction of water-basins, fountains and vases, etc., in harmony, of course, with the residence. We need not say that the principal display, both in ornamental shrubs and flowering-plants generally, should be in the immediate vicinity of the house. For a pleasure-garden of small size, say from half an acre to two acres in extent, the old style of mixed beds and flowering and evergreen shrubs in clumps and single specimens, with a portion only of the beds reserved for massing, is generally preferred. The beds should neither be over-crowded, nor too near together, nor fantastic in outline, and the disposition of the belts and clumps of shrubs such as to present a pleasing view of some portion of the grounds, not only as seen from, the house, but also from different points of the garden. The parterre or flower-garden proper varies according to circumstances and resources, from a symmetrical arrangement of a dozen or twenty beds, to the most complex and elaborate designs; and it may consist, in part, at least, of a combination of beds and walks, or, what is more effective where the space between the beds is sufficient, an open design on the lawn. Fig, 264 is the plan of a flower-garden of the middle of the seventeenth century; but such elaborate plans are rarely carried out now, and, of course, are only suitable for a very large establishment, where the resources for stocking the flower-garden are almost unlimited. Some very simple arrangement of geometrical figures, or sections of figures, is that in general use at the present time, and these can be altered and modified to suit any outline.
Fig. 264. Plan Of Flower-Garden Of St. Germain-En-Laye.