Although the drives, walks and topography contribute much toward the general effect of the home grounds, it is upon the embellishment of the whole, through the proper selection and arrangement of the ornamental plantings, that we depend for the picturesque beauty and grace of the lawn.
A first consideration is a good background for the house and, where one does not already exist, plantations of trees should be located that will give this effect as quickly as possible. In such plantings it is advisable to set more trees than will be needed eventually, the principle being that trees planted close together encourage a greater top growth and thus attain height more quickly than trees given ample space for development; in the latter instance much of the strength going toward lateral growth.
The Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a rapid growing tree with all the needed qualities for a background planting. Under favorable conditions the Tulip Poplar will reach a height of one hundred or more feet. The foliage, rich and glossy, the attractively lobed leaves, the large, tulip-like green and yellow flowers, and a straight, towering main stem are all attributes of this grand tree. If this tree is used it should be set well back from the house line, as the branches spread to such an extent and rise to such a height that they will form a most pleasing canopy over any smaller and slower growing trees which may De planted between it and the residence.
Other good trees for background planting are Red Oak (Quercus rubra), American Elm (Ulmus americana) and Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum). These trees are all so well known that a brief description will suffice. The Oak is, indeed, a majestic tree and well suited to any landscape subject. Downing sums up its chief characteristics in these few sentences: "There is a breadth about the lights and shadows reflected and embosomed in its foliage, a singular freedom and boldness in its outline and a pleasing richness and intricacy in its huge ramifications of branch and limb that render it highly adapted to landscape purposes." The Elm, while lacking something of the stateliness of the Tulip Poplar or the majesty of the Oak, outrivals them both in grace and elegance. The comparatively slender branches form into long, graceful curves until, in old trees, the light and airy foliage often sweeps the ground. The Elm should only be used when small groups are required. These trees, as a rule, are so similar in form as to be monotonous when planted together in large numbers. The Maple is valued for the rapidity of its growth, although it, too, has fine form and foliage. The Autumn coloring of the Sugar Maple, a beautiful, bright yellow, red and orange, is not equaled in any other tree.
In addition to a suitable background it is essential that the residence be properly framed by plantations at both ends (Fig. 77). The size and character of this framework will depend largely on the architectural style and the dimensions of the house. For small houses, often one specimen tree, placed at each end, is quite sufficient. These lines from Milton will convey the picture of such a frame much better than a lengthy paragraph:
" Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes From between two aged Oaks."
Houses built on a larger scale may require groupings. It is not always necessary nor advisable to plant the trees directly at the ends of the building. Usually a position forward of the front line gives a better effect.