The width of a terrace around a house may vary from five to twenty feet, or more, in proportion as the building is of greater or less importance. The surrounding wall, which supports its level, may also vary from one to eight feet. The terrace, in the better class of English residences, is paved with smooth flag stones, or in place of this, a surface of firm well-rolled gravel is substituted. In residences where a parapet or balustrade would be thought too expensive, a square stone or plinth is placed at the angles or four corners of the terrace, which serves as the pedestal for a vase or urn. When a more elegant and finished appearance is desirable, the parapet formed of open work of stone, or wood painted in imitation of stone, rises above the level of the terrace two or three feet with a suitably bold coping. On this vases may be placed, not only at the corners, but at regular intervals of ten, twenty, or more feet. We have alluded to the good effect of climbers, here and there planted, and suffered to intermingle their rich foliage with the open work of the parapet and its crowning ornaments. In the climate of Philadelphia, the Giant Ivy, with its thick sculpturesque looking masses of foliage, would be admirably suited to this purpose.
Or the Virginia creeper (the ivy of America) may take its place in any other portion of the Union. To these we may add, the Chinese twining honeysuckle and the Sweet-scented Clematis, both deliciously fragrant in their blossoms, with many other fine climbers which will readily recur to the amateur.
There can be no reason why the smallest cottage, if its occupant be a person of taste should not have a terrace decorated in a suitable manner.* This is easily and cheaply effected by placing neat flower-pots on the parapet, or border and angles of the terrace, with suitable plants growing in them.
* Modern American taste, as expressed by leading architects, would not insist so strongly on terraces for every house. Indeed, such terraces are to be seen on only a small minority of the popular residences of the present, and their lack in the majority is not felt as a defect. Rather have the modern architects and landscape architects been able to adapt the residence to the ground most effectively by other means, especially by foundation plantings, an expedient apparently little minded by Mr. Downing. - F. A. W.
Where there is a terrace ornamented with urns or vases, and the proprietor wishes to give a corresponding air of elegance to his grounds, vases, sundials, etc., may be placed in various appropriate situations, not only in the architectural flower-garden, but on the lawn, and through the pleasure-grounds in various different points near the house. We say near the house, because we think so highly artificial and architectural an object as a sculptured vase, is never correctly introduced unless it appear in some way connected with buildings, or objects of a like architectural character. To place a beautiful vase in a distant part of the grounds, where there is no direct allusion to art, and where it is accompanied only by natural objects, as. the overhanging trees and the sloping turf, is in a measure doing violence to our reason or taste, by bringing two objects so strongly contrasted, in direct union. But when we see a statue or a vase placed in any part of the grounds where a near view is obtained of the house (and its accompanying statues or vases), the whole is accounted for, and we feel the distant vase to be only a part of, or rather a repetition of the same idea, - in other words, that it forms part of a whole, harmonious and consistent.
Vases of real stone, as marble or granite, are decorations of too costly a kind ever to come into general use among us. Vases, however, of equally beautiful forms, are manufactured of artificial stone, of fine pottery, or of cast iron, which have the same effect, and are of nearly equal durability, as garden decorations.
A vase should never, in the open air, be set down upon the ground or grass, without being placed upon a firm base of some description, either a plinth or a pedestal. Without a base of this kind it has a temporary look, as if it had been left there by mere accident, and without any intention of permanence. Placing it upon a pedestal, or square plinth (block of stone), gives it a character of art, at once more dignified and expressive of stability. Besides this, the pedestal in reality serves to preserve the vase in a perpendicular position, as well as to expose it fairly to the eye, which could not be the case were it put down, without any preparation, on the bare turf or gravel.
Large vases are sometimes filled with earth and planted with choice flowering plants, and the effect of the blossoms and green leaves growing out of these handsome receptacles, is at least unique and striking. Loudon objects to it in the case of an elegant sculptured vase, "because it is reducing a work of art to the level of a mere garden flower-pot, and dividing the attention between the beauty of the form of the vase and of its sculptured ornaments, and that of the plant which it contains." This criticism is a just one in its general application, especially when vases are considered as architectural decorations. Occasional deviations, however, may be permitted, for the sake of producing variety, especially in the case of vases used as decorations in the flower-garden.