After this we would add to the effect of our selection of perpetual blooming plants, by abandoning altogether the old method of intermingling species and varieties of all colors and habits of growth, and substitute for it the opposite mode of grouping or massing colors and particular species of plants. Masses of crimson and white, of yellow and purple, and the other colors and shades, brought boldly into contrast, or disposed so as to form an agreeable harmony, will attract the eye, and make a much more forcible and delightful impression, than can ever be produced by a confused mixture of shades and colors, nowhere distinct enough to give any decided effect to the whole. The effect of thus collecting masses of colors in a flower garden in this way, is to give it what the painters call breadth of effect, which in the other mode is entirely frittered away and destroyed.*
* It is hard to believe now how far in advance of the times was Down-ing's doctrine of mass effects, here clearly enunciated, - so far in advance of the times, indeed, that Downing himself did not always rise to it. - F. A. W.
This arranging plants in patches or masses, each composed of the same species, also contributes to do away in a great degree with the second fault which we have alluded to as a grievous one in most of our flower gardens - that of the exhibition of bare surface of soil - parts of beds not covered by foliage and. flowers.
In a hot climate, like that of our summers, nothing is more unpleasing to the eyes or more destructive to that expression of softness, verdure, and gayety, that should exist in the flower garden, than to behold the surface of the soil in any of the beds or parterres unclothed with plants. The dryness and parched appearance of such portions goes far to impair whatever air of freshness and beauty may be imparted by the flowers themselves. Now whenever beds are planted with a heterogeneous mixture of plants, tall and short, spreading and straggling, it is nearly impossible that considerable parts of the surface of the soil should not be visible. On the contrary, where species and varieties of plants, chosen for their excellent habits of growth and flowering, are planted in masses, almost every part of the surface of the beds may be hidden from the eye, which we consider almost a sine qua non in all good flower gardens.
Following out this principle - on the whole perhaps the most important in all flower gardens in this country - that there should, if possible, be no bare surface soil visible, our own taste leads us to prefer the modern English style of laying out flower gardens upon a groundwork of grass or turf, kept scrupulously short. Its advantage over a flower garden composed only of beds with a narrow edging and gravel walks, consists in the greater softness, freshness and verdure of the green turf, which serves as a setting to the flower beds, and heightens the brilliancy of the flowers themselves. Still, both these modes have their merits, and each is best adapted to certain situations, and harmonizes best with its appropriate scenery.
There are two other defects in many of our flower gardens, easily remedied, and about which we must say a word or two in passing.
One of these is the common practice, brought over here by gardeners from England, of forming raised convex beds for flowering plants. This is a very unmeaning and injurious practice in this country, as a moment's reference to the philosophy of the thing will convince any one. In a damp climate, like that of England, a bed with a high convex surface, by throwing off the superfluous water, keeps the plants from suffering by excess of wet, and the form is an excellent one. In this country, where most frequently our flower gardens fail from drouth, what sound reason can be given for forming the beds with a raised and rounded surface of six inches in every three feet, so as to throw off four-fifths of every shower? The true mode, as a little reflection and experience will convince any one, is to form the surface of the bed nearly level, so that it may retain its due proportion of the rains that fall.
Next to this is the defect of not keeping the walks in flower gardens full of gravel. In many instances that we could name, the level of the gravel in the walk is six inches below that of the adjoining bed or border of turf. This gives a harsh and ditch-like character to the walks, quite at variance with the smoothness and perfection of details which ought especially to characterize so elegant a portion of the grounds as this in question. "Keep the walks brimful of gravel," was one of the maxims most strongly insisted on by the late Mr. Loudon, and one to which we fully subscribe.*
* Originally this essay closed with a description, somewhat detailed, of a flower garden belonging to Baron von Hugel near Vienna, drawn from a German magazine, which description has been dropped from the present edition as having no practical interest at this time. - F. A. W.