The surface of ground is rarely ugly in a state of nature, because all nature leans to the beautiful, and the constant action of the elements goes continually to soften and wear away the harshness and violence of surface. What cannot be softened, is hidden and rounded by means of foliage, trees and Shrubs, and creeping vines, and so the tendency to the curve is always greater and greater. But man often forms ugly surfaces of ground, by breaking up all natural curves, without recognizing their expression, by distributing lumps of earth here and there, by grading levels in the midst of undulations, and raising mounds on perfectly smooth surfaces; in short, by regarding only the little he wishes to do in his folly, and not studying the larger part that nature has already done in her wisdom. As a common though accidental illustration of this, we may notice that the mere routine of tillage on a farm, has a tendency to destroy natural beauty of surface by ridging up the soil at the outsides of the field and thus breaking up that continuous flow of line which delights the eye.
Our object in these remarks is simply to ask our readers to think in the beginning, before they even commence any improvements on the surface of ground which they wish to embellish - to think in what natural beauty really consists, and whether in grading, they are not wasting money, and losing that which they are seeking. It will be better still, if they will consider the matter seriously, when they are about buying a place, since, as we have before observed, no money is expended with so little to show for it, and so little satisfaction, as that spent in changing the original surface of the ground.
Practically the rules we would deduce are the following: To select, always, if possible, a surface varied by gentle curves and undulations. If something of this character already exists, it may often be greatly heightened or improved at little cost. Very often, too, a nearly level surface may, by a very trifling addition, only adding a few inches in certain points, be raised to a character of positive beauty, by simply following the hints given by nature.
When a surface is quite level by nature, we must usually content ourselves with trusting to planting, and the arrangement of walks, buildings, etc., to produce beauty and variety; and we would always, in such cases, rather expend money in introducing beautiful vases, statues, or other works of positive artistic merit, than to terrace and unmake what character nature has stamped on the ground.
Positively ugly and forbidding surfaces of ground, may be rendered highly interesting and beautiful, only by changing their character, entirely, by planting. Such ground, after this has been done, becomes only the skeleton of the fair outside of beauty and verdure that covers the forbidding original. Some of the most picturesque ravines and rocky hillsides, if stripped entirely of their foliage, would appear as ugly as they were before beautiful; and while this may teach the improver that there is no situation that may not be rendered attractive, if the soil will yield a growth of trees, shrubs, and vines,, it does not the less render it worth our attention in choosing or improving a place, to examine carefully beforehand, in what really consists the beautiful in ground, and whether we should lose or gain it in our proposed improvements.