Natural brooks and rivulets may often be improved greatly by a few trifling alterations and additions, when they chance to come within the bounds of a country residence. Occasionally, they may be diverted from their original beds when they run through distant and unfrequented parts of the demesne, and brought through nearer portions of the pleasure grounds or lawn. This, however, can only be done with propriety when there is a natural indication in the grounds through which it is proposed to divert it - as a succession of hollows, etc., to form the future channel. Sometimes, a brisk little brook can be divided into smaller ones for some distance, again uniting at a point below, creating additional diversity by its varying form. The Abbe Delille has given us a fine image of a brook thus divided, in the following lines:
"Plus loin, il se separe en deux ruisseaux agilcs, Qui, se suivant Tun Tautre avec rapidity Disputent de vitesse et de limpidity Puis, rejoignant tous deux le lit qui les rassemble, Murmurent enchanted de voyager ensemble. Ainsi, toujours errant de devour en detour, Muet, bruyant, paisible, inquiet tour a tour, Sous mille aspects divers son cours se renouvelle".
Brooks, rivulets, and even rills may frequently be greatly improved by altering the form of their beds in various places. Often by merely removing a few trifling obstructions, loose stones, branches, etc., or hollowing away the adjoining bank for a short distance, fine little expanses or pools of still water may be formed, which are happily contrasted with the more rugged course of the rest of the stream. Such improvements of these minor water courses are much preferable to widening them into flat, insipid, tame canals or rivers, which, though they present greater surface to the eye, are a thousand times inferior in the impetuosity of motion, and musical, "babbling sound," so delightful in rapid brooks and rivulets.
Cascades and water-falls are the most charming features of natural brooks and rivulets. Whatever may be their size they are always greatly admired, and in no way is the peculiar stillness of the air, peculiar to the country, more pleasingly broken, than by the melody of falling water. Even the gurgling and mellow sound of a small rill, leaping over a few fantastic stones, has a kind of lulling fascination for the ear, and when this sound can be brought so near as to be distinctly heard at the residence itself, it is peculiarly delightful. Now any one who examines a small cascade at all attentively, in a natural brook, will see that it is often formed in the simplest manner by the interposition of a few large projecting stones, which partially dam up the current and prevent the ready flow of the water. Such little cascades are easily imitated, by following exactly the same course, and damming up the little brook artificially; studiously avoiding, however, any formal and artificial disposition of the stones or rocks employed.
Larger water-falls and cascades cannot usually be made without some regular head or breastwork, to oppose more firmly the force of the current. Such heads may be formed of stout plank and well prepared clay; * or, which is greatly preferable, of good masonry laid in water cement. After a head is thus formed it must be concealed entirely from the eye by covering it both upon the top and sides with natural rocks and stones of various sizes, so ingeniously disposed, as to appear fully to account for, or be the cause of the water-fall.
* It is found that strong loam or any tenacious earth well prepared by puddling or beating in water is equally impervious to water as clay; and may therefore be used for lining the sides or dams of bodies of made water when such materials are required. - A. J. D.
The axe of the original backwoodsman appears to have left such a mania for clearing behind it, even in those portions of the Atlantic states where such labor should be for ever silenced, that some of our finest places in the country will be found much desecrated and mutilated by its careless and unpardonable use; and not only are fine plantations often destroyed, but the banks of some of our finest streams and prettiest rivulets partially laid bare by the aid of this instrument, guided by some tasteless hand. Wherever fine brooks or water courses are thus mutilated, one of the most necessary and obvious improvements is to reclothe them with plantations of trees and underwood. In planting their banks anew, much beauty and variety can often be produced by employing different growths, and arranging them as we have directed for the margins of lakes and ponds. In some places where easy, beautiful slopes and undulations of ground border the streams, gravel, soft turf, and a few simple groups of trees, will be the most natural accompaniments; in others where the borders of the stream are broken into rougher, more rocky, and precipitous ridges, all the rich wildness and intricacy of low shrubs, ferns, creeping and climbing plants, may be brought in to advantage.
Where the extent to be thus improved is considerable, the trouble may be lessened by planting the larger growth, and sowing the seeds of the smaller plants mingled together. Prepare the materials, and time and nature, with but little occasional assistance, will mature, and soften, and blend together the whole, in their own matchless and inimitable manner.
From all that we have suggested in these limited remarks, it will be seen that we would only attempt in our operations with water, the graceful or picturesque imitations of natural lakes or ponds, and brooks, rivulets, and streams. Such are the only forms in which this unrivalled element can be displayed so as to harmonize agreeably with natural and picturesque scenery. In the latter, there can be no apology made for the introduction of straight canals, round or oblong pieces of water, and all the regular forms of the geometric mode; because they would evidently be in violent opposition to the whole character and expression of natural landscape. In architectural, or flower gardens (on which we shall hereafter have occasion to offer some remarks), where a different and highly artificial arrangement prevails, all these regular forms, with various jets, fountains, etc., may be employed with good taste, and will combine well with the other accessories of such places. But in the grounds of a residence in the modern style, nature, if possible, still more purified, as in the great masterpieces of art, by an ideal standard, should be the great aim of the Landscape Gardener. And with water especially, only beautiful when allowed to take its own flowing forms and graceful motions, more than with any other of our materials, all appearance of constraint and formality should be avoided.
If art be at all manifest, it should discover itself only, as in the admirably painted landscape, in the reproduction of nature in her choicest developments. Indeed, many of the most celebrated authors who have treated of this subject, appear to agree that the productions of the artist in this branch are most perfect as they approach most nearly to fac-similes of nature herself: and though art should have formed the whole, its employment must be nowhere discovered by the spectator; or as Tasso has more elegantly expressed the idea:
"L'Arte che tutto fa, nulla si scopre".