This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Many gardens are wholly deficient in any distinctive character, from the fact of their having been designed, or more properly jumbled together piecemeal, without any design whatever. It cannot be denied that such gardens often possess many pleasing features; but, from the incongruity inseparable from such an arrangement, their beauty is, for the most part, neutralized or entirely lost. It is hardly too much to say that nothing truly beautiful, as a whole, ever resulted from chance, and a garden certainly does not form an exception to the rule. Of course, it is not insisted that a design having been once determined on should be adhered to at all hazards; that would be little short of insanity, because many circumstances will often present themselves for consideration in the working of it out which will allow of a modification in the detail with great advantage; but with the principal features there should be no change. Presuming that these will be the result of careful consideration, and be thoroughly adapted to the exigencies of the case, no partial change could possibly be made without destroying the effect of the whole, reducing what would be beauty, order, congruity, to a mere chaos of discordant parts.
The beauty of a design arises in a great measure from the harmony of its several parts to the whole.
Yet the great source of pleasure to be derived from a garden must undoubtedly consist in the variety of its subordinate features, and in the various objects of which they are composed; but there must be design in their arrangement and formation if they are to produce all the pleasure of which they are capable. Variety and intricacy, when subject to order and design, are among the most powerful sources of pleasure to the senses and the mind. "Nothing," says Allison, in his Essay on Taste, "is more delightful than in any subject where we at first perceived only confusion to find regularity gradually emerging, and to discover amid the apparent chaos some uniform principle which reconciles the whole. To reduce a number of apparent dissimilar particulars under our general law of resemblance, as it is one of the strongest evidences of the exertion of wisdom and design, so it is also productive of one of the strongest emotions of beauty which design can excite." It is not, of course, to be understood that a garden is at any time to appear chaotic or confused, which is the result of chance; but it certainly should have sufficient intricacy to stimulate curiosity, and variety enough to satisfy that curiosity when excited.
The recognition of one principal feature in the scenery of a garden must not be allowed to produce monotony in the subordinate ones, or to influence their number. Nor indeed need it do so. There is generally some one point, either from the windows of the principal rooms or from some situation near the house, where the garden as a whole should form a pleasing view, and it is to this that especial attention should be given. Supposing the point of view to be elevated, as it should be, above the surface of the garden, as from a terrace, the various parts of which the garden is composed - lawns, shrubberies, single specimens and groups of shrubs or trees, flowers, and garden ornaments - should so combine as to form one pleasing and symmetrical whole. This symmetry need not necessarily be formality or mere uniformity, although it is more than probable that the immediate foreground will be made up of both; but the several parts should so balance each other as to present to the eye a symmetrical and pleasing combination. Every scene or object to be embraced by the eye at one view should possess symmetry, and to be truly beautiful it must be so.
Nature is ever teaching us the importance and beauty of symmetry, and the eye, constituted to find pleasure in that quality, in spite of all the abominations in form with which false or perverted tastes have from time to time sought to allure it from its allegiance, remains, and ever must remain, faithful to itself. It may, and often does put on the spectacles of fashion, and, for a time, professes to be charmed with the abortions revealed to it; but of these it discards to-morrow what it professes to admire to-day; and true and faithful to its earliest love, ever returns to it with renewed affection.
Symmetry is not necessarily formality. Both are beautiful in themselves, but they have each their special province, and must not be confounded together.