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.
THE present is eminently a time of improvement Go where we will - in the suburbs of all our cities, in our country villages, and far into the farming districts - we find the people busy constructing and re-modeling their dwellings, laying out gardens, and planting trees. At no previous time, in the history of this country, has such a spirit prevailed. The rage for money-making seems at length to have so far abated as to allow men to think of their homes, and to go about making them somewhat comfortable, and even beautiful. This is something to rejoice at Were it not so, we should ill deserve the overflowing measure of prosperity which Providence has vouchsafed us. Certainly, no people in the world have stronger inducements to improve and beautify their homes, than Americans. Our present purpose, however, is not to expatiate on this subject, pleasant though it be, but to call attention to a certain defect, which we apprehend is very general among modern suburban residences.
There seems to be a prevailing passion for building on the most public thoroughfares, and for making an undue display of the dwelling and every portion of the ground, to the public Now this is manifestly a great mistake. Quiet and seclusion we have always regarded as among the most important requisites, and, indeed, the greatest charms of a country or suburban residence. What is it that people seek, who retire from the crowded streets of the city, and erect for themselves a dwelling on an acre or two of ground, in the suburbs! Do they go there to erect a costly house, make a beautiful lawn, and plant fine trees, merely to be gazed at and admired by the public! Or do they not rather seek relief from the noise and bustle of the streets, and a quiet, retired place, in which themselves and families may enjoy pure air, and health-ful, pleasant recreation! This, we believe, is the aim of by far the greater number; a few, only, are prompted by feelings of vanity, or urged by the power of fashion.
We take it for granted that people erect houses, and make gardens and pleasure-grounds, first and foremost, for their own comfort and gratification. We are surprised, therefore, to see such a passion for building on the most public thoroughfares, and we are inclined to attribute it, in a great measure, to the want of experience. Sites for dwellings and gardens can be had at least one-fourth cheaper, on less frequented and much more desirable localities. The only advantage that can be claimed for the leading avenues, is, that they are nearer to the public conveyances; but this is of trifling importance, especially to those who keep a horse and carriage of their own, and in any case, it would be a poor compensation for the countless annoyances inseparable from such locations. But a few days ago, we passed along one of the popular avenues of our city, where, within a few years, a large number of very tasteful residences have been erected, each having a garden in front, varying from 50 to 100 feet deep.
It was a dry time, and the clouds of dust that arose from the street, (thronged with wagons at all hours), had covered every tree, shrub, and plant, with a thick coat, meridian of their beauty, a most dismal and forbidding aspect What a mistake, we had to exclaim, to come out of town, and spend so. much money on suburban residences, in such a place as this, where to step out of doors is to get deafened with noise, and blinded and covered with dust! Why did these men not rather choose some of those quiet streets that lie among the secluded, rural-looking districts! There they might hare tasted some of the sweets of country life, but here they cannot.
Something might be done, however, to make these residences on public streets much more, comfortable and agreeable than they generally are. The houses might be set further back, and masses of low trees and shrubs might be planted, to exclude the noise and dust, and give them an air of seclusion and quiet. No matter how retired the situation might be, we would plant sufficiently to shelter the interior of the garden, as well as the dwelling, from the wind, and to protect it from intrusion; so that, at all seasons, and at any time of the day, any member of the family might work, or amuse themselves as they saw fit, without being observed. Very few gardens are sufficiently sheltered. In the north, high winds prevail during the early spring months, so that, unless shelter be amply provided for, it is impossible to cultivate spring flowers successfully, or for ladies, or persons in delicate health, to enjoy daily the pleasures and recreations of a garden at that season.
Farmers gardens and dwellings are, as a general thing, sadly deficient in shelter and protection. The house is usually placed, for convenience, close to the highway, and the garden and door-yard inclosed with low, painted board fences. A row of trees, along the street, is all that seems to them necessary; and the consequence is, there is not a spot that can offer pleasant out-door recreation until summer arrives. Why can they not plant, on the exposed sides of their residences, thick belts of forest trees, to break off the winds, and inclose their gardens with high board fences, or what is much more sightly, Arbor Vibe screens. Ladies, children, or infirm persons, who may desire out-door exercise, would then have some opportunity of enjoying it with safety and comfort This provision for shelter, on an ample scale, should be one of the earliest cares of every man who goes about the work of improvement in our boisterous climate, where we have winter full half the year. It is a great sacrifice to people who live in the country or in the suburbs of a city, to be shut up in the house six whole months together.
Winter walks and resorts need to be provided more than summer, because in summer almost every place is pleasant in the country.
We do not propose to recommend that people should inclose their gardens with high walls, as though they were prisons, or to surround them with thickets of trees to such an extent as would give them an air of exclusiveness, obstruct their views beyond their own boundaries, or impede too much the circulation of air. These extremes are as much to be guarded against as that of too great exposure. There is a medium which every person of good sense will discover, if they but give the subject due reflection.