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.
WE have hitherto remained silent in regard to the great work progressing in our midst, not from indifference or want of interest, but for want of time to make such personal examinations on the ground as would enable us to speak understandingly. The city papers have, from time to time, produced articles on the Central Park pretty equally divided between indiscriminate praise and indiscriminate condemnation. We can not be expected to indulge in either. Our province is that of candid and honest criticism, untainted, we trust, by prejudice either for or against any of the parties to which the work on the Central Park has unhappily given rise, and independently of them all. We assure the Commissioners of the Central Park that we entertain for them none but the kindliest feelings; we suppose them to be gentlemen disposed to profit by kindly advice, provided, of course, they are convinced of its soundness. Thus much for our position.
We purpose writing a series of articles on the Central Park, taking up a single subject at a time, such as the Grouping of Trees, Lawns, Roads, Bridges, etc, and treating it in its practical bearings; afterwards we propose to review the whole subject from an aesthetical stand-point. As a matter of choice, we should prefer to treat the subject from the latter point of view first, but we shall best accomplish our object in the manner first proposed; and, in doing this, we shall find much to praise and commend, and some things to condemn.
We propose, in the present article, to indulge in a few comments on the grouping of the trees; and we regret that our first subject should be one to call for an unfavorable criticism. The season for planting, however, is at hand, and We have indulged the hope that we might say something that would preserve a portion of the Park from the faults that have already been committed. Our first objection is, that the grouping is too monotonous, especially of the evergreens. Light and shade, variety of form, and the general harmonizing of details into a beautiful whole, seem to have been too much overlooked. We know the immense difficulty of successfully accomplishing these ends; but it seems manifest to us that too little effort has been made in this direction, and we think more ought to have been accomplished in this way by the talent now employed on the Central Park.
. Our next objection is, that the trees are too closely planted; and this is a point to which we most earnestly call the attention of the Commissioners. This close planting, indeed, we consider the great and pervading blemish of that portion of the Park already laid out; it meets us wherever we turn. It is repugnant to all ideas of good taste and the fitness of things, to see large groups of hemlocks, pines, spruces, etc., planted from two to three feet apart, and within a foot of the pathway. We shall probably be told that it is done for present effect, and that it is designed to thin them out; to which we reply, this is a great mistake. The present effect on a cultivated taste is any thing but pleasing; it is true that the popular mind is not highly educated on this subject, and is more or less pleased with a mere mass of green foliage; but the Central Park ought not to be made a school in which to foster this condition of things, but rather to educate the public mind for the enjoyment of the highest order of natural beauty.
Then, too, the labor and expense of thinning out and replanting these trees ought to be avoided in a costly work like the Central Park. Many of these groups ought to be thinned out within the present year, or the individuality of the trees will be destroyed; moreover, (and this is an important point,) the growth of the trees is greatly checked while they remain in this crowded condition, and thus the grand object of a well-wooded park made more remote. Again, there is no excuse for thickly planting large growing trees, even for present effect, for we have a great variety of beautiful evergreen shrubs which can be used for filling in, and which in time will constitute a charming undergrowth. We think present effect and future grandeur can both be attained by a judicious use of materials at command.
This article has already reached the limits we proposed, and we shall continue this branch of the subject in our next. Before closing, however, we wish to express our conviction, that by far too great a proportion of the trees have died out. We have no means of knowing whether the cause of this is in lifting the trees, in the planting, or in the compost in which they are planted; but, with the facilities at command at the Central Park, the success ought to have been much greater. The Commissioners owe it to themselves to investigate the subject, and, if possible, discover the cause, and remove it.
In conclusion, we ask these gentlemen to consider the above suggestions in the same kind spirit in which they are written, and with the same view to the future glory of the Central Park.