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.
N our former article on the Central Park, we presented some objections to the crowded planting of the trees, and closed with the remark that we should have something more to say to the same purpose. We continue the subject now, while it is in season, with the hope of being able to offer some suggestions that may be both available and useful. We have also another object in view, and one which appeals to our native pride. Several parks are in progress elsewhere, and from year to year they will be springing up all over the country, some of which will no doubt rival our own in point of size, and, it may be, in natural beauty. Brooklyn has already proceeded in the matter; and before this number reaches our readers, Baltimore will have inaugurated a park almost equalling that of New York in dimensions, and which they purpose making the finest in the country. They will have the advantage of profiting by our success, and avoiding our errors: and from information received within a few days past, we are warranted in saying that the crowded planting and monotonous grouping, already alluded to, are among the errors which they will avoid from the very beginning; and if they do so, and the present system continues to be carried out at New York, our Baltimore friends ten years hence will have incomparably the best wooded park.
This, and a recent conversation on the subject with some of the commissioners of a park in one of our eastern cities, give us reason to know that our remarks, brief as they were, have not been without their influence elsewhere, if not here.
So much has been said and predicted of the Central Park, that these cities will naturally look to it, in the first instance, as a model to study; this will be done with critical eyes, and we should therefore aim to make our park as perfect as may be both in its plan and execution, and with an eye to its future grandeur rather than present effect: if either is to be sacrificed, let it be the latter. We have a deep conviction that this is not being done in regard to that particular feature which gives character and grandeur to a park, and without which, indeed, there can be no such thing as a park.
We have already objected to the close planting of the trees, that there is no necessity for it, and that it is not in good taste. Let us say here, in order not to be misunderstood, that we do not object to an occasional clump of trees; such clumps may sometimes be introduced with the best effect; it is the ever-recurrence of these clumps that we consider an offence against good taste. It is so not only with the trees, but also with the shrubs. In the latter case, the design evidently has been to imitate the wildness of nature; but it has not been done, as a general thing, with the best success; the shrubs are so much crowded, without regard to their future growth and appearance, and put in with such mathematical formality, that the effect has been greatly impaired, and an impression of almost painful stiffness is produced on the mind. This is what may be termed the German method, and we confess that it finds no favor with us; we do not like it, even in right-angled gardens, the only place where it should be tolerated, if tolerated at all.
It is altogether out of place when brought into immediate contact with the tangled masses of a natural growth.
But this close planting is a positive injury to the trees; it not only impairs their form, and beauty, and individuality, but it retards their growth, and makes them tender; planting oaks two or three feet apart can only have the effect of dwarfing the monarch of the forest into a pigmy. It is well understood by professional men, (though not by the public,) that these trees are not intended to remain in this crowded condition; but we are fearful of the future. We know that some European landscape gardeners recommend thick planting, (but not so thick as we find at the park,) a portion of the trees being called "nursing" trees: a better name for them would be "robbers." In respect to those kinds that are hardy, these "nursing" trees are a pure fiction, in our climate at least, and we believe in all climates: we say this distinctly, without foregoing our conviction of the need of a certain degree of protection under given circumstances. The trees, under these conditions, make their chief growth from the top, and this of a weak and spindly nature, while the lower laterals also become weak and tender, or cease growing altogether, or die off, and the healthy formation of roots is correspondingly interrupted.
This is now getting to be so well understood by our best nurserymen, that they are doubling and trebling the distance of their trees in the "nursery rows," and with the best results to the trees and their own pockets. Every consideration, therefore, of economy and aesthetics condemns this "gregarious" system of planting. We shall save time, and labor, and money, by giving the trees a little more room to grow in, and sooner have a park to be proud of and enjoy.
We ought to add here, that the groups more recently planted at the lower end of the park are much better disposed of, so far as space is concerned; and we accept this fact as an indication of better things to come. The probability of a forest of bare poles is somewhat lessened in consequence; for we have but a faint idea that these groups will ever be properly thinned, however firm the determination to do so may now be; if ever done, it will probably be by other hands, who have no proper conception of the effect intended to be produced by the original planting; and this is an additional reason for putting in now just as many trees as are wanted, and no more.
But we stop for the present. We shall have to indulge in a little more faultfinding on this subject, and after that we shall have some very pleasant things to say.
Mr- Green will please accept our thanks for the "Third Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Central Park. I860." We are now in the midst of its perusal.