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 grounds which are about a farmer's dwelling are of more or less importance, and they should be studied and looked after by the farmer himself. The ordinary manner in which farmers look npon this subject is more a matter of indifference in regard to site or situation as will be more often seen by the choice they make in selecting their house lots. In laying out grounds for farm houses, no general rule perhaps can be given as to extent of land occupied; all will depend on circumstances, the amount of lands to be laid out, the expense of doing the work, etc. Every farm house should have some grounds around it appropriate to and with the style of the buildings which the farmer has adopted for his residence. At least, an acre of land should be set off for this purpose, for the most moderate and least unpretending farm house in style and architecture, size, Ac. And yet how often is it that we see farm houses set as near the highway as possible, while old rubbish, such as broken carts, ploughs, sleds, wagons, and the like, lie scattering by the broken garden fences, while the wood-pile is often left so near the door that, taking the broken farming tools and the wood together, they make up the wan features of the outside show of the farm house.
All this comes from a want of a little taste shown and laid out on the part of the farmer, which is so often neglected by him as being of no particular consequence. But this influence for neglect of home embellishments on the part of the farmer does not stop with him; it is transmitted to his sons, and they, in turn, either follow in the footsteps of their sire, or else they abandon the farm and farm pursuits altogether, and. go into some business which they can make some " money" at and live. Now who cannot see what the natural influences would come to when a life is spent on the farm with no object in view save that of buying lands and a constant accumulation of hard labor to subdue the same, to a profitable account. But when a spirit of home improvements takes possession of the farmer he will very goon show it out in his life; his sons will naturally become imbued with the same spirit, and hence a whole revolution on this subject may take place in a neighborhood in a few years. In speaking of grounds for farm houses, we do not intend to include "Park Scenery," though it may be all well enough to allude to it.
Generally speaking, in this country the best kept grounds are the public ones, such for instance as "Greenwood Cemetery," also "Mt. Auburn" and "Boston Common;" each and all of these places are worthy the attention of all lovers of rural art. Among those grounds of a private nature- and large dimensions, we may name "Montgomery Place," "Barevurych," "Kenwood," "Mount Hope," Ac, on the Hudson. Also in connection with these we may name Mr. Wadsworth's farm, " Meadow Park," of several hundred acres interspersed with giant oaks and elms at Genesee. Of course no ordinary or common farmer can have grounds of such dimensions, nor is it desirable that they should have. Yet the influence of such works and outlays by men of liberal means has a great effect on the rural population of the country at large, much more so than they have a just idea of. And while the common farmer's grounds may be confined to a single acre, yet it may be made as useful as grounds of tens and hundreds of acres in extent. In laying out grounds of some extent, it is usual to have the roads or carriage " drives" take a serpentine or circuitous route winding about, forming all sorts of "freaks" in their course.
But when the grounds are tolerably level or slightly inclined, we think that as good or better effect may be produced by crossing the drives at a nearly right angle with each other. Also a bold straight drive from the street directly up to the house, when the situation of the house will admit of it, may have as good or better effect than the usual circuitous drive. Of course, a drive straight over a knoll or bright point of land would not be economy or in good taste. But in this case the drive should take the circuitous route, and wind around on the lowest grades to overcome the resistance easy. As to the natural forest trees, they may be managed according to the owner's taste pretty much. About all the attention they require will be to keep down the underbush and thin out some of the thickest of the smaller trees, take off the dead limbs, then leaving the trees to take pretty much their own course. Stagnant waters are generally looked upon as a nuisance, yet on large grounds there may be numerous small ponds that are fed from the bottom by springs. Such ponds may and will often remain apparently fresh through the year, and although not as agreeable as running water, yet they are worthy of protection and consideration by the fanner.
It is not to be expected that the common farmer can spend or lay out a great amount of time, expense, or labor, on grounds of this character. Hence he should choose a house lot where nature has or will do a good part of the labor, though the farmer will consider that his extra labor on such grounds is not lost or thrown away. This work can be done by littles and at odd spells where the former has really a taste for such work, and in no way will it interfere with his ordinary farm work. One of the finest ornamental shrubs that may adorn the farmer's grounds may be found we think in the common "Forest Laurel/' or what the farmers call " Green Ivy," to be had in any quantities in most all forest lands. This shrub, as is well known, is a dark evergreen through the year, growing from three to six feet high, as may be. About the 20th of Jnne it comes into flower, and then for some two weeks may be seen some of the finest variegated flowers, bright pink, light pink, Ac. Any one who will take the trouble to examine these flowers by going to the forest may Bee for themselves if they are not worthy of note and remark. We declare that if the common Kalmia was a foreign shrub and was imported and sold at $5 or $10 a plant, it would be seen and found in most of the amateur's grounds in the country.
But as it can be had for asking or nothing as a wild shrub no cultivator takes any notice of it whatever, and so the " Green Ivy" is left to its own glory, and is considered of no sort of consequence, unless it be to "poison sheep" by eating the green leaves in the winter season. This may be true if the sheep were to eat the leaves to any great extent, which they may do when the ground is covered with snow. It is our opinion that this shrub may be transplanted in the spring or fall with little or no trouble, while the after culture would be or need but little attention. Who will try this shrub the coming season, and report progress on the trial, as an ornamental shrub for grounds in future, for, as an evergreen bush, we think it (without the flowers), as highly ornamental and instructive.