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.
If buildings, vases, statuary, and other artificial works, are constantly recurring in very extensive gardens, they do not produce the variety which is sought for, but produce endless monotony. So many objects having different expression, cannot form the harmonious whole that should be. They are the costly evidences of great wealth made subservient to empirical taste.
No one can' wish to mistake a garden for anything but a work of art - a work in which beautiful forms and lines are recognised, while all its parts correspond so exactly, that the removal of any one of them would derange the whole. As a rule, it may be laid down that curved lines are more beautiful than straight ones. We associate the quality of beauty in the feminine form, of delicacy, of fineness, and of tenderness with them; while angular lines are expressive of roughness, strength, tenacity, and maturity, as instanced in the limbs of old trees, and the forms of solid masses of rock.
In disposing the area of a small garden, it will be all-important to consider well the production of harmony of expression; and to make such arrangements only as will assist in carrying out the objects in view. As to ornaments, it is better to have few of them than to fill the place with those of incongruous character; many of which would be as much out of place as a Goth in one of the saloons of Paris.
It is most important, also, to observe that want of breadth is one of the most common errors in amateur designs. The constant spotting over of lawns without attention to producing massive effects by grouping, and the frequent shutting up retiring verdant glades by plants, are sources of much mischief in this respect. In every place there ought to be one or two leading breadths of as much extent as possible: and if an aerial distance can be got at the same time, it will much enhance the effect by leading the spectator to suppose that the property is most extensive in that direction.
Great care should be taken to avoid that regular mixture of shrubs and trees which is too often practised, and which produces the most perfect monotony: it is far better that one kind should prevail here, and another there - a system which produces true variety. When one passes from a grove of Elms to one of Beech, and again to one of Oaks, one feels that "a change has come o'er the spirit" of the scene; but where Oaks, Beech, and Elms are mixed, it is all sameness.
Let us counsel our friends, who are intent upon leading a quiet suburban existence, having finished the toils of commercial life, that, should they purchase a place to exercise their skill upon they should have the opinion of a clever man as a landscape gardener, and have a general plan designed and prepared, after thorough consideration, to be commenced upon, and carried out progressively; thus avoiding the many rocks a-head upon which such people split. Let them, also, get to understand the rules and principles of the art in a general manner. So will their places yield them more satisfaction; and the public in visiting them will be spared the excruciating pain of seeing Grecian bases of the first class standing upon bare earth without any pedestals at all.
In no sphere of his observation has man so many, so beautiful, and so varied a collection of graceful curves presented to his view as he has in the varied forms and inflections of the stems of gigantic grasses with their nodding plumes of silvery feathers; in the tendrils of the Vine, the Hop and the Ivy; in the stem of the Rose, bent with its fulness of the dew of Heaven into a graceful curve; in the varied and infinite conformation of leaves, flowers, and fruits. It would be sad indeed, if, while having such lessons from the book of the Divine Artist Himself, man should not avail himself of the exquisite delineations of beautiful forms which the book of Nature presents, and appropriate to himself in his gardens those lines of beauty which are so adapted for his purpose.
The exact expression of beautiful lines is an important point in the keeping of a garden. Every curve and sinuosity should be most regular and true; cut with the utmost exactness, if in grass; and trimmed with mathe. matical precision, if in box or such-like materials. For, however good the design may be, if it is not artistically carried out it will prove a failure.
A small garden well kept is always much more satisfactory than a large ill-kept one. Let no one, therefore, attempt to do too much; but let every person who intends designing a place consider and proportion his means to the end. Thus will the beauty of propriety be given to the creation of artistic skill; and whilst the art of design is prominent in the whole, the beauty of utility and propriety will always conduce to the superior enjoyment of the owner and his friends.
We greatly advocate that, whatever the style of the house, whether Italian, Grecian, or Gothic, all its subordinate offices, whether attached or detached, should be in the same style. We have marked many deviations from this rule with regret.
"Taste,", says Mr. Allison, "is, in general, considered as that quality of the human mind by which wo perceive and enjoy whatever is beautiful or sublime in the works of nature or art." But in the investigation of the beauty and sublimity of material forms, there are certain rules and axioms to which we must refer as established principles; and it is only by a knowledge of these principles, by study and reflection, that we can lay the foundation of correct " taste." S.