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.
In connection with your well-timed and judicious remarks on the "Improvement of Grounds" in the October number of the Horticuiturist, the. preservation of Nature's trees and shrubbery claims our most important attention. The subject requires not my humble pen to depict its great advantages and extol its usefulness, having been often treated of by the most eloquent writers; but as we all labor in one pursuit, even a mite added may be of some service in preventing the wholesale depredation that we so often see going on, the waste of capital, and often vexation when too late to repair the mistake. Ingenuity would be exhausted in discovering a term which should sufficiently express the true meaning of this ignorant demolition.
How often is it the case that, when the site for a house is determined on, the first thing done is to hew down and cut up every living vestige of a tree or shrub on the space to be (as so called) improved. There may be the majestic Oak, Hickory, or Chestnut; and as likely in places where such objects are wanted, there may be beautifully wooded knolls, and shady dells, where the Song Thrush is wont to warble forth his melodious notes; and beneath the bough on which he sits may spring the sparkling Hepatica, the fragrant Violet, the Laurel, the Azalea, and a host of other gems of like character, luxuriating under their accustomed shade, shedding their brilliance, beauty, and perfume around, inviting us to take gratification at no other expense than merely forming paths and removing worthless Cat Briars, Poison Vine, or other such, to give us all that could be required as a pleasant, secluded walk or drive. There may be likewise, a bank of evergreens that by a little care might be improved and reserved as a shelter from cold blasts, or to hide some ugly feature in the back ground, beside the cheeriness given when all other things are leafless and bare.
Yet at this point of action all must be leveled - at one fell swoop all must be cut down before the erection of the dwelling-house can be proceeded with. The Song Thrush must be banished - the little flowers and Nature's shrubbery, which before were just where they liked to be, must be leveled: and how all alone and deplorably looking is the most splendid mansion after erection, upon this once well covered eminence, but now a bare hill - or that former sylvan grove, now a vacant slope, where in the present defaced and solitary scene it rears its proud and seedy-looking superstructure. Instead of appearing as a part of a harmonious whole, here alone it stands, a woe-begotten subject, mourning in stiff subjectness to bad taste, and seeming to belong to any thing but the spot upon which it is placed. Sorry is such a scene; and why? Because the ruthless hand of ignorance has irrecoverably destroyed those advantages where Nature has done her utmost to contribute to man's enjoyment.
This is no over-drawn picture, for many a beautiful spot and appropriate feature has been destroyed that might have been preserved, and which it is impossible to create afzain to equal perfection. Spare. then. the trees: and when the site of a dwelling house is determined on, remove none but what is absolutely necessary to open out some beautiful object in the distant landscape, or sufficient space for the house. The mind that can appreciate the beauties of Nature may afterward better decide what to remove and which to retain. I would plead, then, for the trees, and the preservation of Nature's flower gardens; for in the most polished surfaces they are often wanted to blend in with the universal harmony of the distant view, to form a connecting link with the immediate precincts; and if it is found to be requisite afterward to remove them, there is no more expense incurred than there would have been had they been taken away at first, with perhaps the advantage of not having to regret for a life time that which can not be replaced.
In all cases before a country residence is proceeded with, some person who can comprehend the beautiful, the grand, and the picturesque, ought to scan over the position, and determine upon the various adaptability of each individual detail, so that nothing be done but what will afterward be an improvement, and give gratification to the proprietor.
It is certainly pleasing to see that, notwithstanding the often misdirected application of operations, there are many proofs existing where the right movement is in action. As we travel along the broad expanse of the majestic Hudson, and view here and there the noble mansions rearing their summits over the surrounding trees, the picturesque and retired country residences, peeping out on the beautifully wooded slopes, the neat cottages, nestled among the umbrageous shade, and the attractive villages, with their back-ground of verdure along its shores, we have ample satisfaction that public taste is now being convinced of the advantages of smoothing down, instead of demolishing, the very many charming spots for man's enjoyment, which Nature has so lavishly bestowed. If we add to this now more generally acknowledged principle a greater number of skilled individuals who are spread over the country, there is better hope for the future, and more certainty that the time is fast approaching when, instead of the many hotch-potch, stiff, and formal apologies mis-called pleasure grounds that at present exist, we shall have an universal scenery of beauty, elegance, and grandeur, that shall outrival all older countries - a unitedness and greatness collectively which, although divided among a number of possessors, will give gratification to the many, and, as a total, will form one great feature in the splendid landscape - will more than equal the greatest individual and ponderous establishment of the aristocratic nobleman of Europe. The splendor, sublimity, and greatness of America's scenery, is by Nature formed exactly to suit these high pretensions.
If not destroyed by individual bad taste, there is every opportunity for carrying out so much to be desired a consummation, and nothing to prevent it but an ignorant destruction of some of the finest scenery in the world; and without the protecting influence of a law of primogeniture, we may possess a park-like landscape, equal in finish, and of far greater extent, than Britain itself. May we hope that this progressive and onward movement may rapidly extend until it becomes a general principle, so that our present natural advantages may be retained, and only altered so as to become worthy of, and a part of, that master spirit which governs all other affairs.