Behind the house, on the basement-level, is still another curved terrace, from which a grassy cart-path leads down to the swale and the hot-beds, and here the various walls are utilized to protect rows of Currant bushes above, and Raspberry bushes below, which are easy of access from the kitchen-door.
To cover all this expanse of gravel foundation required untold quantities of loam, so much, indeed, that we thought ourselves fortunate if we could allow an average of four inches over the whole surface of the lawn, but this meagre allowance seems to afford sufficient hold for the grass-roots, and heavy annual dressings of compost add continually to its depth. It is rather a curious study to watch the formation of soil, and the gradual way in which the sand below is transformed by the roots - first into yellow, and then into black loam. How long, we wonder, will it take before a foot of soil is obtained over a surface treated as this lawn is treated, the fine grass dropped from the lawn-mower being left upon it without raking, and the drainage from the heavily enriched trees always helping it along, in addition to its own annual dressings?
The shrubs on the knoll, at first scattered about rather promiscuously, as they increase in size we are struggling to group properly, according to the lights thrown upon this subject by our reading, but the articles we have carefully studied on this topic presuppose a great number of bushes of one kind to begin with, and where you have perhaps three Golden Spiraeas, and a half dozen Lilac bushes, and a hardy Hydrangea or two, and a few Deutzias, and Weigelias, and other heterogeneous things in variety, the question is to set them so that they will produce the effect of twenty-five of each. We have managed it so that really the shrubbery appears rather crowded, but it has been done in a manner to horrify the authorities.
We have treated our landscape very much as a painter would his canvas. We dab in a shrub where we think it will produce the effect of half a dozen, and if, after a few months, the picture seems to require its removal, out it is scratched, and set in another spot, and thus, in true amateur fashion, we feel our way toward a final result, for we find things never look when they are little as they do when they are fairly grown, - the usual experience of amateur gardeners.
The best that can be said for this method is, that the results are unconventional. I have discovered that a landscape-gardener gets a style, a mannerism, like a poet or a draughtsman, and that, after some experience, you can detect the professional manufacturer of a garden by the receipts on which he works. Twenty-five Spiraeas here, twenty Deutzias there, Viburnums one dozen, Lilacs in variety, Forsythias eight; a bushel or two of golden Evergreens mixed with Juniper and Arbor Vitae, at such a point; a hedge here, curves on this side, straight lines on that, etc., etc., - it is all reduced to a system, and the results, if repeated in the same town, are monotonous.
We are bound, having gone in for it, to defend the natural method. If the results of the artificial are more satisfactory, the execution is not half the fun.
Can there be, I ask you, the same enjoyment in sitting down to watch the growth of a border of shrubs that somebody has set out for you, that there is in dragging the few you have planted yourself out of their holes and transporting them to a more becoming place, as you would a flower on a bonnet?