It is well that the garden-maker should be imaginative, so long as he be not a mere visionary. It is well that there should come before him pictures of peaceful and shadowed beauty. It is all to the good that he should dream of a garden that is more than a mere glare and riot of colour.
We all love the garden of shade and repose. It possesses an intimate and rarely comprehended appeal. Deep within us there stirs a vague love of its tender seclusion. One hardly dare hazard a speculation as to the origin of this feeling - whether, for example, it springs from some primitive hereditary instinct, fruit of an arboreal existence in past ages. Sufficient that it exists, and that it is a real factor in the projects of nearly all garden-lovers.
In a garden that is judiciously furnished with shrubs and trees there will be many moods. Light and shade will have meanings there that do not exist in the one-level garden. The music of the winds will have a greater range of notes. There will be play of sunlight and shadow on grass. Dew will fall more lavishly. There will be a softer touch in the air.
The garden-maker realises a new power. He can influence the effects of dawn and sunset, wind and climate. Not only can he change the ground which he delves, but also the round of Nature which plays over it.
Should there not be more garden-making in which seclusion and mystery lurk behind beauty? In the home confines flowers must, of course, predominate; but there might often be a hinterland, not distant, and yet remote, where a fresh and not less beautiful spirit could reign. Those who love flowers well can never really grow weary of them, but there are times when the sweet coolness of secluded spaces presents an overpowering appeal. The wander-love is something more intimate, more searching and conversely less ebullient than the flower-passion, but it is every whit as real.
When the garden-maker turns to shrubs and trees for a part of the material with which to furnish his domain, he might do well to consider whether he cannot use them for other purposes than display - whether, indeed, he cannot call into being that sense of restful solitude, of benign secrecy, which have so soothing an influence on mind and body. To achieve this purpose is to gain one of the most profound gifts which a garden can bestow. With no other class of plants is it possible. With them it can be accomplished.
It is more particularly when woodland exists on the estate that the end in view can be reached. For the woodland can be taken as the ultimate expression, and everything else can lead up to it. There can be a gradual linking together of home and trees. The more formal gardening of the house-confines can be gradually, almost imperceptibly, softened and attenuated as it approaches the trees. And if no woodland exists, some rough planting can be done, if only the formation of a shaw, thicket or roundel, which will stand for forest.
It is in the belief that gardening conveys more to many minds than the provision of blocks of colour round a house, that thus early in our consideration of shrubs and trees the suggestion is thrown out that a modulated blend of planting, systematic although not stiff near the dwelling, informal, even scattered, beyond its confines, be considered. To take an illustration from the paths. Near the house they must be neat and ordered to the point of formality; they will probably be of gravel. There are good, sound, practical reasons for these things, which need not be discussed at the moment. Beyond the lawn, hard paths may end, and grass walks begin. They will be dressed, if only with the scythe. Nearer the woodland, where shade operates more strongly, moss will assert itself. There may, too, be a fall of pine needles, which has its influence on the turf. In peaty districts there may be a carpet of heath. Note the gradual dropping away from cultivation: first the rolled, swept gravel; next the mown turf; then the carpet of moss, or pine needles, or heath. Each will be right in its place.
The planting may follow some such course. It may not be stiff and formal near the house, but it will be systematic and ordered. On the outskirts of the lawns it will be freer - a little disjointed as it were. Farther still it will be semi-wild.
This is a conception of gardening which makes for the linking of the home with Nature. It does not call for costly schemes or expensive plants. It asks for nothing more than a note of gradation. In future chapters we shall see what material there is for giving effect to the theory, and the means by which it can be employed.