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Features And Furnishings. Part 3
There is also the pictorial effect to be considered, for a garden is made partly to be looked at. Now a campfire against a dark background of trees, in the dusk of the evening, with its inviting flicker of flame and its up-curling thread of smoke, makes about as fetching a picture as the garden artist can ever hope to compose. The quiet evening after-supper hour is often the very best one of the day in the garden. It is the hour when the family can be together and when intimate friends can drop in for a word of gossip.
The technical methods to be observed by the landscape architect in installing the garden camp-fires need not be wholly overlooked. It is to be observed first that, as this motive comes from the pioneer life or from the vacation experiences in the wild woods, it harmonizes best with the wilder aspects of landscape gardening. The campfire should be relatively remote from the house, in the most informal part of the grounds, and should have, if at all possible, its background of tall, dark trees.
It is good art, furthermore, to associate the campfire with water, either the level pond or the running brook. The typical camp-site must be beside a stream or lake; and thus the associations aroused by the one are intensified by the other. And, moreover, the pictorial effect of the flame reflected in the still water is well worth planning for.
It should be understood that a garden campfire is not a bonfire. Indeed a blaze the size of a teacup is frequently all that is desired. All the furniture necessary in providing for this is a bare bit of earth six feet in diameter, though a few rough stones laid into a loose pavement, with two central stones on which to place the fuel, make a convenient arrangement. A simple flagging of cement may be laid, but this verges rapidly away from the rustic informality appropriate to the scene.
Some comfortable seats ought to be provided in connection with every campfire. These should be as simple and plain as possible, harmonizing with their surroundings.
Statuary in bronze, marble or plaster, has been used many times in naturalistic gardens in Europe and America. It must be allowed that in a few cases these experiments have been successful. They have proved that it is possible to find plastic figures or groups which will fit artistically into a naturalistic or semi-naturalistic environment. More than that could hardly be claimed; and it would have to be understood that sculpture of all sorts nearly always comports better with the formal garden.
Aside from these special features of interest every garden, even the wildest, needs some of the furniture of civilization. The human man still demands his creature comforts.
Whoever has gone house hunting, and, piloted about by the dapper agent, has wandered from one empty tenement to another, has acquired in an intense form the feeling which goes also with the unfurnished garden. The rooms are bare, blank, chill and cheerless. That place which, with a few chairs and tables, a picture and a ribbon, was a bright and habitable home, is now more dreary than a cemetery; and the dapper house agent reminds one painfully of the cheerful businesslike undertaker. The difference between a living home and a dead empty house of course lies in the human persons who daily inhabit the former. Yes, to be sure; but it seems to be in the furniture. The illusion is so powerful that no one can escape it. Even a dog feels it; and the dullest mind is sure to find that the house deserted by human beings is haunted by horrible ghosts. So strongly does the mind respond to this condition of desolation.
All this argument carries over directly to the garden. For, though many people do not feel it nor make it true, the garden is just as much a part of the home as the library or billiard room. And the very reason why some folks do not find it so is that the garden, like the tenantless house, lies open, bleak and unfurnished, to the cold wind or the burning sun. This condition is commoner in American gardens than in those of Europe. In our land the garden seems to be considered solely a field of horticultural experiments,—a place to grow trees or shrubs or pretty flowers,—a spot to be looked at occasionally and admired rather than a place to be lived in constantly and enjoyed.
To tell the whole truth, of course, it would be* necessary to say that there are a few gardens in America which are over-furnished. For it is just as possible to overdo this work of gardening as to underdo it; and since the former is much the commoner fault in American house furnishing we might possibly expect to see the same defect creeping into gardens. The overloaded gardens in this country are mostly, on the contrary, the distinctively un-American gardens. Usually they are filled with European or Asiatic junk and are called Italian gardens or Japanese gardens. But these cases are exceptional, and may be passed over with this brief reference.
The opposite mistake of leaving the garden bare of furniture is the common one with us. It is well nigh the rule, especially in our gardens made after the natural style. There are thousands of gardens, otherwise pretty well made, which haven't in them a single bench or chair or table or shelter, nor even a wheelbarrow to sit down upon should one desire to smoke or talk or watch a humming bird at the columbines. These gardens are as absolutely devoid of those conveniences which would make them habitable as the house which has only the paper on the walls. The notable lack of use suffered by our American gardens goes on all fours with this lack of usable furniture. In fact nothing would go so far toward popularizing our gardens, bringing them into steady use and making them a vital organic part of the home, as to fit them with suitable furniture.
First of all there should be shelter. Instead of the pergola and the classical "temple" or "gazebo" or "music house," there may be the "arbor," the "summer house," the "log cabin," the boat house or the fishing lodge. There are just as many ideas— just as many motives,—amongst which we may choose in naturalistic gardening as in formal work, only we haven't so fully developed them.
Such shelters, protecting against rain or sun or wind, enable tender persons to remain in the garden many hours when without them they would be driven in to the library or the bridge table. The typical American garden porch is a move in the right direction, but it ought not to be the last move.
Wherever there are shelters there will nearly always be places to sit, but there ought to be ample temptation to linger and rest at other points in the park. Especially at those stations where good views are to be enjoyed, should there be ample provision of seats. In the family garden there ought to be hospitable allowance of both seats and tables, such that meals may be taken, reading made easy, card games enjoyed, and so that those who want merely to sit and visit may find full opportunity.
Amidst naturalistic surroundings the landscape gardener, of course, will not install the marble tables and seats of the big formal garden, but he will be able to provide substantial wooden benches and furniture of more or less rustic design. The extreme rustic fad of the 'fifties—twisted and contorted tree stems grotesquely woven into settees or chairs—should be forgotten; but the plain rough-sawed or hewn planks of more modern times, stained or weathered, are both appropriate in the picture and comfortable in the using.
Such seats and tables, it has been suggested, will be placed where there are good views. A more exact, and at the same time a more comprehensive, rule would be to place them at the nodes in the design. Thus these help materially to emphasize the artistic paragraphs in which the design develops.
Certain outdoor games may be provided for in the garden or the park, and such provisions help further to add interest to the place and to popularize the landscape gardening in a good and proper sense. Of these golf is the one game which practically demands a background highly developed in the natural style. Golf in a formal garden would be less fitting than a dress suit on a fishing trip. But tennis, baseball, croquet, bowling, and other games can be nicely managed in naturalistic grounds of suitable size.
In all northern climates special provision may very well be made for skating. This and other ice sports belong in the informal landscape almost as distinctively as does the game of golf. And, similarly, in larger grounds where water is present, arrangements can sometimes be secured for the corresponding summer sports,—such as bathing, boating and fishing.
Yes, there are hundreds of things which the good designer can do to put life, interest and variety into his naturalistic compositions. The well-trained landscape gardener will have studied these items of his art and will know how to develop them with taste and discretion.