ONE does not need to be a partisan advocate of the natural style of landscape gardening to believe that it has a wide present usefulness and a glorious future. Let us, therefore, avoiding all invidious comparison, try to estimate the special field of the naturalistic style.
First of all let us remember that to the professional landscape gardeners, in a rather special sense, is given the custody of the native landscape. This immeasurably precious heritage ought to be preserved and passed on to succeeding generations in all its pristine loveliness. It may be modified here and there, forests may be cut, prairies plowed and cities built; but the beauty and majesty of the landscape in its entirety need not be impaired. And adequate types of all pure landscapes will everywhere be preserved.
Elsewhere we have said that the work of the landscape amateur and of the professional practitioner is (1) to conserve the native landscape, (2) to restore the landscape where it has been needlessly despoiled, (3) to improve and clarify the existing examples of native landscape, (4) to make the landscape physically accessible to all men, women and children, (5) to make it intellectually intelligible, and (6) to give spiritual interpretation to the landscape. This is a great and glorious charge. As we have said, it falls primarily upon the professional landscape gardeners; for if they do not understand and love the landscape, who shall? And if they do not labor to conserve and restore it, who will lift a hand? If they cannot improve and clarify it, who can? If they cannot make it physically and intellectually accessible, who will show the way? And if they cannot give it a spiritual interpretation then the whole effort fails at last.
Now all these great duties devolve on all landscape gardeners, but most especially on those who know and love the naturalistic form of landscape design. These duties will fall on these men sometimes as matters of public responsibility. There will be many cases in which, as citizens, they must defend the landscape without hope of remuneration. There will be many cases, however, in which they will find congenial and profitable employment in these tasks.
For one thing there will always be suburban and country estates and country clubs where private owners will require designs conceived and carried out in the natural style. In many cases these private commissions will involve the preservation of natural forests, lakes, islands and streams and their development to the best of their native character. This is the field in which all landscape gardening began, the natural style with the rest,—and it is a field which will never be exhausted as long as men make new homes.
In the second place it is an error to suppose that the natural style, even in its extreme forms, is outlawed in park design. Of course, it is no longer accepted without question as the only style for park design. We are now making our city parks into genuine recreation grounds. Recreation facilities have come to be altogether more important than landscape pictures, no matter how pretty the pictures may be. At the same time, however, all enterprising cities are reaching out to equip themselves with rural parks—with large sections of wild land at relatively long distances from the crowded city section,—and these outer parks are to be real scenery reservations. They will still be devoted to recreation, but to the larger, quieter forms, such-as camping, boating, and fishing. In these parks the work of the landscape designer must lie in the direction of the most advanced natural style.
WHERE WOODS AND MEADOW MEET.
Photograph by the Author.
Beyond these outer city parks will lie the country parks. There will be county and state reserves. Such reserves are now just being made by the more enterprising counties and commonwealths. State park systems will very soon emerge; and as there is a logical plljee for them in civilization, we may expect for them a large future. These state parks will be concerned chiefly with the conservation of large tracts of wild land, that is of native landscape; and the problem will be not only to conserve, but to improve these tracts and to make them physically and spiritually accessible. The only possible treatment of such problems in the hands of the landscape gardener lies in the application of the natural style of design and development.
Beyond the state parks he the national parks. These already are a public asset of incalculable value. We have already taken over several millions of acres in national parks, including superlative types of some of our best American scenery,—and in that category I include, as a matter of course, the Canadian scenery and the Canadian national parks. A good many more of these national parks remain to be established. This movement is destined to go forward with vigor for another fifty years. In the meantime we shall discover that other great areas, held primarily as national forests, can serve most admirably all the purposes of parks without in the least impairing their usefulness as forests. Their park qualities will be developed accordingly.
We have, therefore, in hand several millions of acres of national park lands (including the national forests and the national monuments), with other millions fairly in sight, and we are just organizing a national park service to develop these unimagined resources in the public interest. This is an enterprise worth more to the country than all the armies ever organized and all the navies ever built. And this magnificent enterprise will soon be in the hands of the landscape gardeners; for who can deal with it except the men best trained in the love of the landscape and in the technical methods by which alone it can be conserved, restored, improved, clarified, made available and spiritually effective in the hearts of men and women?
Yes, indeed, the natural style of landscape gardening has before it the greatest opportunities ever offered to any art at any time in the world's history. It is high time that this old, yet ever new, natural style received a more thoroughgoing study at the hands of all thoughtful persons, but especially by those who call themselves professional landscape architects.