This section is from the book "What England Can Teach Us About Gardening", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: What England Can Teach Us About Gardening.
The fine art of decorating good architecture and transmuting the bad, marrying vines to trees, and throwing a veil or mist over evergreen shrubs like rhododendrons.
IAM sometimes tempted to believe that climbers are the most valuable of all ornamental plants, because they are the only ones that have the power of transforming ugliness into beauty. And America has a thousand times as much ugliness to conceal as England. English houses are built of brick or stone; we still live in the age of wood. England has evolved a style of her own; we have not, and everywhere we see anarchy in domestic architecture. As you approach an English village the whole collection of houses seems beautiful and you are impressed by its permanence, its national character, and the ever-present sense of proportion. The morning I returned to America I saw my native land with new eyes — a riotous array of wildly shaped and wildly coloured wooden buildings — pretentious and perishable. Our country is beautiful enough, but the works of man do not harmonize with it as they do in England. Until we build permanently and in a style of our own, our greatest need will be something to hide the ugliness of most of our buildings.
The worst of it is that you cannot cover a wooden dwelling without seeming to smother it. Either it seems to pant for air or else it tends to look damp and unhealthy. On the other hand, a brick cottage can be covered with ivy without making it look close and stuffy. In winter it will actually be warmer and cosier; in summer it will be cool and country-like. Therefore I shall hail the day when the wooden age passes. For when we have to build with costlier materials, every detail will be more carefully considered, the old instinctive sense of proportion will return to the people and we shall evolve a national style.
This is not mere "art talk." I do not ask you to accept these statements on authority. Take any street car in any city and you will see that most people simply choose the climbers they happen to like without any special thought of fitness. Yet the most artistic people that ever lived took as their mottoes "fitness" and "nothing too much." Clearly then, the first step is not to order "best sellers" from a catalogue but study the house we live in. We must decide how much is good architecture and how much is bad; how to enhance the former and transmute the latter.
garden, flowers, plants, England, effects, foliage, gardening