Nature, assuming a more lovely face, Borrowing a beauty from the works of grace.
-Each odorous bushy shrub.
Fenced up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower;
Iris all hues, Roses and Jessamine.
Rear'd high their flourished heads between,
And wrought Mosaic.
IN our finest places, or those country seats where much of the polish of pleasure ground or park scenery is kept up, one of the most striking defects is the want of union between the house and the grounds. We are well aware that from the comparative rarity of anything like a highly kept place in this country, the want of this, which is indeed like the last finish to the residence, is scarcely felt at all. But this only proves the infant state of Landscape Gardening here, and the little attention that has been paid to the highest details of the art.
If our readers will imagine, with us, a pretty villa, conveniently arranged and well constructed, in short, complete in itself as regards its architecture, and at the same time, properly placed in a smooth well kept lawn, studded with groups and masses of fine trees, they will have an example often to be met with, of a place, in the graceful school of design, about which, however, there is felt to be a certain incongruity between the house, a highly artificial object, and the surrounding grounds, where the prevailing expression in the latter is that of beautiful nature.
Let us suppose, for further illustration, the same house and grounds with a few additions. The house now rising directly out of the green turf which encompasses it, we will surround by a raised platform or terrace, wide enough for a dry, firm walk, at all seasons; on the top of the wall or border of this terrace, we will form a handsome parapet, or balustrade, some two or three feet high, the details of which shall be in good keeping with the house, whether Grecian or Gothic. On the coping of this parapet, if the house is in the classical style, we will find suitable places, at proper intervals, for some handsome urns, vases, etc. On the drawing-room side of the house, that is, the side towards which the best room or rooms look, we will place the flower-garden, into which we descend from the terrace by a few steps. This flower-garden may be simply what its name denotes, a place exclusively devoted to the cultivation of flowers, or (if the house is not in a very plain style, admitting of little enrichment) it may be an architectural flower-garden. In the latter case, intermingled with the flowers, are to be seen vases, fountains, and sometimes even statues; the effect of the fine colors and deep foliage of the former, heightened by contrast with the sculptured forms of the latter.
If our readers will now step back a few rods with us and take a second view of our villa residence, with its supposed harmonizing accessories, we think they can hardly fail to be impressed at once with the great improvement of the whole. The eye now, instead of witnessing the sudden termination of the architecture at the base of the house, where the lawn commences as suddenly, will be at once struck with the increased variety and richness imparted to the whole scene, by the addition of the architectural and garden decorations. The mind is led gradually down from the house, with its projecting porch or piazzas, to the surrounding terrace crowned with its beautiful vases, and from thence to the architectural flower-garden, interspersed with similar ornaments. The various play of light afforded by these sculptured forms on the terrace; the projections and recesses of the parapet, with here and there some climbing plants luxuriantly enwreathing it, throwing out the mural objects in stronger relief, and connecting them pleasantly with the verdure of the turf beneath; the still further rambling off of vases, etc., into the brilliant flower-garden, which, through these ornaments, maintains an avowed connection with the architecture of the house; all this, we think it cannot be denied, forms a rich setting to the architecture, and unites agreeably the forms of surrounding nature with the more regular and uniform outlines of the building.
The effect will not be less pleasing if viewed from another point of view, viz., the terrace, or from the apartments of the house itself. From either of these points, the various objects enumerated, will form a rich foreground to the pleasure-grounds or park — a matter which painters well know how to estimate, as a landscape is incomplete and unsatisfactory to them, however beautiful the middle or distant points, unless there are some strongly marked objects in the foreground. In fine, the intervention of these elegant accompaniments to our houses prevents us, as Mr. Hope has observed, "from launching at once from the threshold of the symmetric mansion, in the most abrupt manner, into a scene wholly composed of the most unsym-metric and desultory forms of mere nature, which are totally out of character with the mansion, whatever may be its style of architecture and furnishing." *
The highly decorated terrace, as we have here supposed it, would, it is evident, be in unison with villas of a somewhat superior style; or, in other words, the amount of enrichment bestowed upon exterior decoration near the house, should correspond to the style of art evinced in the exterior of the mansion itself. An humble cottage with sculptured vases on its terrace and parapet, would be in bad taste; but any Grecian, Roman, or Italian villa, where a moderate degree of exterior ornament is visible, or a Gothic villa of the better class, will allow the additional enrichment of the architectural terrace and its ornaments. Indeed the terrace itself, in so far as it denotes a raised dry platform around the house, is a suitable and appropriate appendage to every dwelling, of whatever class.
* Essay on Ornamental Gardening, by Thomas Hope.
The width of a terrace around a house may vary from five to twenty feet, or more, in proportion as the building is of greater or less importance. The surrounding wall, which supports its level, may also vary from one to eight feet. The terrace, in the better class of English residences, is paved with smooth flag stones, or in place of this, a surface of firm well-rolled gravel is substituted. In residences where a parapet or balustrade would be thought too expensive, a square stone or plinth is placed at the angles or four corners of the terrace, which serves as the pedestal for a vase or urn. When a more elegant and finished appearance is desirable, the parapet formed of open work of stone, or wood painted in imitation of stone, rises above the level of the terrace two or three feet with a suitably bold coping. On this vases may be placed, not only at the corners, but at regular intervals of ten, twenty, or more feet. We have alluded to the good effect of climbers, here and there planted, and suffered to intermingle their rich foliage with the open work of the parapet and its crowning ornaments. In the climate of Philadelphia, the Giant Ivy, with its thick sculpturesque looking masses of foliage, would be admirably suited to this purpose. Or the Virginia creeper (the ivy of America) may take its place in any other portion of the Union. To these we may add, the Chinese twining honeysuckle and the Sweet-scented Clematis, both deliciously fragrant in their blossoms, with many other fine climbers which will readily recur to the amateur.