After having disposed of the useful and indispensable portions of the place, by placing them in the spots at once best fitted for them at least interfering with the convenience and beauty of the remaining portions, let us now turn to what may properly be called the ornamental portion of the place.
This may be confined to a mere bit of lawn, extending a few feet in front of the parlor windows, or it may cover a number of acres, according to the extent of the place and the taste and means of the owner.
Be that as it may, the groundwork of this part should, in our judgment, always be lawn. There is in the country no object which at all seasons and times gives the constant satisfaction of the green turf of a nicely kept lawn. If your place is large, so much larger and broader is the good effect of the lawn, as it stretches away over gentle undulations, alternately smiling and looking serious, in the play of sunshine and shade that rests upon it. If it is small — a mere bit of green turf before your door — then it forms the best and most becoming setting to the small beds and masses of ever-blooming roses, verbenas, and gay annuals with which you embroider it like a carpet.
Lawn there must be, to give any refreshment to the spirit of man in our country places; for nothing is so intolerable to The eye as great flower-gardens of parched earth, lying half baked in the meridian sun of an American summer. And though no nation under the sun may have such lawns as the British, because Britain lies in the lap of the sea, with a climate always more or less humid, yet green and pleasant lawns most persons may have in the northern states, who will make the soil deep and keep the grass well mown.
To mow a large surface of lawn — that is to say, many acres — is a thing attempted in but few places in America, from the high price of labor. But a happy expedient comes in to our aid to save labor and trouble and produce all the good effect of a well-mown lawn. We mean sheep and wire fences. Our neighbor and correspondent, Mr. Sargent, of Wodenethe, on the Hudson, who passed a couple of years abroad curiously gleaning all clever foreign notions that were really worth naturalizing at home, has already told our readers how wire fences may be constructed round lawns or portions of the pleasure grounds so that only a strip round the house need be mown while the extent of the lawn is kept short by sheep. This fence, which costs less than any tolerable looking fence of other materials, is abundantly strong to turn both sheep and cattle and is invisible at the distance of 40 or 50 rods. Mr. Sargent is not a theorist, but has actually inclosed his own lawn of several acres in this way, and those who have examined the plan are struck with the usefulness and economy of the thing in all ornamental country places of considerable extent.
We have said nothing as yet of the most important feature of all country places — trees. A country place without trees is like a caliph without his beard, in other words, it is not a country place. We shall assume, therefore, that all proprietors who do not already possess this indispensable feature will set about planting with more ardor than Walter Scott ever did. It is the one thing needful for them; and deep trenching, plentiful manuring, and sufficient mulching are the powerful auxiliaries to help them forward in the good work.
It is, of course, impossible for us to tell our readers how to arrange trees tastefully and well under all circumstances in this short chapter. We can offer them, however, two or three hints as to arrangement which they may perhaps profit by.
The first principle in ornamental planting is to study the character of the place to be improved and to plant in accordance with it. If your place has breadth and simplicity, and fine open views, plant in groups, and rather sparingly, so as to heighten and adorn the landscape, not shut out and obstruct the beauty of prospect which nature has placed before your eyes. Scattered groups, with continuous reaches or vistas between, produce the best effect in such situations. In other and more remote parts of the place greater density of foliage may serve as a contrast.
In residences where there is little or no distant view the contrary plan must be pursued. Intricacy and variety must be created by planting. Walks must be led in various directions and concealed from each other by thickets and masses of shrubs and trees and occasionally rich masses of foliage not forgetting to heighten all, however, by an occasional contrast of broad, unbroken surface of lawn.
In all country places, and especially in small ones, a great object to be kept in view in planting is to produce as perfect seclusion and privacy within the grounds as possible. We do not entirety feel that to be our own which is indiscriminately enjoyed by each passer-by and every man's individuality and home-feeling is invaded by the presence of unbidden guests. Therefore, while you preserve the beauty of the view, shut out, by boundary belts and thickets, all eyes but those that are fairly within your own grounds. This will enable you to feel at home all over your place and to indulge your individual taste in walking, riding, reciting your next speech or sermon, or wearing any peculiarly rustic costume, without being suspected of being a "queer fellow" by any of your neighbors; while it will add to the general beauty and interest of the country at large, — since, in passing a fine place, we always imagine it finer than it is, if a boundary plantation, by concealing it, forces us to depend wholly on the imagination.