Plantations In The Ancient Style

In the arrangement and culture of trees and plants in the ancient style of Landscape Gardening, we discover the evidences of the formal taste, — abounding with every possible variety of quaint conceits, and rife with whimsical expedients, so much in fashion during the days of Henry and Elizabeth, and until the eighteenth century in England, and which is still the reigning mode in Holland, and parts of France. In these gardens, nature was tamed and subdued, or as some critics will have it, tortured into every shape which the ingenuity of the gardener could suggest; and such kinds of vegetation as bore the shears most patiently, and when carefully trimmed, assumed gradually the appearance of verdant statues, pyramids, crowing cocks, and rampant lions, were the especial favorites of the gardeners of the old school.*

* These whimsies do not belong to the formal style and are no more appropriate to it than to the natural style. The mistake of imputing them to the formal style, however, has been common, especially in earlier years. — F. A. W.

It has been remarked, that the geometric style would always be preferred in a new country, or in any country where the amount of land under cultivation is much less than that covered with natural woods and forests; as the inhabitants being surrounded by scenery abounding with natural beauty, would always incline to lay out their gardens and pleasure-grounds in regular forms, because the distinct exhibition of art would give more pleasure by contrast, than the elegant imitation of beautiful nature. That this is true as regards the mass of uncultivated minds, we do not deny. Hut at the same time we affirm that it evinces a meagre taste, and a lower state of the art, or a lower perception of beauty in the individual who employs the geometrical style in such cases. A person, whose place is surrounded by inimitably grand or sublime scenery, would undoubtedly fail to excite our admiration, by attempting a fac-simile imitation of such scenery on the small scale of a park or garden; but he is not, therefore, obliged to resort to right-lined plantations and regular grass plots, to produce something which shall be at once sufficiently different to attract notice, and so beautiful as to command admiration. All that it would be requisite for him to do in such a case, would be to employ rare and foreign ornamental trees, as for example, the horse-chestnut and the linden, in situations where the maple and the sycamore are the principal trees, elegant flowering shrubs and beautiful creepers, instead of sumacs and hazels, — and to have his place kept in high and polished order, instead of the tangled wildness of general nature.

On the contrary, were a person to desire a residence newly laid out and planted, in a district where all around is in a high state of polished cultivation, as in the suburbs of a city, a species of pleasure would result from the imitation of scenery of a more spirited, natural character, as the picturesque, in his grounds. His plantations are made in irregular groups, composed chiefly of picturesque trees, as the larch, etc. — his walks would lead through varied scenes, sometimes bordered with groups of rocks overrun with flowering creepers and vines; sometimes with thickets or little copses of shrubs and flowering plants; sometimes through wild and comparatively neglected portions; the whole interspersed with open glades of turf.

In the majority of instances in the United Stales, the modern style of Landscape Gardening, wherever it is appreciated, will, in practice, consist in arranging a demesne of from five to some hundred acres, — or rather that portion of it, say one half, one third, etc., devoted to lawn and pleasure-ground, pasture, etc.—so as to exhibit groups of forest and ornamental trees and shrubs, surrounding the dwelling of the proprietor, and extending for a greater or less distance, especially towards the place of entrance from the public highway. Near the house, good taste will dictate the assemblage of groups and masses of the rarer or more beautiful trees and shrubs; commoner native forest trees occupying the more distant portions of the grounds.*

Plantations In The Modern Stale

In the modern style of Landscape Gardening, if is our aim, in plantations, to produce not only what is called natural beauty, but even higher and more striking beauty of expression, and of individual forms, than we see in nature; to create variety and intricacy in the grounds of a residence by various modes of arrangement; to give a highly elegant or polished air to places by introducing rare and foreign species; and to conceal all defects of surface, disagreeable views, unsightly buildings, or other offensive objects.

* Although we love planting, and avow that there are few greater pleasures than to see a darling tree, of one's own placing, every year stretching wider its feathery head of foliage, and covering with a darker shadow the soil turf beneath it, still, we will not let the ardent and inexperienced hunter alter a location for a country residence, pass without a word of advice. This is, always to make considerable sacrifice to get a place with some existing wood, or a few ready grown trees upon it; especially near the site for the house. It is better to yield a little in the extent of prospect, or in the direct proximity to a certain locality, than to pilch your tent in a plain, — desert-like in its bareness — on which your leafy sensibilities must suffer for half a dozen years at least, before you can hope for any solace. It is doubtful whether there is not almost as much interest in studying from one's window the curious ramifications, the variety of form, and the entire harmony, to he found in a line old tree, as in gazing from a site where we have no interruption to a panorama of the whole horizon; and we have generally found that no planters have so little courage and faith, as those who have commenced without the smallest group of large trees, as a nucleus for their plantations. — A. J. D.