But in the Picturesque landscape garden there is visible a piquancy of effect, certain bold and striking growths and combinations, which we feel at once, if we know them to be the result of art, to be the production of a peculiar species of attention — not merely good, or even refined ornamental gardening. In short, no one can be a picturesque improver (if he has to begin with young plantations) who is not himself something of an artist — who has not studied nature with an artistical eye — and who is not capable of imitating, eliciting, or heightening, in his plantations or other portions of his residence, the picturesque in its many variations. And we may add here, that efficient and charming as is the assistance which all ornamental planters will derive from the study of the best landscape engravings and pictures of distinguished artists, they are indispensably necessary to the Picturesque improver. In these he will often find embodied the choicest and most captivating studies from picturesque nature; and will see at a glance the effect of certain combinations of trees, which he might otherwise puzzle himself a dozen years to know how to produce.
After all, as the Picturesque improver here will most generally be found to be one who chooses a comparatively wild and wooded place, we may safely say that, if he has the true feeling for his work, he will always find it vastly easier than those who strive after the Beautiful; as the majority of the latter may be said to begin nearly anew — choosing places not for wildness and intricacy of wood, but for openness and the smiling, sunny undulating plain, where they must of course to a good extent plant anew.
After becoming well acquainted with grouping, we should bring ourselves to regard those principles which govern our improvements as a whole. We therefore must call the attention of the improver to the two following principles, which are to be constantly in view: the production of a whole, and the proper connection of the parts.
Any person who will take the trouble to reflect for a moment on the great diversity of surface, change of position, aspects, views, etc., in different country residences, will at once perceive how difficult, or, indeed, how impossible it is, to lay down any fixed or exact rules for arranging plantations in the modern style. What would be precisely adapted to a hilly rolling park, would often be found entirely unfit for adoption in a smooth, level surface, and the contrary. Indeed, the chief beauty of the modern style is the variety produced by following a few leading principles and applying them to different and varied localities; unlike the geometric style, which proceeded to level, and arrange, and erect its avenues and squares, alike in every situation, with all the precision and certainty of mathematical demonstration.
In all grounds to be laid out, however, which are of a lawn or park-like extent, and call for the exercise of judgment and taste, the mansion or dwelling-house, being itself the chief or leading object in the scene, should form, as it were, the central point, to which it should be the object of the planter to give importance. In order to do this effectually, the large masses or groups of wood should cluster round, or form the background to the main edifice; and where the offices or out-buildings approach the same neighborhood, they also should be embraced. We do not mean by this to convey the idea, that a thick wood should be planted around and in the close neighborhood of the mansion or villa, so as to impede the free circulation of air; but its appearance and advantages may be easily produced by comparatively loose plantation of groups well connected by intermediate trees, so as to give all the effect of a large mass. The front, and at least that side nearest the approach road, will be left open, or nearly so; while the plantations in the background will give dignity and importance to the house, and at the same time effectually screen the approach to the farm buildings, and other objects which require to be kept out of view; and here both for the purposes of shelter and richness of effect, a good proportion of evergreens should be introduced.
From this principal mass, the plantations must break off in groups of greater or less size, corresponding to the extent covered by it; if large, they will diverge into masses of considerable magnitude, if of moderate size, in groups made up of a number of trees. In the lawn front of the house, appropriate places will be found for a number of the most elegant single trees, or small groups of trees, remarkable for the beauty of their forms, foliage, or blossoms. Care must be taken, however, in disposing these, as well as many of the groups, that they are not placed so as, at some future time, to interrupt or disturb the finest points of prospect.
In more distant parts of the plantations will also appear masses of considerable extent, perhaps upon the boundary line, perhaps in particular situations on the sides, or in the interior of the whole; and the various groups which are distributed between should be so managed as, though in most cases distinct, yet to appear to be the connecting links which unite these distant shadows in the composition, with the larger masses near the house. Sometimes several small groups will be almost joined together; at others the effect may be kept up by a small group, aided by a few neighboring single trees. This, for a park-like place. Where the place is small, a pleasure-ground character is all that can be obtained. But by employing chiefly shrubs, and only a few trees, very similar and highly beautiful effects may be attained.
The grand object in all this should be to open to the eye, from the windows or front of the house, a wide surface, partially broken up and divided by groups and masses of trees into a number of pleasing lawns or openings, differing in size and appearance, and producing a charming variety in the scene, either when seen from a given point or when examined in detail. It must not be forgotten that, as a general rule, the grass or surface of the lawn answers as the principal light, and the woods or plantations as the shadows, in the same manner in nature as in painting; and that these should be so managed as to lead the eye to the mansion as the most important object when seen from without, or correspond to it in grandeur and magnitude, when looked upon from within the house. If the surface is too much crowded with groups of foliage, breadth of light will be found wanting; if left too bare, there will be felt, on the other hand, an absence of the noble effect of deep and broad shadows.