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Those who have thus studied are few, and still fewer are those who, with adequate study, have united a true love and an appreciation of the possibilities which nature has laid open before them in infinite variation.
Without adulation we can speak of the dead. Among the very few landscape artists in this country, the late A. J. Downing stood pre-eminent. Although denied the opportunity in the early part of his career to study the best examples of landscape art in Europe by personal inspection, he supplied its place by careful study of written descriptions. To natural taste he united knowledge of trees and plants— a knowledge very rare among landscape gardeners of the present day. He held, moreover, a graphic pen, and his magazine articles were spirited and lively, with a breezy freshness which always carried the reader with him. During his life— more than thirty years ago—very little was really known in this country of landscape art. A desire to know was, however, springing up, and thus a niche was formed, into which Mr. Downing stepped, and filled it as he grew. He continued to grow, because he did that which few landscape gardeners have done—he visited frequently the nurseries and private places in which fine or rare specimens were to be found, and studying them carefully, was prepared to judge correctly of their capabilities. He soon saw the necessity for some direct mode of literary communication with the people, and established the Horticulturist. His racy and enthusiastic editorials at once excited attention; his readers were kept en rapport with the progress of horticulture in Europe, and those whose minds had been turned in that direction received a new impulse and a new impression of the possibilities of horticulture.
We need such writers still. Although among wealthy men there is a decadence of horticultural taste, and trees or plants fade into insignificance beside yachts or horses, yet among the masses of men of moderate means there is an increasing desire for the possession of plants. Very few of these know of the existence of horticultural magazines, and earnest effort of enterprising publishers possessed of large resources is required to place the subject before them. With all the literature of Europe from which to draw, and with the pens of able men in
this country to aid the work, a magazine could be made which would be to these masses a guide and inspiration to the achievement of all charming possibilities. The painter gains both knowledge and inspiration by the study of ancient and mediaeval art; in like manner the maker of country homes, whether amateur or artist, can cultivate his taste by learning what was done in former days. There are handed down to us glimpses of the Babylonish and Persian gardens, the glories of which we can imagine, and of which Coleridge had visions when he wrote: “There were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree, And there were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.” The Greeks copied something of these in their intercourse with Persia, but their taste seems to have favored architecture rather than horticulture. Like many American citizens, they had more use for bouquets and garlands than for parks and gardens. The order-loving Romans gathered up much from the luxurious habits of the countries which they conquered, and the remains of old gardens in Rome show even now that geometric lines and topiary work met most fully their sense of beauty. Virgil complained that he could never escape from the hand of man, and that temples, statues, and fountains were always intruding upon nature; the average Roman delighted in nothing so much as in straight lines, trimmed hedges, arched avenues, and shrubs pruned into all sorts of shapes. The Villa Pamphili Doria in Rome is a good existing specimen of this style. This topiary gardening, which was the outgrowth of the Roman civilization, impressed itself continually upon all European horticulture. In Spain it was for a long time a favorite, and it became so ineradicably established in Holland that it is known even now as the Dutch style. The best example of it, on a large scale, is at Versailles, but the finest existing topiary work is at Elvaston Castle, in England, where the golden and other yews, pruned into various forms, present a scene of surprising beauty, of which the sketch (page 522) gives but a faint idea. That which, in sinuous folds, seems like an immense boa-constrictor, is a hollow hedge of English yew, with a walk in the interior lighted by windows at the sides. The same effect can here be produced with hemlock. In this country there is no topiary work equal to the Italian garden of Mr. H. H. Hunnewell. It only wants the color of the golden yew to rival Elvaston. In looking at them both, one is forcibly convinced of the limitless possibilities of horticulture. There came at last a reaction against this artificial system, and the English or natural style gradually came in. This soon became popular on the Continent, was generally known as the jardin anglais, and for many years was the prewailing mode throughout Europe. Upon this the French taste for color has, within twenty-five years, been ingrafted. The Champs Elysées and other places of public resort in Paris have been made brilliant with the highest-colored bedding plants. Overflowing soon into England, a taste for ribbon gardening and parterres glowing with the richest colors became the fashion, and one of the best we saw twenty years ago was the terrace garden of the Earl of Harewood. Within a few years this taste for bright colors in plants has reached America, and the Centennial
grounds showed our people what could be done with masses of coleus, geraniums, arundos, cannas, and other high-colored plants. Yet even these, beautiful as they are in their prime, cause for half the summer a colorless disagreeable blot on the lawn. Planted in June, they rarely cover the ground until August, and for the intervening time the bed in which they are planted is a mass of almost naked earth. Before the middle of October they succumb to the frost, and then for eight months more they do nothing to hide the bare earth in which they are planted. Eight months of ugliness is too high a price to pay for two months of beauty. Yet these bedding plants have become the fashion, and fashion is uncompromising in its demands. The gardeners naturally encourage people to buy them, because they bring a good price and are easily propagated. Thus the continued use of exotic plants for bedding is likely to increase rather than diminish, unless the taste is subjected to rigorous criticism. The only remedy is for men and women of true taste to insist on a better exam
ple upon their own premises and among their friends. They should not inveigh against color, but should persistently demand from their gardeners permanent plants of color, which would be beautiful for a large part or for the whole of the year. Few things are finer than a bed or border of ivy contrasted with a border of the dwarf Euonymus radicans. Then there is a sort of ivy with white and green variegation, and the periwinkle, with its pale blue flowers crowning dark evergreen leaves. The golden yew and the procumbent yew, both evergreens, one with a rich dark foliage, and the other with a lustre of burnished gold, can be planted in masses, and kept down to six or twelve inches. They can also be pruned into globes, ovals, pyramids, columns, or any desired form. The Biota elegantissima, bronze in winter and golden in summer, and the Retinospora aurea, with a golden foliage all the year, can be treated in the same way. Then there is a variegated retinospora—filifera aurea— like an evergreen fountain tipped with gold, which can serve as a centre for a flat bed. The Retinospora obtusa mana makes a low mass of tufted green of great beauty. Thuja vervaimea ma aurea is another mass of gold and green. The ever
green thorn can be kept low for bedding, as can also the glossy rich broad-leaved Mahonia aquifolia. Picea hudsonica makes a blue-tinted mass, and the common hemlock, with its white-tipped variety, can be kept low in a bed with as smooth a surface as on a hedge. The Azalea amoena, with its dark foliage and brilliant pink flowers, and the Daphne cneorum, unsurpassed in the fragrance of its flowers, and both hardy, make most exquisite beds. The Cotoneaster microphylla would also be very effective. Those I have named are evergreens, but there are many deciduous plants which can be used in the same way. The purple-leaved hazel and the purple berberry are almost as dark as a purple beech. The Japan quince can be kept low, and a bed of its crimson flowers would surpass any coleus. The new varieties of clematis—jackmanii and others—with their tints of blue, crimson, and white, would be simply superb. And then come the grand flowers, fawn and orange, of the Bigmonia grandiflora, blooming freely for many weeks. In truth, all the vines can be treated as bedding plants, if the knife be judiciously used. I think that one of the most striking things I have seen was a common honeysuckle grown in a flat bed, the edges neatly trimmed, and the whole surface covered with flowers. I saw another honeysuckle trained to a stake four feet high, and then allowed to fall over, making a mound four feet high and five feet in diameter. Few know the capabilities of climbing plants for great variety of form—for flat beds, for mounds, for columns, for arches, for cornices, for sides of buildings, or for any other form that taste can devise.
of form, but in so disposing those forms as to meet the requirements of the most fastidious taste. Here is shown the superiority of the natural or English conception of landscape gardening, not only over the old topiary or Italian mode, but also over the more modern one of numerous flower beds and ribbon gardening. The English style is based upon a clearly conceived aim to imitate natural land
I have applied my remarks to flat beds, in order to show that permanent hardy plants with leaves and flowers of high color could very properly take the place of the present fashionable masses of coleus, geraniums, etc. I would by no means limit the use of these plants to flat beds. True taste requires variety, and these masses could be made to assume various shapes and heights. Even in the foliage of large trees there is sufficient variety of tint to make a lawn seem like a large picture.
Having thus the color, the perfection of art consists not only in giving variety
scapes, and Repton defines landscape to be “a view capable of being represented in painting. It consists of two, three, or more well-marked distances, each separated from the other by an unseen space, which the imagination delights to fill up with fancied beauties that may not perhaps exist in reality.” Knight expresses the same idea when he says: “More cautiously will taste its stores reveal : Its greatest art is aptly to conceal; To lead with secret guile the prying sight To where component parts may best unite, And form one beauteous well-connected whole To charm the eye and captivate the soul.”
To do this well requires not only engineering qualities, not only the ability to sit down and place upon paper groups that please the eye, but it requires a familiarity with trees and plants which is obtain
ed only by years of contact and study. The planter must know not only the
If variegation is wanted in a beech screen, every third tree can be of the purple variety. The wide-spreading beech-tree—the fagus under which Tityrus reclined—is a tree of rare capabilities. For avenues it is unsurpassed if the trees are planted fifty feet apart. In the spring and early
form of the tree as he plants it, but the form which it will have fifty years afterward. The landscape gardener or planter who attempts to produce the desired effects without this knowledge will have an ephemeral reputation, or, if his work is accepted for want of experience in his employers, he will retard a true connoissance of art and beauty in the circle in which he is known.
Our subject—the possibilities of horticulture—covers a wide field, and there is abundant opportunity in this country to display the resources of American ingenuity and taste. Only a few can here be named.
Not many of our readers know of the admirable screens which can be made with the hornbeam and the European beech trimmed flat and close as a wall.
summer the delicate tints of the young foliage are very beautiful, while in the autumn the matured leaves are fresh and green long after other trees are stripped by the frost. Its dense foliage lies in flakes upon sturdy horizontal branches, so that, looking through it from one side to the other, you can see the sky, while looking up from below or down from above, you can see nothing but foliage. An admiring writer, dwelling upon its magnificence and its beauty, calls it the Hercules and Adonis of the English forests. The head of the celebrated Studley beech in England was 350 feet in diameter, and there are other trees which were existing at the time of the Norman conquest. The American desire for quick results has induced the planting of maples, elms, and other fast-growing trees; but the man who has faith enough to