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Title: Garden Design and Architects' Gardens
Author: Robinson, W. Heath (William Heath), 1872-1944
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  ALPINE FLOWERS for English Gardens. Second Edition.

  THE SUB-TROPICAL GARDEN; or, Beauty of Form in the Flower Garden.
    Second Edition.

  HARDY FLOWERS. Description of upwards of 1300 of the most ornamental
    species, with Directions for their Arrangement, Culture, etc. Fourth
    and Cheaper Edition.

  THE WILD GARDEN; or, Our Graves and Gardens made beautiful by the
    Naturalisation of Hardy Exotic Plants. Illustrated by ALFRED PARSONS.
    Second Edition. John Murray.

  THE ENGLISH FLOWER GARDEN: Style, Position, and Arrangement. Followed
    by a Description of all the best Plants for it--their Culture and
    Arrangement. Second Edition, 1889. John Murray.

  GOD'S ACRE BEAUTIFUL; or, The Cemeteries of the Future. Third Edition.
    With Illustrations. London: John Murray. New York: Scribner &
    Welford. Published in a cheaper form and with additions under the

  CREMATION AND URN-BURIAL. Cassell & Co., Limited.

  THE PARKS AND GARDENS OF PARIS. Considered in Relation to the Wants of
    other Cities, and of Public and Private Gardens. Being notes made in
    Paris Gardens. Third Edition. Illustrated. London: John Murray.


  THE GARDEN. An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Gardening in all its
    branches. Vol. XL.

  GARDENING ILLUSTRATED. For Town and Country. A Weekly Journal for
    Amateurs and Gardeners. Vol. XIII.

  FARM AND HOME. A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Agriculture in all its
    branches. Stock, Dairy, Tillage, Stable, Pasture, Orchard,
    Market-Garden, Poultry, House. Vol. X.

  WOODS AND FORESTS. A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Forestry, Ornamental
    Planting, and Estate Management. Vols. I. and II. 1885.


    Two reviews, illustrated, to show, by
    actual examples from British gardens,
    that clipping and aligning trees to make
    them 'harmonise' with architecture is
    barbarous, needless, and inartistic


    W. Robinson, F.L.S.

    John Murray, Albemarle Street


    Sir Philip Currie, K.C.B.


  That we might see, eyes were given us; and a tongue to tell accurately
  what we had got to see. It is the alpha and omega of all intellect
  that man has. No poetry, hardly even that of Goethe, is equal to the
  true image of reality--had one eyes to see that.--T. CARLYLE, _Letters
  to Varnhagen Von Ense_.

_The one English thing that has touched the heart of the world is the
English garden. Proof of this we have in such noble gardens as the
English park at Munich, the garden of the Emperor of Austria at
Laxenberg, the Petit Trianon at Versailles, the parks formed of recent
years round Paris, and many lovely gardens in Europe and America. The
good sense of English writers and landscape gardeners refused to accept
as right or reasonable the architect's garden, a thing set out as bricks
and stones are, and the very trees of which were mutilated to meet his
views as to "design" or rather to prove his not being able to see the
simplest elements of design in landscape beauty or natural form. And
some way or other they destroyed nearly all signs of it throughout our

_In every country where gardens are made we see the idea of the
English garden gratefully accepted; and though there are as yet no
effective means of teaching the true art of landscape gardening, we see
many good results in Europe and America. No good means have ever been
devised for the teaching of this delightful English art. Here and there
a man of keen sympathy with Nature does good work, but often it is
carried out by men trained for a very different life, as engineers in
the great Paris parks, and in our own country by surveyors and others
whose training often wholly unfits them for the study of the elements of
beautiful landscape. Thus we do not often see good examples of
picturesque garden and park design, while bad work is common.
Everywhere--unhappily, even in England, the home of landscape
gardening--the too frequent presence of stupid work in landscape
gardening offers some excuse for the two reactionary books which have
lately appeared--books not worth notice for their own sake, as they
contribute nothing to our knowledge of the beautiful art of gardening or
garden design. But so many people suppose that artistic matters are mere
questions of windy argument, that I think it well to show by English
gardens and country seats of to-day that the many sweeping statements of
their authors may be disproved by reference to actual things, to be seen
by all who care for them. We live at a time when, through complexity of
thought and speech, artistic questions have got into a maze of
confusion. Even teachers by profession confuse themselves and their
unfortunate pupils with vague and hyper-refined talk about art and
"schools" and "styles," while all the time much worse work is done than
in days when simpler, clearer views were held. To prove this there is
the example of the great Master's work and the eternal laws of nature,
on the study of which all serious art must be for ever based. Beneath
all art there are laws, however subtle, that cannot be ignored without
error and waste; and in garden design there are lessons innumerable both
in wild and cultivated Nature which will guide us well if we seek to
understand them simply._

_These books are made up in great part of quotations from old books on
gardening--many of them written by men who knew books better than
gardens. Where the authors touch the ground of actuality, they soon show
little acquaintance with the subject; and, indeed, they see no design at
all in landscape gardening and admit their ignorance of it. That men
should write on things of which they have thought little is unhappily of
frequent occurrence, but to find them openly avowing their ignorance of
the art they presume to criticise is new._

_A word or two on the state of architecture itself may not be amiss.
From Gower Street to the new Law Courts our architecture does not seem
to be in a much better state than landscape gardening is, according to
the architects to whom we owe the "Formal Garden" and "Garden Craft"! It
is William Morris--whose "design" these authors may respect--who calls
London houses "mean and idiotic rabbit warrens:" so that there is plenty
to do for ambitious young architects to set their own house in artistic

_As regards "formal gardening," the state of some of the best old
houses in England--Longleat, Compton-Wynyates, Brympton, and many
others, where trees in formal lines, clipped or otherwise, are not seen
in connection with the architecture--is proof against the need of the
practice. As regards the best new houses, Clouds, so well built by Mr.
Philip Webb, is not any the worse for its picturesque surroundings,
which do not meet the architect's senseless craving for "order and
balance"; while Batsford, certainly one of the few really good new
houses in England, is not disfigured by the fashions in formality the
authors wish to see revived, and of which they give an absurd example in
a cut of Badminton. There is, in short, ample proof, furnished both by
the beautiful old houses of England and by those new ones that have any
claim to dignity, that the system they seek to revive could only bring
costly ugliness to our beautiful home-landscapes._

                                                               W. R.

  July 1, 1892.



    GARDEN DESIGN                                              1

    NATURAL AND FALSE LINES                                    5

    "UNCULTIVATED NATURE"                                      8

    THE TRUE LANDSCAPE                                        13

    BUILDINGS IN RELATION TO THE GARDEN                       16

    TIME AND GARDENS                                          20

    TRUE USE OF A GARDEN                                      23

    FORMAL GARDENING                                          25

    "NATURE," AND WHAT WE MEAN BY IT                          31

    "ALL OUR PATHS" ARE CROOKED!                              35

    "THE ONLY GARDEN POSSIBLE!"                               40

    "NO DESIGN IN LANDSCAPE"                                  43

    NO GRASS IN LANDSCAPE GARDENING!                          46

    "IMPROVING" BATTERSEA PARK!                               50

    NATURE AND CLIPPED YEWS                                   53

    NO LINE IN NATURE!                                        62

    "VEGETABLE SCULPTURE"                                     66


    RHIANVA                                To face page        2

    GOLDER'S HILL, HAMPSTEAD                       Page        4

    WAKEHURST                              To face page        6

    GILBERT WHITE'S HOUSE AT SELBORNE           "             10

    EXAMPLE OF FORMAL GARDENING                    Page       12

    LONGLEAT                               To face page       16

    OLD PLACE, LINDFIELD                        "             18

    ARUNDEL CASTLE                              "             20

    TAILPIECE                                      Page       22

    WEST DEAN                              To face page       24

    ATHELHAMPTON HALL, DORSET                   "             26

    THE VICARAGE GARDEN, ODIHAM                 "             30


    WESTONBIRT                             To face page       36

    THRUMPTON HALL                              "             40

    TAILPIECE                                      Page       45

    GOODWOOD                               To face page       46

    AVENUE IN PARIS                             "             50

    CLIPPED TREES AT THE LITTLE TRIANON            Page       52

    THE "GRANGE," HARTLEY WINTNEY          To face page       54

    A YEW TREE ON MOUNTAIN, N. ENGLAND          "             56

    BUILDING IN PARIS                           "             58

    BROADLANDS, HANTS                           "             64

    WARREN HOUSE, COOMBE WOOD                   "             66

    DRUMMOND CASTLE                             "             68

    MADRESFIELD                                 "             70

    TAILPIECE                                      Page       73

  "The number of those who really think seriously before they begin
  to write is small; extremely few of them think about _the subject
  itself;_ the remainder think only about the books that have been
  written on it."--ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER.


[1] _The Formal Garden in England._ By Reginald Blomfield and F. Inigo
Thomas. London: Macmillan and Co.

A beautiful house in a fair landscape is the most delightful scene of
the cultivated earth--all the more so if there be an artistic
garden--the rarest thing to find! The union--a happy marriage it should
be--between the house beautiful and the ground near it is worthy of more
thought than it has had in the past, and the best ways of effecting that
union artistically should interest men more and more as our cities grow
larger and our lovely English landscape shrinks back from them. The
views of old writers will help us little, for a wholly different state
of things has arisen in these mechanical days. My own view is that we
have never yet got from the garden, and, above all, the home landscape,
half the beauty which we may get by abolishing the needless formality
and geometry which disfigure so many gardens, both as regards plan and
flower planting. Formality is often essential in the plan of a flower
garden near a house--_never_ as regards the arrangements of its flowers
or shrubs. To array these in lines or rings or patterns can only be ugly
wherever done!

That men have never yet generally enjoyed the beauty that good garden
design may give is clear from the fact that the painter is driven from
the garden! The artist dislikes the common garden with its formality and
bedding; he cannot help hating it! In a country place he will seek
anything but the garden, but may, perhaps, be found near a wild Rose
tossing over the pigsty. This dislike is natural and right, as from most
flower gardens the possibility of any beautiful result is shut out! Yet
the beautiful garden exists, and there are numbers of cottage gardens in
Surrey or Kent that are as "paintable" as any bit of pure landscape!

[Illustration: _Rhianva. Terraced garden, but with picturesque planting
and flower gardening_]

Why is the cottage garden often a picture, and the gentleman's garden
near, wholly shut out of the realm of art, a thing which an artist
cannot look at long? It is the absence of pretentious "plan" in the
cottage garden which lets the flowers tell their tale direct; the simple
walks going where they are wanted; flowers not set in patterns; the
walls and porch alive with flowers. Can the gentleman's garden then,
too, be a picture? Certainly; the greater the breadth and means the
better the picture should be. But never if our formal "decorative" style
of design is kept to. Reform must come by letting Nature take her just
place in the garden.

[Illustration: _Group of trees on garden lawn at Golder's Hill,
Hampstead; picturesque effect in suburban garden_]


After we have settled the essential approaches, levels, and enclosures
for shelter, privacy, or dividing lines around a house, the natural form
or lines of the earth herself are in nearly all cases the best to
follow, and in my work I face any labour to get the ground back into its
natural level or fall where disfigured by ugly banks, lines, or angles.

In the true Italian garden on the hills we have to alter the natural
line of the earth or "terrace" it, because we cannot otherwise cultivate
the ground or move at ease upon it. Such steep ground exists in many
countries, and where it does, a like plan must be followed. The strictly
formal in such ground is as right in its way as the lawn in a garden in
the Thames valley. But the lawn is the heart of the true English garden,
and as essential as the terrace is to the gardens on the steep hills.
English lawns have too often been destroyed that "geometrical" gardens
may be made where they are not only needless, but harmful both to the
garden and home landscape. Sometimes on level ground the terrace walls
cut off the view of the landscape from the house, and, on the other
hand, the house from the landscape!

I hold that it is possible to get every charm of a garden and every
use of a country-seat without sacrifice of the picturesque or beautiful;
that there is no reason why, either in the working or design of gardens,
there should be a single false line in them. By this I mean hard and
ugly lines such as the earth never follows, as say, to mention a place
known to many, the banks about the head of the lake in the Bois de
Boulogne. These lines are seen in all bad landscape work, though with
good workmen I find it is as easy to form true and artistic lines as
false and ugly ones. Every landscape painter or observer of landscape
will know what is meant here, though I fear it is far beyond the limits
of the ideas of design held by the authors of the _Formal Garden_. Also,
that every charm of the flower garden may be secured by avoiding wholly
the knots and scrolls which make all the plants and flowers of a garden,
all its joy and life, subordinate to the wretched conventional design in
which they are "set out." The true way is the opposite. We should see
the flowers and feel the beauty of plant forms, with only the simplest
possible plans to ensure good working, to secure every scrap of turf
wanted for play or lawn, and for every enjoyment of a garden.

[Illustration: _Wakehurst. Elizabethan house with grounds not terraced_]


Such views I have urged, and carry them out when I can, in the hope of
bringing gardening into a line with art, from which it is now so often
divorced. It is natural that these views should meet with some
opposition, and the consideration of the _Formal Garden_ gives the
opportunity of examining their value.

  The question, briefly stated, is this: Are we, in laying out our
  gardens, to ignore the house, and to reproduce uncultivated Nature to
  the best of our ability in the garden? Or are we to treat the house
  and garden as inseparable factors in one homogeneous whole, which are
  to co-operate for one premeditated result?

No sane person has ever proposed to ignore the house. So far from
ignoring the house in my own work, where there is a beautiful house it
tells me what to do! Unhappily, the house is often so bad that nothing
can prevent its evil effect on the garden. "_Reproducing uncultivated
Nature_" is no part of good gardening, as the whole reason of a flower
garden is that it is a home for cultivated Nature. It is the special
charm of the garden that we may have beautiful natural objects in their
living beauty in it, but we cannot do this without care and culture to
begin with! Whether it be Atlas Cedar or Eastern Cypress, Lily-tree or
American Mountain Laurel, all must be cared for at first, and we must
know their ways of life and growth if we are to treat them so that they
will both grow well and be rightly placed--an essential point. And the
more precious and rare they are the better the place they should have in
the flower garden proper or pleasure ground,--places always the object
of a certain essential amount of care even under the simplest and wisest
plans. If we wish to encourage "uncultivated Nature" it must surely be a
little further afield! A wretched flowerless pinched bedding plant and a
great yellow climbing Tea Rose are both cultivated things, but what a
vast difference in their beauty! There are many kinds of "cultivated
Nature," and every degree of ugliness among them.

  Sir C. Barry's idea was that the garden was gradually to become less
  and less formal till it melted away into the park. Compromises such as
  these, however, will be rejected by thoroughgoing adherents of the
  formal gardens who hold that the garden should be avowedly separated
  from the adjacent country by a clean boundary line, a good high wall
  for choice. (_The Formal Garden._)

Would any one put this high wall in front of Gilbert White's house at
Selborne, or of Golder's Hill at Hampstead, or many English houses where
the erection of a high wall would cut off the landscape? Not a word
about the vast variety of such situations, each of which would require
to be treated in a way quite different from the rest! There are many
places in every county that would be robbed of their best charms by
separating the garden from the adjacent country by a "good high wall."

[Illustration: _Gilbert White's house at Selborne. Example of many
gardens with lawn coming to windows and flowers on its margin_]

  The custom of planting avenues and cutting straight lines through the
  woods surrounding the house to radiate in all directions was a
  departure from that strictly logical system which separated the garden
  from the park, and left the latter to take care of itself, a system
  which frankly subordinated Nature to art within the garden wall, but
  in return gave Nature an absolutely free hand outside it. (_The Formal

Nature an "_absolutely free hand_"! Imagine a great park or any part of
an estate being left to Nature with an "absolutely free hand"! If it
were, in a generation there would be very little to see but the edge of
the wood. Callous to the beauty of English parks, he does not know that
they are the object of much care, and he abuses all those who ever
formed them, Brown, Repton, and the rest.

[Illustration: _Example of formal gardening, with clipped trees and
clipped shrubs in costly tubs_]


Mr. Blomfield writes nonsense, and then attributes it to me--

  that is to say, we go to Claude, and having saturated our minds with
  his rocks and trees, we return to Nature and try to worry her into a
  resemblance to Claude.

I am never concerned with Claude, but seek the best expression I can
secure of our beautiful English real landscapes, which are far finer
than Claude's. At least I never saw any painted landscape like them--say
that from the Chestnut Walk at Shrubland, looking over the lovely
Suffolk country. That is the precious heritage we have to keep. And that
is where simple and picturesque gardening will help us by making the
garden a beautiful foreground for the true landscape, instead of cutting
it off with a "high wall" or anything else that is ugly and needless.

  The lawns are not to be left in broad expanse, but to have Pampas
  Grasses, foreign shrubs, etc., dotted about on the surface.

I have fought for years against the lawn-destruction by the
terrace-builders and bedding-out gardeners! But how are we to have our
lawns in "broad expanse" if we build a high wall near the house to cut
off even the possibility of a lawn? This has been done in too many cases
to the ruin of all good effect and repose, often to shut out as good
landscapes as ever were painted! There are flagrant cases in point to be
found in private gardens in the suburbs of London. There is much bad and
ignorant landscape work as there is bad building everywhere, but errors
in that way are more easily removed than mistakes in costly and aimless
work in brick and stone. At Coombe Cottage, when I first saw its useless
terrace wall shutting out the beautiful valley view from the living
rooms, I spoke of the error that had been made, but the owner thought
that, as it had cost him a thousand pounds, he had better leave it where
it was!


The place of formal gardening is clear for ever. The architect can help
the gardener much by building a beautiful house! That is his work. The
true architect, it seems to me, would seek to go no farther. The better
the real work of the architect is done, the better for the garden and
landscape. If there are any difficulties of level about the house
beautiful, they should be dealt with by the architect, and the better
his work and the necessary terracing, if any, are done, the pleasanter
the work of the landscape or other gardener who has to follow him should

[Illustration: _Longleat. Type of nobler English country seat with old
house and picturesque planting_]

That a garden is made for plants is what most people who care for
gardens suppose. If a garden has any use, it is to treasure for us
beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees. In these days--when our ways of
building are the laughing-stock of all who care for beautiful
buildings--there is plenty for the architect to do without spoiling our
gardens! Most of the houses built in our time are so bad, that even the
best gardening could hardly save them from contempt. Our garden flora is
now so large, that a life's work is almost necessary to know it. How is
a man to make gardens wisely if he does not know what has to be grown in
them? I do not mean that we are to exclude other men than the landscape
gardener proper from the garden. We want all the help we can get from
those whose tastes and training enable them to help us--the landscape
painter best of all, if he cares for gardens and trees--the country
gentleman, or any keen student and lover of Nature. The landscape
gardener of the present day is not always what we admire, his work often
looking more like that of an engineer. His gardening near the house is
usually a repetition of the decorative work of the house, of which I
hope many artistic people are already tired. And as I think people will
eventually see the evil and the wastefulness of this "decorative" stuff,
and spend their money on really beautiful and artistic things, so I
think the same often-repeated "knots" and frivolous patterns must leave
the artistic garden, and simpler and dignified forms take their place.

To endeavour to apply any one preconceived plan or general idea to
every site is folly, and the source of many blunders. The authors are
not blind to the absurdities of the architectural gardeners, and say, on
page 232:--

  Rows of statues were introduced from the French, costly architecture
  superseded the simple terrace, intricate parterres were laid out from
  gardeners' pattern books, and meanwhile the flowers were forgotten. It
  was well that all this pomp should be swept away. We do not want this
  extravagant statuary, these absurdities in clipped work, this
  aggressive prodigality. But though one would admit that in its decay
  the formal garden became unmanageable and absurd, the abuse is no
  argument against the use.

Certainly not where the place calls for it, and all absolutely
necessary stone-work about a house should be controlled by the
architect; beyond that, nothing. To let him lay out our home landscapes
again with lines of trees, as shown in the old Dutch books, and with no
regard to landscape design and to the relations of the garden to the
surrounding country, would be the greatest evil that could come to the
beautiful home landscapes of Britain.

[Illustration: _Old Place, Lindfield. Picturesque garden of old English
house, admitting of charming variety in its vegetation_]


Not one word of the swift worker, Time! Its effect on gardens is one
of the first considerations. Fortress-town, castle, and moat all without
further use! In old days gardens had to be set within the walls; hence,
formal in outline, though often charming inside. To keep all that
remains of such should be our first care; never to imitate them now!
Many old gardens of this sort that remain to us are far more beautiful
than the modern formal gardening, which by a strange perversity has been
kept naked of plants or flower life! When safety came from civil war,
then came to us the often beautiful Elizabethan house, free of all moat
or trace of war. At one time it was rash to make a garden away from the
protecting walls. Now, any day in a country place beautiful situations
may be found for certain kinds of gardens far away from the house, out
of sight of it often.

[Illustration: _Arundel Castle. Example of situation in which a certain
amount of terracing is essential. This does not necessarily mean that
the vegetation around should be in formal lines, as much better and more
artistic effects are obtained otherwise_]

Again, in the home fighting days there was less art away from the home.
Rugged wastes and hills; vast woodland districts near London; even small
houses moated to keep the cattle from wolves--fear of the rough hills
and woods! In those days an extension of the decorative work of the
house into the garden had some novelty to carry it off, while the kinds
of cultivated trees and shrubs were few. Hence if the old gardeners
wanted an evergreen line, hedge, or bush of a certain height, they
clipped an evergreen tree into the size they wanted. Notwithstanding
this we have no evidence that anything like the geometrical monotony
often seen in our own time existed then. To-day the ever-growing city,
pushing its hard face over the once beautiful land, should make us wish
more and more to keep such beauty of the earth as may be still possible
to us. The horror of railway embankments, where were once the beautiful
suburbs of London, cries to us to save all we can save of the natural
beauty of the earth.

[Illustration: Tailpiece]


  It is surely flying in the face of Nature to fill our gardens with
  tropical plants, as we are urged to do by the writers on landscape
  gardening, ignoring the entire difference of climate and the fact that
  a colour which may look superb in the midst of other strong colours
  will look gaudy and vulgar amongst our sober tints, and that a leaf
  like that of the Yucca, which may be all very well in its own country,
  _is out of scale and character_ amidst the modest foliage of our
  English trees. (_The Formal Garden._)

A passage full of nonsense! The true use and first reason of a garden
is to keep and grow for us plants _not_ in our woods and mostly from
other countries than our own! The Yucca, we are told by the authors, is
a "plant out of scale and character among the modest foliage of our
English trees"! The Yuccas of our gardens are natives of the often cold
plains of Eastern America, hardy in, and in every way fitted for,
English gardens, but _not_ amidst English trees. Is the aim of the
flower-garden to show the "modest foliage" of English trees when almost
every country house is surrounded by our native woods? According to such
childish views, the noble Cedars in the park at Goodwood and on the lawn
at Pain's Hill are out of place there! What is declared by Mr. Blomfield
to be absurd is the soul of true gardening--to show, on a small scale it
may be, some of the precious and inexhaustible loveliness of vegetation
on plain or wood or mountain. This is the necessary and absolutely only
true, just and fair use of a garden!

[Illustration: _West Dean. Example of country seat in which terracing
is needless, and in which turf may and indeed must often come to at
least one side of the house_]


The very name of the book is a mistake. "Formal gardening" is rightly
applied only to the gardens in which both the design and planting were
formal and stupidly formal like the upper terrace of the Crystal Palace,
Kensington Gore, as laid out by Nesfield, Crewe Hall; and Shrubland, as
laid out by Barry, in which, as in others of these architects' gardens,
strict orders were given that no plants were to be allowed on the walls.
The architect was so proud of his design, that he did not want the
gardener at all, except to pound up bricks to take the place of flower
colour! It may be necessary to explain to some that this pounded brick
and tile in lieu of colours has frequently been laid down in
flower-gardens in our own day. To old gardens like Haddon and
Rockingham, in which the vegetation about the house is perfectly free
and natural in form, the term "formal gardening" is quite unfitted.

  But those who attack the old English formal garden do not take the
  trouble to understand its very considerable differences from the
  Continental gardens of the same period.

No one has "attacked" old English gardens. Part of my work has been
to preserve much record of their beauty. The necessary terraces round
houses like Haddon may be and are as beautiful as any garden ever made
by man. Can anything be more unlike than the delicate veil of beautiful
climbers and flowers over the grey walls of the courtyard at Ightham
Mote and the walls of some gardens of our own day? The great dark
rock-like feudal Berkeley is clad with Fig and Vine and Rose as far as
they can reach. No trace in these old gardens of the modern "landscape
architect," who said, My walls are not made for plants, and for my beds
I prefer coloured brick!

[Illustration: _Athelhampton Hall, Dorset. Old English house with trees
in their natural form_]

What, then, is the kind of "Formal Gardening" that is bad? It is the
purely formal or stone garden made for its own sake, often without a
shadow of excuse. The garden of the Crystal Palace in part; the stone
garden at the head of the Serpentine; Versailles; the Grand Trianon;
Caserta, Schönbrunn are among the public gardens of Europe where this
kind of garden is seen. Great harm has come to many a fair English lawn
through this system. Let us learn by one instance, easily seen, the harm
done in formal gardening, even where the ground called for an amount of
terracing not usual in the plains and mostly gentle lawns of England--I
mean the flower-garden at Shrubland Park, laid out by Sir Charles Barry,
of which I have recently altered the plan and which I planted with
graceful life where I found bare walls.

We will assume that the main terrace lines here are right, as the place
stands on a bluff, and speak of a secondary evil of this formal
gardening, which arose, I think, about the time Barry laid out
Shrubland. That was that the walls of the house or garden were _not_ to
be graced by plants, and that to secure the keeping of the design,
coloured gravels were to take the place of flowers. This rule, as is
well known, has been carried out in many gardens--it was rigid here. I
see it in some of the new gardens, and in asking at Worth Park why a
long terra-cotta wall had not climbers on it, was told the designer
would not allow it!

Yet Nature clothes the rock walls with beautiful life, even to the snow
line, where the gems of the flower world stain the rocks with loveliest
flowers. The crag walls of every alpine valley are her gardens; the
Harebells toss their azure bells from the seams of the stones in the
bridges across the mountain streams; the ruins of the temples of the
great peoples of old, who really could build nobly, grow many a wild
flower. Even when we take the stone and build with it, tender colours of
lowly plants soon come and clothe the stone.

But the maker of these miserable garden walls, without use or need, says
in effect, _Here Nature shall not come to hide my cleverness. I have
built walls, and bare they must be!_

Well, with this bareness of the wall there were the usual geometrical
pattern beds, many filled with sand and broken stone, and only very low
and formal beds of flowers pinched into very low carpets, with much Box
often edging beds a foot across. When I first went one spring day with
Mr. Saumarez, we saw a large showy bed, and on going near, found it
composed of pieces of broken brick painted yellow, blue, and red!

So, apart from needless formality of design and bare walls where no
walls were wanted, there was often an ugly formality of detail, a
senseless attempt to leave Nature out of the garden, an outrage against
all that ever has or ever can make a garden delightful throughout the
year by ruling that even the walls of the house should not shelter a
Rose! And that is only part of what we get by letting "builders and
decorators" waste precious means in stone that should be devoted to the
living treasures of garden, lawn, or wood.


  _The formal garden, with its insistence on strong bounding lines, is,
  strictly speaking, the only "garden" possible._--R. F. BLOMFIELD

_The Vicarage Garden, Odiham. One of numerous British gardens in which
the conditions here declared to be essential are absent_]


As to a natural school of landscape gardening, the authors say:

  A great deal is said about Nature and her beauty, and fidelity to
  Nature, and so on; but as the landscape gardener never takes the
  trouble to state precisely what he means by Nature, and, indeed,
  prefers to use the word in half a dozen different senses, we are not
  very much the wiser so far as principles are concerned.

They make this statement as if all beautiful natural landscape were a
closed book; as if there were no stately Yews, in natural forms, on the
Merrow Downs, as well as clipped Yews at Elvaston; as if the
tree-fringed mountain lawns of Switzerland did not exist; or lovely
evergreen glades on the Californian mountains, or wild Azalea gardens on
those of Carolina, or even naturally-grown Planes in London squares.

There are many gardens and parks which clearly show what is meant by
the "natural" style; and though, like others, this art is too often
imperfect, we have so many instances of its success, that it is curious
to find any one shutting his eyes to them. There are lessons in
picturesque gardening in every country in Europe and in many parts of
North America. Mr. Olmstead's work in America and Mr. Robert Marnock's
in England teach them; they may be learnt in many English gardens--from
Sir Richard Owen's little garden in Richmond Park to Dunkeld--even small
rectory and cottage gardens, wholly free of architectural aids, show the
principle. It was but a few weeks ago, in the garden of the English
Embassy in Paris, that I was struck with the simplicity of the lawn and
plan of the garden there, and its fitness for a house in a city.

To support their idea that there is and can be no natural school of
landscape gardening, the authors suppose what does not exist, and

  A piece of ground laid out with a studied avoidance of all order, all
  balance, all definite lines, and the result a hopeless disagreement
  between the house and its surroundings. This very effect can be seen
  in the efforts of the landscape gardener, and in old country houses,
  such as Barrington Court, near Langport, where the gardens have not
  been kept up.

Here, instead of taking one of the many good examples in Britain, they
take poor, beautiful old Barrington, now an ill-kept farmhouse, with
manure piled against the walls and the ceiling of the dining-room
propped up with a Fir pole! The foolish proposition here laid down,
that, because a garden is picturesque there must necessarily be a
"_studied avoidance of all order, all balance, all definite lines_," is
disproved by hundreds of gardens in England. Why did not the authors
take Miss Alice de Rothschild's garden at Eythorpe, or any beautiful and
picturesque English garden, to compare with their results in stone and
clipped and aligned trees?

[Illustration: _Unclipped trees at the Little Trianon. (Compare with
cut on p. 52.)_]


  For instance, because Nature is assumed never to show straight lines,
  all paths are to be made crooked; because in a virgin forest there are
  no paths at all, let us in our acre and a half of garden make as
  little of the paths as possible. Deception is a primary object of the
  landscape gardener. (_The Formal Garden._)

This, too, in the face of the facts of the case, of proof ready for the
authors, in gardens in every country, from Prospect Park at Brooklyn to
the English park at Munich. The fact that the Phoenix Park at Dublin
is laid out in a fine, picturesque way does not forbid a great straight
road through it--a road finer than in any strait-laced park in France.
The late Robert Marnock was the best landscape gardener I have known,
and I never saw one of his many gardens where he did not make an ample
straight walk where an ample straight walk was required--as, indeed,
many may remember is the case in the Botanic Gardens in the Regent's
Park, laid out by him.

  Again, Nature is said to prefer a curved line to a straight, and it is
  thence inferred that all the lines in a garden, and especially paths,
  should be curved.

  The utter contempt for design of the landscape gardener is shown most
  conspicuously in his treatment of paths. He lays them about at random,
  and keeps them so narrow that they look like threads, and there is
  barely room to walk abreast.

The opposite of this is indeed the truth, for many gardens and parks
laid out with some regard to landscape beauty are partly spoiled by the
size and number of the walks, as in the gardens around Paris--the Parc
Monceau and Buttes Chaumont, for instance. The slightest knowledge of
gardens would show that walks like threads are no necessary part of
landscape gardening!

[Illustration: _Westonbirt_]

This error shows well the effect of men reading and writing about what
they have not seen.

The axiom on which landscape gardening rests is declared by Messrs.
Blomfield and Thomas to be

  _Whatever Nature does is right; therefore let us go and copy her
  (p. 5)._

Here is a poor sneer at true art, not only at art in landscape
gardening, but in all the fine arts. The central and essential idea of
the landscape art is choice of what is beautiful--not taking the salt
waste in Utah, or a field of weeds, or a Welsh slope of decayed slate,
or the bog of Allen, or the thousand other things in Nature that are
monotonous or dull to us, even though here and there beautiful as a wide
bog may be. We can have in a garden a group of Scotch Firs as good in
form as a fine group in wild Nature, and so of the Cedar of Lebanon and
many of the lovely trees of the world. We can have bits of rock alive
with alpine flowers, or pieces of lawn fringed with trees in their
natural forms and as graceful as the alpine lawns on the Jura.

So of all other true art. The Venus of Milo is from a noble type of
woman--not a mean Greek. The horses of the Parthenon are the best types
of Eastern breed, full of life and beauty, not sickly beasts. Great
landscape painters like Corot, Turner, and Troyon show us in their work
the absurdity of this statement so impertinently used. They seek not
ugly things because they are natural, but beautiful combinations of
field, and hill, wood, water, tree, and flower, and grass, selecting
groupings which go to make good composition, and then waiting for the
most beautiful effects of morning, evening, or whatever light suits the
chosen subject best, so give us lovely pictures! But they work always
from faithful study of Nature and from stores of knowledge gathered from
Nature study, and that is the only true path for the landscape gardener;
as all true and great art can only be based on the eternal laws of


  The word "garden" itself means an enclosed space, a garth or yard
  surrounded by walls, as opposed to unenclosed fields and woods. The
  formal garden, with its insistence on strong bounding lines, is,
  strictly speaking, the only "garden" possible.

All other gardens are, of course, impossible to the authors--the Parc
Monceau, the informal gardens about Paris, Glasnevin, the Botanic
Gardens in Regent's Park and at Sheffield, Golder's Hill, Greenlands,
Pendell Court, Rhianva, and the thousand cottage, rectory, and other
British gardens where no wall is seen! The Bamboo garden at Shrubland,
the Primrose garden at Munstead, the rock and other gardens, which we
must keep in quiet places away from any sight of walls, are all
"_impossible_" to these authors! How much better it would be for every
art if it were impossible for men to write about things of which by
their own showing they have not even elementary knowledge!

[Illustration: _Thrumpton Hall. A type of numerous English gardens with
informal planting_]

And the sketches in the book show us what these possible gardens are!
They are careful architects' drawings, deficient in light and shade; not
engraved, but reproduced by a hard process, some being mere
reproductions of old engravings; and diagrams of old "knots" and
"patterns," with birds and ships perched on wooden trellises, without
the slightest reference to any human or modern use. A curious one of
Badminton will show fully the kind of plan the authors wish to see
revived. Some of the illustrations show the evils of the system which
the authors advocate, notably one of Levens Hall, Westmoreland, a very
interesting and real old garden. Interesting as it is from age, the
ugliness of the clipped forms takes away from the beauty of the house.
Even in sketches of gardens like Montacute and Brympton, the beauty of
the gardens is not well shown. The most interesting drawings, it is not
surprising to find, are the informal ones! Many of the others show the
_evil_, not the good, of the system advocated, by their hard lines and
the emphasising of ugly forms.


  Horticulture stands to garden design much as building does to
  architecture. This book has been written entirely from the standpoint
  of the designer, and therefore contains little or no reference to the
  actual methods of horticulture.

Throughout the book it is modestly assumed that there can be no
"design" in anything but in lines of stone, and clipped trees to
"harmonise" with the stone, and to bring in "order" and "balance." A
Longleat, Highclere or Little Trianon, or any of the many English places
which are planted in picturesque ways can show no design; but a French
town, with its wretched lines of tortured Limes, is "pure" and "broad"
in design. _The naiveté_ of the book in this respect is often droll. One
amusing passage is on p. 54:--

  However rich the details, there is no difficulty in grasping the
  principle of _a garden laid out in an equal number of rectangular
  plots_. Everything is straightforward and logical; you are not bored
  with hopeless attempts to master the bearings of the garden.

This is the kitchen gardener's view, and that of the market gardener of
all countries, but the fun is in calling the idea of it "_grasping a
principle_"! At this rate makers of chessboards have strong claims to
artistic merit!

No wonder that men who call a "principle" the common way of setting out
kitchen and cabbage gardens from Pekin to Mortlake can see no design in
the many things that go to make a beautiful landscape!

Equally stupid is the assumption, throughout the book, that the people
the authors are pleased to term "landscapists" flop their houses down in
the Grass, and never use low walls for dividing lines, nor terraces
where necessary, never use walls for shelter or privacy, have no "order"
or "balance," and presumably allow the Nettles to look in at the
windows, and the cattle to have a fine time with the Carnations!

[Illustration: Tailpiece]


The following glaring piece of injustice is due to want of the most
elementary consideration of garden design:--

  Grass-work as an artistic quantity can hardly be said to exist in
  landscape gardening. It is there considered simply as so much
  background to be broken up with shrubs and Pampas Grass and irregular
  beds (p. 135).

The opposite of this is the fact. Grass-work as an "artistic
quantity" did not exist in anything like the same degree before
landscape gardening. One of the faults of the formal style of gardening
still seen in France and Austria is that there is little or no Grass.
Compare the Jardin des Plantes in Paris with the Parc Monceau, or the
many other gardens about Paris in which Grass is an "artistic quantity."
One of the most effective reasons indeed for adopting the English
landscape garden was that it gave people some fresh and open Grass,
often with picturesque surroundings, and, nowadays, one can hardly
travel on the continent and not see some pleasant results of this. In
England, the landscape gardeners and writers have almost destroyed every
trace of the stiff old formal gardens, and we cannot judge the ill
effects of the builder's garden so easily as in France. As a rule, the
want of rest and freshness in tropical and sub-tropical gardens is due
to the absence of those broad and airy breadths of greensward which, in
gardens at least, are largely due to landscape gardening. Think of
Warwick without its turf and glorious untrimmed Cedars!

[Illustration: _Goodwood. Example of large English places in which the
grass sweeps up to the house_]

Consider the difference between a picturesque landscape like the
Emperor of Austria's stately garden at Laxenberg, near Vienna, and the
gardens in the same city formed of miserable clipped trees in lines!
Grass as an "artistic quantity" is finely visible at Laxenberg; in the
old clipped gardens gravel and distorted trees are the only things seen
in quantity--we cannot call it "artistic."

"Landscapist" is used throughout the book as a term of contempt. The
authors take some of the worst work that is possible, and condemn all in
the same opprobrious terms, as if we were to condemn the noble art of
the builders of the Parthenon on seeing a "jerry" building in London.
They may be quite sure that there _is_ a true and beautiful art of
landscape gardening, notwithstanding their denunciations, and it is none
the less real because there is no smug definition of it that pleases the
minds of men who declare that it does not exist.

  The horticulturist and the gardener are indispensable, _but they
  should work under control_, and they stand in the same relation to the
  designer as the artist's colourman does to the painter, or, perhaps it
  would be fairer to say, as the builder and his workmen stand to the

What modesty!

The men whose business it is to design gardens are heartily abused. How
very graceful it would be on the part of one of them to write an essay
telling architects how to build, and showing that to build well it is
not necessary to know anything about the inhabitants or uses of a house!


Perhaps after the cemetery, the ugliest things in the fair land of
France are the ugly old lines of clipped Limes which deface many French
towns. Readers who have not seen these things can have no idea of their
abominable hardness and ugliness, the natural form of the trees being
destroyed, and deformed and hideous trees resulting from constant
clipping. These gouty lines of clipped trees are praised as "noble
walls" "pure and broad" in design, while

  Such a place, for instance, as Battersea Park is like a bad piece of
  architecture, full of details which stultify each other. The only good
  point in it is the one avenue, and this leads to nowhere. If this park
  had been planted out with groves and avenues of Limes, like the
  boulevard at Avallon, or the squares at Vernon, or even like the east
  side of Hyde Park between the Achilles statue and the Marble Arch, at
  least one definite effect would have been reached. There might have
  been shady walks, and noble walls of trees, instead of the spasmodic
  futility of Battersea Park.

Battersea Park, like many others, may be capable of improvement; but
here we have men who want to supplant its lawns, grassy playgrounds, and
pretty retired gardens with Lime trees like those of a French town, and
lines and squares of trees like those at Vernon, which I once saw half
bare of leaves long before the summer was over!

[Illustration: _Avenue in Paris. Showing that even in a land of clipped
trees clipping is not essential_]

The authors see with regret that the good sense of planters has for
many years been gradually emancipated from the style (as old as the
Romans and older) of planting in rows. It was the very early and in a
very real sense a barbarous way. Since the days when country places were
laid out "in a number of rectangular plots," whole worlds of lovely
things have come to us--to give one instance only, the trees of
California, Oregon, and the Rocky Mountains. For men to talk of
designing homes for such things, who say they have no knowledge of them,
is absurdity itself!

[Illustration: _Clipped trees at the Little Trianon_]

  "_An unerring perception told the Greeks that the beautiful must also
  be the true, and recalled them back into the way. As in conduct they
  insisted on an energy which was rational, so in art and in literature
  they required of beauty that it, too, should be before all things
  rational._"--PROFESSOR BUTCHER, in _Some Aspects of the Greek Genius_.


The remarks quoted below on Nature and the clipping shears are not from
Josh Billings, but from _The Formal Garden_, of which the literary
merit, we are told in the preface, belongs to Mr. Blomfield.

  A clipped Yew tree is as much a part of Nature--that is, subject to
  natural laws--as a forest Oak; but the landscapist, by appealing to
  associations which surround the personification of Nature, holds up
  the clipped Yew tree to obloquy as something against Nature. So far as
  that goes, it is no more unnatural to clip a Yew tree than to cut

I believe we cut Grass when we want hay, or soft turf to play on, but
disfiguring a noble tree is not a necessary part of our work either for
our profit or pleasure. Perhaps, as is probable, Mr. Blomfield has never
noticed what a beautiful tree a Yew in its natural form is. It is not
only on the hills he may see them. If he will come and see them in my
own garden in a high wind some day, or when bronzed a little with a hard
winter, he may change his amusing notions about clipped Yews.

I think I can give Mr. Blomfield a rational explanation of why it is
foolish to clip so fair a tree or any _tree_.

I clip Yews when I want to make a hedge of them, but then I am
clipping a hedge, and not a tree. I hold up "the clipped Yew tree to
obloquy," as the tree in its natural form is the most beautiful
evergreen tree of our western world--as fine as the Cedar in its plumy
branches, and more beautiful than any Cedar in the colour of its stem.
In our own day we have seen trees of the same great order as the Yew
gathered from a thousand hills--from British Columbia, through North
America and Europe to the Atlas Mountains, and not one of them has yet
proved to be so beautiful as our native Yew when it is allowed to grow
unclipped root or branch. But in gardens the quest for the strange and
exotic is so constant, that few give a fair chance to the Yew as a tree,
while in graveyards where it is so often seen in a very old state, the
frequent destruction of the roots in grave-digging prevents the tree
from reaching its full stature and beauty, though there are Yews in
English churchyards that have lived through a thousand winters.

[Illustration: _The "Grange," Hartley Wintney_]

I do not clip my Yews, because clipping destroys the shape of one of
the most delightful in form of all trees, beautiful, too, in its plumy
branching. It is not my own idea only that I urge here, but that of all
who have ever thought of form, foremost among whom we must place artists
who have the happiness of always drawing natural forms. Let Mr.
Blomfield stand near one of the Cedar-like Yews by the Pilgrim's Way on
the North Downs, and, comparing it with trees cut in the shape of an
extinguisher, consider what the difference means to the artist who seeks
beauty of form. Clipping such trees does not merely deserve "obloquy";
it is worse than idiotic, as there is a sad reason for the idiot's ways.

If I use what in the Surrey nurseries are called "hedging Yews" to form
a hedge, high or low, I must clip them to form my hedge, and go on doing
so if I wish to keep it, or the hedge would soon show me that it was
"subject to natural laws," and escape from the shears.

What right have we to deform things given us so perfect and lovely
in form? No cramming of Chinese feet into impossible shoes is half so
wicked as the wilful distortion of the divinely beautiful forms of
trees. The cost of this hideous distortion alone is one reason against
it, as one may soon find out in places where miles of trees cut into
wall-like shape have to be clipped, as at Versailles and Schönbrunn!
This clipping is a mere survival of the day when gardens had very few
trees, and it was necessary to clip the few they had to fit certain
situations to conform to the architect's notion of "garden design." This
is not design at all from any landscape point of view; and though the
elements which go to form beautiful landscape, whether home landscape or
the often higher landscape beauty of the open country, are often subtle,
and though they are infinitely varied, they are none the less real. The
fact that men when we had few trees clipped them into walls and
grotesque shapes to make them serve their notions of "design" is surely
not a reason why we, who have the trees of a thousand hills with trees
of almost every size and shape among them, should violate and mutilate
some of the finest natural forms!

[Illustration: _A Yew Tree on Mountain, N. England_]

Thus while it may be right to clip a tree to form a wall,
dividing-line, or hedge, it is never so to clip trees grown as single
specimens or groups, as by clipping such we only get ugly
forms--unnatural, too. Last autumn, in Hyde Park, I saw a man clipping
Hollies at the Rotten Row end of the Serpentine, and asking him why it
was done, he said it was to "keep them in shape," though, to do him
justice, he added that he thought it would be better to let them alone.
Men who clip so handsome a tree as the Holly when taking no part in a
hedge or formal line are blind to beauty of form. To tolerate such
clipped forms is to prove oneself callous to natural beauty of tree
form, and to show that we cannot even see ugliness.

[Illustration: _Building in Paris. Showing that intimate association
with buildings does not necessitate clipping or distortion of trees_]

Take, again, the clipped Laurels by which many gardens and drives are
disfigured. Laurel in its natural shape in the woods of west country or
other places, where it is let alone, is often fine in form, though we
may have too much of it. But it is planted everywhere without thought of
its stature or fitness for the spot, and then it grows until the shears
are called in, and we see nearly every day its fine leaves and free
shoots cut short back into ugly banks and sharp, wall-like, or formless
masses, disfiguring many gardens without the slightest necessity. There
is no place in which it is used clipped for which we could not get
shrubs quite suitable that would not need mutilation. It is not only
clipped trees that are ugly, but even trees like the Irish Yew,
Wellingtonia, and some Arbor-vitæ, which frequently assume shapes like
extinguishers or the forms of clipped trees. It often happens that
these, when over-planted or planted near houses, so emphasise ugly forms
about the house, that there is no beauty possible in the home landscape.
Many of such ugly, formless trees have been planted within the last
generation, greatly to the injury of the garden landscape.

In the old gardens, where, from other motives, trees were clipped when
people had very few Evergreens or shrubs of any kind, or where they
wanted an object of a certain height, they had to clip. It is well to
preserve such gardens, but never to imitate them, as has been done in
various English and American gardens. If we want shelter, we can get it
in various delightful ways without clipping, and, while getting it, we
can enjoy the beautiful natural forms of the finest Evergreens. Hedges
and wall-like dividing lines of green living things will now and then be
useful, and even may be artistically used; they are sometimes, however,
used where a wall would be better, walls having the great advantage of
not robbing the ground near. A wall is easily made into a beautiful
garden with so many lovely things, too, from great scrambling yellow
Roses to alpine flowers. To any one with the slightest sympathy with
Nature or art these things need not be said.


  Now as a matter of fact in Nature--that is, in the visible phenomena
  of the earth's surface--there are no lines at all; "a line" is simply
  an abstraction which conveniently expresses the direction of a
  succession of objects which may be either straight or curved. "Nature"
  has nothing to do with either straight lines or curved; it is simply
  begging the question to lay it down as an axiom that curved lines are
  more "natural" than straight.

Then men must never again talk of the "lines" of a ship! Perhaps Mr.
Blomfield would accept a plumb line? One can hardly leave London an hour
before a person who looks at the landscape may see the lines or
boundaries between one mass and another. Who could stand amongst downs
or an alpine valley and say there are no lines in them, inasmuch as one
of the most visible and delightful things in all such cases is the
beauty of those lines? This is the key of the whole question of
landscape gardening. There is no good landscape gardening possible
without a feeling for the natural gradation and forms of the earth.

It can be seen in little things, like the slope of a field as well as
in the slope of a mountain, and it is the neglect of this which leaves
us so little to boast of in landscape work. In a country slightly
diversified it is, of course, more important than in a perfectly flat
one, but in all diversified ground no good landscape work can be done
without regarding the natural gradation of the earth, which will often
tell us what to do. It is blindness to this principle which makes so
many people cut their roads and walks crudely through banks, leaving
straight sharp sides--false lines, in fact--when a little care and
observation would have avoided this and given a true and beautiful line
for a road or walk.

Once the necessary levels are settled and the garden walks by straight
walls about the house are got away from, we soon come to ground which,
whether we treat it rightly or not, will at once show whether the work
done be landscape work or not. No plan, it seems to me, is so good as
keeping to the natural form of the earth in all lawn, pleasure ground,
and plantation work. Roads, paths, fences, plantations, and anything
like wood will be all the better if we are guided by natural lines or
forms, taking advantage of every difference of level and every little
accident of the ground for our dividing lines and other beginnings or

In the absence of any guidance of this sort, what we see is brutal
cutting through banks, lines like railway embankments--without the
justification there is for the sharpness of a railway embankment--and
ugly banks to roads, very often ugly in their lines too. If we are ever
to have a school of true landscape gardening, the study and observation
of the true gradation of the earth must be its first task.

[Illustration: _Broadlands, Hants_]


[2] _Garden Craft, Old and New._ By John D. Sedding. London: Kegan Paul,
Trench, Trübner and Co.

This gentleman, unfortunately without any knowledge of plants, trees, or
landscape beauty, launches out into the dreary sea of quotations from
old books about gardens, and knows so little of where he is going, that
he is put out of his course by every little drift of wind.

One goes through chapter after chapter thinking to get to the end of
the weary matter only to find again nothing but quotations, even to
going back to an old book for a song. When at last we come to a chapter
on "_Art in the Garden,_" this is what is offered us as sense on a
charming subject, familiar to many, so that all may judge of the depth
of this foolish talk about it! Such a writer discussing in this way a
metaphysical or obscure subject might swim on in his inky water for
ever, and no one know where he was!

  Let us here point to the fact, that any garden whatsoever is but
  Nature idealised, pastoral scenery rendered in a fanciful manner. It
  matters not what the date, size, or style of the garden, it represents
  an idealisation of Nature. _Real_ nature exists outside the artist and
  apart from him. The Ideal is that which the artist conceives to be an
  interpretation of the outside objects, or that which he adds to the
  objects. The garden gives imaginative form to emotions the natural
  objects have awakened in man. The _raison d'être_ of a garden is man's
  feeling the _ensemble_.

But we cannot allow him to bring the false and confusing "art" drivel of
the day into the garden without showing the absurdity of his ideas.

[Illustration: _Warren House, Coombe Wood_]

The illustrations are of the most wretched kind produced by some
process, the only interesting one being one of Levens. The most childish
ideas of the garden prevail--indeed we hardly like to call them
childish, because children do put sensible questions and see clearly.
For instance, for the author there is no art in gardening at all--the
"art" consists entirely of building walls and planting Yew hedges. Thus
the work of the late James Backhouse, who knew every flower on the hills
of Northern England, and expressed that knowledge in his charming rock
garden, is not art, but cutting a tree into the shape of a cocked hat
_is_ art, according to Mr. Sedding!

He assumes that landscape gardeners all follow artistic ways, and
that only architects make terraces; whereas the greatest sinners in this
respect have been landscape gardeners--Nesfield and Paxton. He has paid
so little attention to the subject, that he says that the landscape
gardener's only notion is to put Grass all around the house! It does not
even occur to him that there may be Grass on one side of a house and
gardens of various sorts at the others, as at Goodwood, Shrubland,
Knole, and that a house may have at each side a different expression of
landscape gardening!

[Illustration: _Drummond Castle. Example of beautiful garden in
Scotland, in position requiring terracing_]

He takes the _English Flower Garden_ as the expression of landscape
gardening practice; whereas the book, in all the parts that treat of
design, is a protest against the formation by landscape gardeners of
costly things which have nothing to do with gardening and nothing to do
with true architecture. The good architect is satisfied with building a
beautiful house, and that we are all the happier for. But what we have
to deplore is that men who are not really architects, who are not
gardeners, should cover the earth with rubbish like the Crystal Palace
basins, the thing at the top of the Serpentine, and the Grand Trianon at

Here is a specimen of Mr. Sedding's knowledge of the landscape art.

  For the "landscape style" does not countenance a straight line, or
  terrace, or architectural form, or symmetrical beds about the house,
  for to allow these would not be to photograph Nature. As carried into
  practice, the style demands that the house shall rise abruptly from
  the Grass, and the general surface of the ground shall be
  _characterised by smoothness and bareness (like Nature!)_.

If he had even taken the trouble to see a good garden laid out by Mr.
Marnock or anybody worthy of the name of landscape gardener, he would
find that they knew the use of the terrace very well. If he had taken
the trouble to see one of my own gardens, he would find beds quite as
formal, but not so frivolous as those described in the older books, and
lines simple and straight as they can be. Where Barry left room for a
dozen flowers at Shrubland I put one hundred; so much for the

[Illustration: _Madresfield. Example of modern English garden_]

On page 180 he says:--

  I have no more scruple in using the scissors upon tree or shrub, where
  trimness is desirable, than I have in mowing the turf of the lawn that
  once represented a virgin world. There is a quaint charm in the
  results of the topiary art, in the prim imagery of evergreens, that
  all ages have felt. And I would even introduce Bizarreries on the
  principle of not leaving all that is wild and odd to Nature outside of
  the garden paling; and in the formal part of the garden _my Yews
  should take the shape of pyramids, or peacocks, or cocked hats, or
  ramping lions in Lincoln green, or any other conceit I had a mind to,
  which vegetable sculpture can take_.

After reading this I saw again some of the true "vegetable sculpture"
that I have been fortunate to see; Reed and Lily, a model for ever in
stem, leaf, and bloom; the grey Willows of Britain, sometimes lovelier
than Olives against our skies; many-columned Oak groves set in seas of
Primroses, Cuckoo flowers and Violets; Silver Birch woods of Northern
Europe beyond all grace possible in stone; the eternal garland of beauty
that one kind of Palm waves for hundreds of miles throughout the land of
Egypt,--a vein of summer in a lifeless world: the noble Pine woods of
California and Oregon, like fleets of colossal masts on mountain
waves--saw again these and many other lovely forms in garden and
woodland, and then wondered that any one could be so blind to the beauty
of plant and tree as to write as Mr. Sedding does here.

From the days of the Greeks to our own time, the delight of all great
artists has been to get as near this divine beauty as the material they
work with permits. But this deplorable "_vegetable sculptor's_" delight
is in distorting beautiful natural forms; and this in the one art in
which we enjoy the living things themselves, and not merely
representations of them!

The old people from whom he takes his ideas were not nearly so foolish,
as when the Yew tree was used as a shelter or a dividing line, and when
a Yew was put at a garden door for shelter or to form a hedge, it was
necessary to clip it if it was not to get out of all bounds. But here is
a man delighting for its own sake in what he calls with such delicate
feeling "_vegetable sculpture_," in "cocked hats" and "ramping lions"!

[Illustration: Tailpiece]

Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh

       *       *       *       *       *


  Minor punctuation errors and inconsistent hyphenation have been
  corrected without comment.

  All other variations in spelling and inconsistent hyphenation have
  been retained as they appear in the original book.

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