International Styles

Forms of Ground for Gardens

To imitate natural scenery in a garden, an irregular surface of ground is sometimes necessary: to effect which is the business of garden improvement, and demands an early attention ; for, unless an undulating surface be prepared before the planting is begun, very little of such advantage can be expected without sacrifices. Great diversity of surface may, in general, be obtained at no objectionable expense, if the labour be discreetly conducted. To sink the valley and raise the hill is a good rule, when correctly applied, in which case the beneficial results are so immediate and striking, as amply to compensate for every exertion: hence plants and trees obtain the appearance of several growths as they are situated on greater or less elevations, and produce varieties of incident and opposition of light, shadow, form and colour that cannot be effected on level ground. Such undulations also allow a command of near and distant views, and occasionally allow sites appropriate for temples, alcoves, and seats, suited to retirement, reflection or study.

Artificial means ought to be resorted to in flat situations, to elevate the house itself, for the purpose of obtaining command of view over the landscape, and security against damps; this may be per developed with great case and effect by a gradually rising knoll, developed by the earth excavated from the cellars and foundations. The floors of the principal apartments ought to be only one or two steps above this artificial surface, to admit a ready egress from them at the casements, which may be made to open to the carpet. A few years ago prevailed the Italian style, of erecting the chief apartments on an elevated basement - at that time the knoll was not in use for such purposes; but since the self-imposed constraint and reserved stateliness of the former age has yielded to the charms of the garden, and of greater freedom, the use of the basement story, as it was called, is abandoned, and the lawn become a verdant continuation of the carpetings of the library and drawing room, sharing with them the honours of hourly occupation.

The form or position of the natural soil on which the house is to be erected, must govern the means employed to create suitable levels, mounds or terraces. If the ground be sloping, one of its fronts must be raised to an outward gently hanging level, while the opposite front will require a terrace. If it be in a hollow, then it must have a considerable elevation of the lawn to produce the effect of a rising surface, and to throw the water from the building, which would else be vulnerable to an overflow from showers.

Hollows that seem to be the site of exhausted ponds, have always an ill effect; these ought to be wisely opened at the extremities, by which a valley - like continuity is produced, and the mind becomes satisfied.

The mound or knoll, when a little curved on its surface and roundhig only as it becomes a sort of terrace next the house, is more natural and pleasing than when altogether convex: indeed the rising surfaces of lawn and pasture are improved when so hollowed, and are viewed with advantage from lower ground, for they there show the whole area, which is abridged in the other instance; besides, the shadows projected upon them are often considerably lengthened by this form, and thence become means of greater repose to the landscape.

It is manifest that ground composed of hill and valley in graceful undulations, shows many local and incidental beauties not possessed by the level plain: the continual changes of form produced by the movements of the spectator-the diversity of light, shade and colour, changed by the varied angles at which they are viewed - the intricacy and pleasing combinations of differently elevated objects as they are passed, all combine to prove the superiority of an undulating surface.

Whenever the formation of ground is taken into consideration, due attention must be paid to its character and that of the surrounding country, the peculiarities and qualities of the place, and the effect proposed to be introduced, remembering that the object of the artist is to hide his art. The romantic ought to be bold and broken, combining steep declivities with dell-like ravines. The garden show natural irregularities, but not be so broken and abrupt. The park and pastural demand sweeping and expansive undulations, without the necessity of completely disguising the means employed for its improvement; but the studied landscape which should form the foreground of the mansion, and harmonize with its features, may display the entire skill of the improver. Here the artist, wisely selecting the most perfect specimens from nature, should combine them with poetic feeling, and preserve them with assiduous care. Without becoming vulnerable to the imputation of neglect or slovenliness, the operations of the gardener cannot be hideed in this place.

On this subject much controversy has existed, because too many authors have disregarded the harmony necessary to combine the landscape with the building, or because a certain quantity of "picturesqueness" was considered necessary to the perfection of landscape. This word is still fatal to the reconcilement of conflicting opinions, for the roughbesses only of nature are often supposed to constitute the essential attributes of the picturesque.

"The Picturesque" rather implies that which is like to a picture, or such combinations of form, light, shade, colour and efect as a painter would choose to record by his pencil. The term indeed embraces a vast extent of matter, and painters have shown us what it is;-the simply chaste compositions of Raphael and Guido, alike with the exuberant compositions of Rubens - all that is elegant, refined, graceful, gorgeous or splendid in the higher claims of art, are within the measure of the term; and so with the inferior but pleasing compositions of the Dutch and Flemish schools. In landscape it is the same; the elegant and classic scenery of Claude, the bolder compositions of Poussin, the romantic flights of Salvata Rosa, the homely scenes of WVynants, all come within the same pale, and are capable of as distinct classification.

The fundamental error, has arisen out of the too ordinary opinion that all which is not rugged and rude, is not picturesque; whereas beauty and fitness are its indispensable characteristics: it exists wherever these qualities are combined, and ceases where they are not. The picturesque ends at the point where nature or art is distorted or exaggerated; where nature herself is extravagant, she is not beautiful but fantastic. Rubens ventures to the full limit, but is yet picturesque; Goltzius, though a painter of genius and vast energy, passes the boundary, and becomes grotesque.

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