The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section III. On Wood.

Planting in the picturesque mode

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In order to know how a plantation in the Picturesque mode should be treated, after it is established, we should reflect a moment on what constitutes picturesqueness in any tree. This will be found to consist either in a certain natural roughness of bark, or wildness of form and outline, or in some accidental curve of a branch of striking manner of growth, or perhaps of both these conjoined. A broken or crooked limb, a leaning trunk, or several stems springing from the same base, are frequently peculiarities that at once stamp a tree as picturesque. Hence, it is easy to see that the excessive care of the cultivator of trees in the graceful school to obtain the smoothest trunks, and the most sweeping, perfect, and luxuriant heads of foliage, is quite the opposite of what is the picturesque arboriculturist's ambition. He desires to encourage a certain wildness of growth, and allows his trees to spring up occasionally in thickets to assist this effect; he delights in occasional irregularity of stem and outline, and he therefore suffers his trees here and there to crowd each other; he admires a twisted limb or a moss covered branch, and in pruning he therefore is careful to leave precisely what it would be the aim of the other to remove; and his pruning, where it is at all necessary, is directed rather towards increasing the naturally striking and peculiar habit of the picturesque tree, than assisting it in developing a form of unusual refinement and symmetry. From these remarks we think the amateur will easily divine, that planting, grouping, and culture to produce the Beautiful, require a much less artistic eye (though much more care and attention) than performing the same operations to elicit the Picturesque. The charm of a refined and polished landscape garden, as we usually see it in the Beautiful grounds with all the richness and beauty developed by high culture, arises from our admiration of the highest perfection, the greatest beauty of form, to which every object can be brought; and, in trees, a judicious selection, with high cultivation, will always produce this effect.