The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section VII. Treatment of Ground-Formation of Walks

Scale and extent in landform design

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In places of large extent there may be scenes in different portions of the park of totally different character; one simply beautiful, abounding with graceful and flowing lines, and another highly picturesque, and full of spirited breaks and variations. Such often form very pleasing and striking contrasts to each other, and should therefore, by all means, be preserved: but they should also be rendered distinct by their own surrounding plantations, else much of their effect as a whole, when separately considered, will be lost upon the spectator. For it should be remembered the mind is incapable of appreciating or doing justice to two distinct and dissimilar expressions at the same time. Whatever be the scene to be improved, therefore, it should be taken by itself and considered as a whole, if the eye command that scene alone. Then the improver can proceed on the principle that every piece of ground is distinguished by certain properties: it is either tame or bold, graceful or rude, continued or broken; and if any variety inconsistent with these expressions be obtruded, it has no other effect than to weaken one idea without raising another. "The insipidity of a flat is not taken away by a few scattered hillocks; a continuation of uneven ground can alone give the idea of irregularity. A large, deep, abrupt break, among easy swells and falls, seems at best but a piece left unfinished, and which ought to have been softened; it is not more natural because it is more rude. On the other hand, a fine small polished form, in the midst of rough, mis-shapen ground, though more elegant than all about it, is generally no better than a patch, itself disgraced and disfiguring the scene. A thousand instances might be added to show that the prevailing idea ought to pervade every part, so far at least indispensably, as to exclude whatever distracts it, and as much further as possible to accommodate the character of the ground to that of the scene to which it belongs."* (* Mr. Whately has given such minute and excellent details in relation to this subject, in his Observations on Modern Gardening, that we gladly refer the reader who desires to pursue this subject further, to that work: which indeed is so unexceptionable in style and good taste, that Alison has frequently quoted it in illustration of his admirable Essay on Taste.)