The Garden Guide

Book: Colour schemes for the flower garden
Chapter: Chapter 18 Form in planting

Fine art and garden design

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Even a proficiency in some branch of fine art does not necessarily imply ability to lay out ground. I have known, in the intimate association of half a lifetime, a landscape painter whose interpretation of natural beauty was of the most refined and poetical quality, and who truly loved flowers and beautiful vegetation, but who was quite incapable of personally arranging a garden; although it is more usual that an artist should almost unconsciously place plants well. It is therefore not to be expected that it is enough to buy good plants and merely to tell the gardener of average ability to plant them in groups, as is now often done with the very best intention. It is impossible for the gardener to know what is meant. In all the cases that have come under my notice, where such indefinite instruction has been given, the things have been planted in stiff blocks. Quite lately I came upon such an example in the garden of a friend who is by no means without a sense of beauty. There was a bank-like space on the outskirts of the pleasure-ground where it was wished to have a wild Heath garden. A better place could hardly be, for the soil is light and sandy and the space lies out in full sunlight. The ground had been thrown about into ridges and valleys, but without any reference to its natural form, whereas with half the labour it might have been guided into slight hollows, ridges and promontories of good line and proportion. I found it planted as in the upper plan; the path stiffly edged with one kind of Heath on one side and another kind on the other; the back planting in rectangular blocks; near the front, bushes of Veronica at exactly even distances, and between each bush the same number of Heaths in every interval quite stiffly planted. Some of the blocks at the back were of Violets�plants quite unsuited to the place. Yet, only leaving out the Violets, all the same plants might have been disposed so as to come quite easily and naturally as shown on the lower plan. Then a thin sowing of the finer Heath grasses, to include the pathway, where alone they would be mown, and a clever interplanting of wild Thyme and the native Wood Sage (Teucrium Scorodonia), common on the neighbouring heaths, would have put the whole thing together and would have given the impression, so desirable in wild planting, of the thing having so happened, rather than of its having been artificially made.