The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment Xx. Concerning Contrasts.

Plants of contrasting size

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Fourthly. The contrast of size; some, like the aloe, the horse-chestnut, or the tulip-tree, bearing their blossoms above the reach of man; and others, like the diminutive rock-plants, and miniatures of nature, requiring to be raised, or placed on tables, and in flower-pots or baskets. Sometimes plants of the same species assume new dimensions, forming a contrast with their more common measurements; as in the diminutive dwarf Burgundy rose, and the gigantic viola tricolor; which may be used as an example of contrasts in colour, and in relative dimensions*. *[In alluding to the contrast from dimensions, I cannot omit some notice of the power of art over nature in this respect. In China, it is a common practice not only to compress the feet of women, but they have a mode of stinting the growth of trees, by which they can reduce oaks and elms to the size of shrubs in garden-pots, to decorate the decks and cabins of their ships. A curious specimen of this kind of dwarf plant may be seen growing from the roof of a conduit, near the road side, betwixt Hyde Park and Knightsbridge; where a perfect elm, in miniature, has existed, to my knowledge, nearly half a century, without being now much bigger than a currant-bush. [Trees of this kind are not uncommon on old walls. In 1831, a Scotch pine, not much larger than Mr. Repton's elm, had lived, for many years, on the wall of the corridor, which connects the centre of the house with the wings, at Castle Semple, near Paisley; and, in 1833, there were, on the piers of the court of entrance to Blenheim, from Woodstock, an ash on one pier, and a sycamore on the other.] In England we are apt to err in an opposite extreme, endeavouring rather to increase the size, than diminish it; thus we destroy the original stock (witness the gigantic but tasteless gooseberry of Lancashire), and often injure the flavour, by increasing the size; swelling the pippin to a pearmain, and the nonpareil to a nonsuch. [Opinions of this kind were prevalent twenty years ago; but, in the present day, large fruits, of every kind, are to be found of as exquisite flavour as small ones. In gooseberries, for example, we have the whitesmith, lady Delamere, white eagle; in apples, the new town-pippin, Cornish gilliflower; in pears, the duchesse d'Angouleme, beurre diel, &c.-J. C. L.]]