The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Garden design in America

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1. Gardening in North America, as an Art of Design and Taste 841. Landscape-Gardening is practised in the United States on a comparatively limited scale; because, in a country where all men have equal rights, and where every man, however humble, has a house and garden of his own, it is not likely that there should be many large parks. The only splendid examples of park and hothouse gardening that, we trust, will ever be found in the United States, and ultimately in every other country, are such as will be formed by towns and villages, or other communities, for the joint use and enjoyment of all the inhabitants or members. With a view to this end, and to this end only, are the gardens of the monarchs and magnates of Europe at all worth studying. The general appearance of the country is thus described by Mr. James McNab, when he visited America in the autumn of 1834. 'Before landing at New York, the country appears to a stranger of a very dark and dismal hue, from the quantity of pines and red cedars which clothe the more conspicuous prominences; but after landing, the whole, from the prevalence of fine trees and shrubs, appears like one vast garden. The stranger is strongly impressed with the beauty and number of the trees, which are partly indigenous to the locality or the district, and partly introduced from more southern climates. The diversity of the forms of the trees and the variety of their foliage are most remarkable. No remains of ancient forests are observable, as might be supposed, these having been long since cut down for fuel ; but forest trees of large size are frequently to be seen, covered to their summits with wild vines. Of these the Platanus occidentalis, Liriodendron, Liquidambar, Gleditschia triacanthos, and the Catalpa are pre-eminent. It is worthy of remark, that almost the only foreign trees conspicuous in the artificial scenery of America are various kinds of fruit trees, the Lombardy poplar, and the weeping willow. The contrast between the regular position and round tufted heads of the fruit trees and the lance-shaped heads of the poplars, and between both these trees and the wild luxuriance of the indigenous species, is very striking. About sixty-seven miles up the country, on the river Hudson, a limestone district occurs; and on this the lively green of the arbor vitï¾µ succeeds to the dark hue of the red cedar. All the uncultivated parts of the surface are covered with this tree, of different sizes, varying from one foot to twenty feet in height, and always of a pyramidal shape.' (Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, vol. v. p. 594.)