The Garden Guide

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

Gardens in Java

Previous - Next

777. In Java, judging from the work of Sir Stamford Raffles, there seems to be very little gardening, either as an art of taste or of culture. The kraton, or palace of the prince, is an extensive square, surrounded by a high wall, with a moat in the front, and sometimes in the rear. An open square is surrounded by railing, in the centre of which are two banyan trees, the mark of the royal residence from the earliest date of Javan history. (History of Java, p. 84.) The cottages are never found detached or solitary ; they always unite to form villages of greater or less extent, according to the fertility of the neighbouring plain, abundance of water, or other accidental circumstances. In some provinces, the usual number of inhabitants in a village is about 200 ; in others, less than fifty. On the first establishing or formation of a village on new ground, the intended settlers take care to provide themselves with sufficient garden ground around their huts for their stock, and to supply the ordinary wants of their families. The produce of this plantation is the exclusive property of the peasant, and is exempted from contribution or burden; and such is their number and extent in some regencies (as in Kedu, for instance), that they constitute, perhaps, a tenth part of the area of the whole district. The spot surrounding his simple habitation the cottager considers his exclusive patrimony, and cultivates with peculiar care. He labours to plant and to rear in it those vegetables that may be most useful to his family, and those shrubs and trees which may at once yield him their fruit and their shade: nor does he waste his efforts on a thankless soil. The cottages, or assemblage of huts, that compose the village, become thus completely screened from the rays of a scorching sun, and are so buried amid the foliage of a luxuriant vegetation, that, at a small distance, no appearance of a human dwelling can be discovered; and the residence of a numerous society appears only a verdant grove or a clump of evergreens. Nothing can exceed the beauty or the interest which such detached masses of verdure, scattered over the face of the country, and indicating each the abode of a collection of happy peasantry, add to scenery otherwise rich, whether viewed on the sides of the mountains, in the narrow vales, or on the extensive plains. In the last case, before the grain is planted, and during the season of irrigation, when the rice-fields are inundated, they appear like so many small islands rising out of the water. As the young plant advances, their deep rich foliage contrasts pleasingly with its lighter tints; and when the full-cared grain, with a luxuriance that exceeds a European harvest, invests the earth with its richest yellow, they give a variety to the prospect, and afford a most refreshing relief to the eye. The clumps of trees, with which art attempts to diversity and adorn the most skilfully arranged park, can bear no comparison with them in rural beauty or picturesque effect. (Ibid., p. 81.)