The Garden Guide

Book: Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1803
Chapter: Preface, Containing some observations on taste

Design errors in landscape gardening

Previous - Next

OBJECTION No. 1. There is no error more prevalent in modern gardening, or more frequently carried to excess, than taking away hedges to unite many small fields into one extensive and naked lawn, before plantations are made to give it the appearance of a park; and where ground is subdivided by sunk fences, imaginary freedom is dearly purchased at the expense of actual confinement. No. 2. The baldness and nakedness round the house is part of the same mistaken system, of concealing fences to gain extent. A palace, or even an elegant villa, in a grass field, appears to me incongruous; yet I have seldom had sufficient influence to correct this common error. No. 3. An approach which does not evidently lead to the house, or which does not take the shortest course, cannot be right. [This rule must be taken with certain limitations. The shortest road across a lawn to a house will seldom be found graceful, and often vulgar. A road bordered by trees in the form of an avenue, may be straight without being vulgar; and grandeur, not grace or elegance, is the expression expected to be produced.] No. 4. A poor man's cottage, divided into what is called a pair of lodges, is a mistaken expedient to mark importance in the entrance to a Park. No. 5. The entrance gate should not be visible from the mansion, unless it opens into a court yard. No. 6. The plantation surrounding a place, called a Belt, I have never advised; nor have I ever willingly marked a drive, or walk, completely round the verge of a park, except in small villas, where a dry path round a person's own field is always more interesting to him than any other walk. No. 7. Small plantations of trees, surrounded by a fence, are the best expedients to form groups, because trees planted singly seldom grow well; neglect of thinning and removing the fence, has produced that ugly deformity called a Clump. No. 8. Water on an eminence, or on the side of a hill, is among the most common errors of Mr. Brown's followers: in numerous instances I have been allowed to remove such pieces of water from the hills to the valleys; but in many my advice has not prevailed. No. 9. Deception may be allowable in imitating the works of NATURE; thus artificial rivers, lakes, and rock scenery, can only be great by deception, and the mind acquiesces in the fraud, after it is detected: but in works of ART every trick ought to be avoided. Sham churches, sham ruins, sham bridges, and everything which appears what it is not, disgusts when the trick is discovered. No. 10. In buildings of every kind the character should be strictly observed. No incongruous mixture can be justified. To add Grecian to Gothic, or Gothic to Grecian, is equally absurd; and a sharp pointed arch to a garden gate or a dairy window, however frequently it occurs, is not less offensive than Grecian architecture, in which the standard rules of relative proportion are neglected or violated. The perfection of landscape gardening consists in the fullest attention to these principles, Utility, Proportion, and Unity, or harmony of parts to the whole.