The Garden Guide

Book: Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening, 1795
Chapter: Chapter 6: On on the ancient style of gardening; Of symmetry and uniformity

Symmetrical flower gardens

Previous - Next

It is upon this principle that I have frequently advised the most perfect symmetry in those small flower-gardens which are generally placed in the front of a green-house, or orangery, in some inner part of the grounds; where, being secluded from the general scenery, they become a kind of episode to the great and more conspicuous parts of the place. In such small enclosures, irregularity would appear like affectation. Symmetry is also allowable, and indeed necessary, at or near the front of a regular building; because, where that displays correspondent parts, if the lines in contact do not also correspond, the house itself will appear twisted and awry. Yet this degree of Symmetry ought to go no farther than a small distance from the house, and should be confined merely to such objects as are confessedly works of art for the uses of man; such as a road, a walk, or an ornamental fence, whether of wood or iron; but it is not necessary that it should extend to plantations, canals, or over the natural shape of the ground. "In forming plans for embellishing a field, an artist without taste employs straight lines, circles, and squares, because these look best upon paper. He perceives not, that to humour and adorn nature is the perfection of his art; and that nature, neglecting regularity, distributes her objects in great variety, with a bold hand. (Some old gardens were disposed like the human frame; alleys, like legs and arms, answering each other; the great walk in the middle representing the trunk of the body.) Nature, indeed, in organized bodies comprehended under one view, studies regularity; which, for the same reason, ought to be studied in architecture; but in large objects, which cannot be surveyed but in parts, and by succession, regularity and uniformity would be useless properties, because they cannot be discovered by the eye. Nature, therefore, in her large works, neglects these properties; and, in copying nature, the artist ought to neglect them."*-Lord Kaims's Elements of Criticism. *[This extract would require to be analyzed, and some erroneous principles in it pointed out. To say that straight lines, circles, &c. look best on paper, is, as a general principle, not true; for they can only look better than other lines by being better suited for the particular purpose for which they are introduced. In a country where all is uncultivated nature, and consequently all the lines are irregular, geometrical lines and forms will unquestionably be admired, as indications of art and refinement; and this, is the principle on which the architectural style of gardening was founded. "To humour and adorn nature," would not, in such a case, be the perfection of a landscape gardener's art; on the contrary, it would, in such a case, consist in controlling nature, and subjecting her to those forms and dispositions which indicated the wealth, the power, and the civilization and taste of man.-J. C. L.]