The Garden Guide

Book: The Principles of Landscape Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 1: Principles of Landscape Gardening

Gardening authors on the ancient style

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1457. The authors who have written on gardening in the ancient style appear to have had the same principles in view with regard to gardens that they applied to architecture. According to this style regularity and symmetry were the principal points to be attended to; and the gardens of the ancient Romans were regarded as their principal models. The chief object aimed at in the Roman gardens was to have every thing as different from nature as possible, in order to show that art had been exercised; and hence, gardens in what is called the ornamental style consist principally of terraces, stone arbours, statues, marble basins for fountains, and other architectural ornaments which could only be formed by man. Even the trees were cut into regular forms, and the walks were all straight and at right angles with each other, unless they were formed into regular geometrical patterns with stone or brick edges. Gardens formed after this model were more places for stately promenades than for what in modern times we consider the enjoyment of a garden; and the mode of planting them was quite a secondary consideration, as the forms in which the plants were disposed were the points which required the skill of the gardener, and not the culture of the plants themselves. Le Notre, who was considered a first-rate authority in gardens in this style, had two fixed principles in laying out geometrical gardens, from which he never deviated; and these were; 1. To make the garden to be laid out as different as possible from the general character of the surrounding natural scenery; and 2. To make every part of it correspond with another part. Thus, to carry out his first principle, if the general character of the country were hilly, he took care to level every inequality of surface in the ground to be laid out, so as to make it a perfect flat; and if the surrounding country were flat, he dotted over the whole surface of his garden with artificial hills and valleys: and in execution of his second principle, he never placed an arbour unless there could be another arbour opposite to it; every statue had its corresponding statue; and every parterre its fellow. In short, every garden of this kind exactly realised the poet's description: 'Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother, And half the platform just reflects the other.'