The Garden Guide

Book: The Principles of Landscape Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 2: Compositional Elements of Landscape Gardening

Harmony between landscape character, context and design

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1499. In heightening natural beauties the first thing to be considered is, what will harmonise with the general character of the situation. 'The shape of ground,' says Whately, 'must be either a convex, a concave, or a plane; in terms less technical called a swell, a hollow, and a level. By combinations of these are formed all the irregularities of which ground is capable; and the beauty of it depends on the degrees and the proportions in which they are blended.' (Obs. on Modern Gardening, p. 2.) It is obvious that swells and hollows are much better materials to work with than a flat surface. In situations of this kind, by studying the character indicated by nature, it will generally be found, that the deficiency of expression is owing to the hollows being in part clogged up, either naturally or by long continuation under the plough; and the swells lowered in a corresponding degree by the same process. In this case, the obvious improvement is to remove earth from the hollows and place it on the eminences, ever keeping in view the natural expression, and avoiding to end the improvement, by leaving the hollows gutters, and the eminences pointed ridges. This improvement is often attended with surprising effects; for every foot of depth taken from a hollow, and laid on an adjoining hill, adds two feet to the height of the latter; and thus the landscape-gardener, particularly if he calls in the aid of planting, judiciously disposed, may produce the effect of a romantic glen, in a situation which naturally possessed no distinctive character. But a dead flat is, of all situations, the most unpromising for a landscape-gardener to work with, if he wishes to produce any thing like picturesque scenery. Every thing has to be created by art, and there is always a degree of stiffness and a want of fitness where art has been struggling against nature, which produces a most unpleasant effect upon the mind. Where, therefore, the situation is perfectly flat, it is safest for the landscape-gardener to abandon all ideas of producing picturesque beauty, and to confine himself to geometrical or regular forms, the beauty of which is entirely independent of situation.