The Garden Guide

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

Operations with a view to relative or artificial beauty

Previous - Next

1497, Operations with a view to relative or artificial beauty. The forms in use for this purpose are few and simple. They originate in, and are influenced by, those of the house; and are, for the greater part, bounded by right lines; the surfaces being levels or slopes of different degrees of abruptness. The magnitude as well as form of each of the figures in the ground immediately adjoining a house, or in a detached walled enclosure, should be regulated chiefly by the magnitude of the mansion, or the extent and grandeur of the whole place, though they are often obliged to conform, in some degree, to the natural surface. When the ground slopes from the house in all directions, narrow parallelograms should be the prevailing forms both of the levels and slopes. The broadest level, and greatest perpendicular depth of slope, should generally be placed next the house, and the next broadest level, &c., in succession, till, after three or four levels, and as many slopes, are obtained, the artificial surface finally blends with the natural; unless, as is frequently the case in the geometric style, a kitchen-garden wall, or some similar work of art, forms the termination. In this case, separation by some architectural or other accompaniment will, by making a break in the order of forms, admit of adopting, in continuation of the artificial surface, such levels and slopes as the character of the scene may require, or a due regard to economy dictate. When the mansion, or scene of operations, is on a surface naturally flat, the levels should be of greater dimensions, and the slopes smaller; and both should be fewer in number. But though parallelograms are the common figures employed, sections of polygons, trapeziums, circles, and curvilinear figures, are frequently admitted. They are used in architectural elevations, and in fortifications, which are the prototypes of this part of ancient gardening; and, therefore, when apparent in the mansion, should be reflected, as it were, by the grounds. The forms to be used are easily determined. The principal difficulty is to arrange them together so that they may concur in producing a whole, or a good effect. In disposing, connecting, relating, and contrasting them for this purpose, the artist will preserve regularity and uniformity in the complex view of the whole, varying and harmonising the detail according to the degree of beauty and variety he intends to produce. If he has duly prepared his mind by theoretical studies, and practised architectural and landscape drawing, his own feeling of their impression will suggest when he has attained the desired effect; for the models of artificial surfaces which remain of ancient gardens are poor productions compared to what might be created in this way, through the judicious application of the principles of relative beauty. A good deal depends on adjusting the extent of geometrical or architectural surface to the size of the house and surrounding grounds; and in this matter much depends on the regularity or irregularity of the ground-plan of the former, and on the evenness or variation of the surface of the latter. A square house on a level, or on a gentle swell, will require least extent of architectural platform around it, and a straggling Gothic castle on an irregular declivity the greatest extent of terraces, angles, ramps, and slopes.