The Garden Guide

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

The character of rocks may be savage, terrific, sublime, picturesque or fantastic

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1531. The character of rocks may be savage, terrific, sublime, picturesque, or fantastic. By attending to the forms of the milder characters, and their connection with ground and trees, we shall discover whether, and to what extent, they may be improved. Savage rocks are too inhospitable to be permanently admitted, in any extent, near the eye. All rocks convey something of this idea that are not accompanied by vegetation; and, therefore, planting among or near them, is, in every case, an improvement where trees do not exist All rocks are expressive of dignity; those eminently so, are not greatly varied by projections from their surface; their beauty is to be augmented, either by increasing their surface in height or depth, or by connecting it if too scattered. The removal of a few feet of earth, or part of the bushes or trees from the bottom of a precipice or ridge, and the emplacement of a line of wood along its summit, will increase its real and apparent height; a similar process with respect to the sides will add to the idea of stability and continuation. If the parts are too much scattered, a few trees placed before, or bushes or creepers planted in the intervals between the parts, will connect them, and give the idea of a whole partly concealed. But in this case, a considerable breadth of surface is necessary, at least in one place, otherwise dignity must give way to picturesque beauty. The least indications of rocks that are not very fantastic in their form, even including such whose chief expression is picturesque beauty, are, to a certain degree, expressive of dignity. The slightest indication of a stratum or ledge appearing above the surface, conveys something of this idea, and ought not to be neglected. When they are discovered by alterations in the ground with a view to the formation of roads, fences, and water, or to the erection of buildings, occasional advantage may be taken of their appearance. A road across a declivity may be accompanied by a ledge of rocks instead of a bank of earth. Grounds which are broken and picturesque will display a more sufficient reason for the appearance. The walls of a terrace evidently in part founded on a rock, will give an idea of dryness, dignity, and security to the house; and the margin of a stream displaying even large stones, increases the idea of impetuosity; or, in lakes, of the action of water in washing away the earth. Among imitations of wild scenery, detached stones heighten the illusion, and carry back the mind to the aboriginal state of the country. Loose or detached fragments of rocks may often aid the effect of real or supposed masses. The appearance of a large rude stone near a wooded steep, unless of one evidently rounded by water or art, always leads the mind to the larger mass up the acclivity from which it has been broken and rolled down; if partly sunk in the ground, and concealed by vegetation, the fertility of the imagination considers those parts of great magnitude which lie buried under the surface. All this, however, can only be successfully accomplished in a country which, by the character of its general surface, does not preclude the idea of rocks. On a flat or a champaign country, the want of truth, or seeming truth, would render them disagreeable; and, indeed, did rocks exist in such a landscape, they should be hidden rather than displayed, unless of such extraordinary magnitude and effect, as to form an exception to general principles.