The Garden Guide

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

Trees as an adornment of nature

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1504. Trees are the most striking objects that adorn the face of inanimate nature. If we imagine for a moment that the surface of Europe were totally divested of wood, what would be our sensations on viewing its appearance ? Without this accompaniment, hills and valleys, rivers and lakes, rocks and cataracts, all of themselves the most perfect that could be imagined, would present an aspect bleak, savage, and uninteresting. But, let the mountains be covered with wood, and the water shaded by trees, and the scene is instantly changed: what was before cold and barren, is now rich, noble, and full of variety. In travelling through a naked country, a whole unvaried horizon is comprehended by the eye with a single glance; its surface is totally destitute of intricacy to excite curiosity and fix attention; and both the eye and the mind are kept in a state of perpetual weariness and fatigue. But in a wooded country, the scene is continually changing; the trees form a varied boundary to every thing around, and enter into numberless and pleasing combinations with all other objects; the eye is relieved without distraction, and the mind fully engaged without fatigue. If we examine even a tree by itself, the intricate formation and disposition of its boughs, spray, and leaves, its varied form, beautiful tints, and diversity of light and shade, make it far surpass every other object; and, notwithstanding this multiplicity of separate parts, its general effect is simple and grand. It is in the arrangement and management of trees and shrubs that the art of the landscape-gardener principally consists; and of all the materials of landscapes it is the one most completely within his control. Earth and rocks are frequently too ponderous for him to contend with, buildings are often too expensive, and water is only to be met with in certain situations and under particular circumstances; but we rarely find a spot where trees cannot be planted, and we can hardly conceive of one where they will not greatly add to the beauty and variety of natural scenery.