THE FORMAL GARDEN STILL LIVES
And some formality will continue. The lawn will probably remain what it has always been, one of the chief glories of the English garden. It is a part of us—of our native climate, of our native character. Small gardens and large will have their area of shaven grass. Our robust outdoor games also demand turf. And beds will be put on a good many lawns, being none the less beds because they contain salvias and snapdragons instead of scarlet " geraniums” and yellow calceolarias.
There does not seem to be anything to worry about, anything to apologise for, in all this. It fits in with the prevailing circumstances. It is a part of the home, and one might pardonably describe it as domestic. But it does not stand alone. Supplementary to it there has come into being a system of Garden Art which may truly be described as English, inasmuch as it is the work of English reformers, who have borrowed their ideas only from earlier generations of Englishmen. Under this system hardy plants play a predominant part. Harmony of colour has become more important than design of parterre. Alpine plants are utilised extensively and with great effect. Plants are given more individuality.
[Editor's Note: Wright is discussing the advent of what is now called the Arts and Crafts Style of garden design. He plainly favours this style and disparages its immediate predecessor, the Mixed Style, as he does the Serpentine Style of the eighteenth century.]
It is a little curious that while foreign critics should have condemned the so-called English style for its informality, home critics should have complained of its formality. Until comparatively recent years, English flower-gardening was undoubtedly formal. Even within the recollection of many living people, carpet-bedding was practised in private as well as in public places. It has to be confessed that this style is still pursued in the public gardens of industrial districts, and enjoys much favour with the populace. But it is dead in private gardens. It would no more be tolerated there than the still older monstrosity of coloured earths.
The worst in the way of formalism that is to be met with now in the gardens of the nobility is encountered in those places where reasons of economy born of high taxation and a dwindling agriculture dictate that the garden staff shall give most of its attention to growing fruit and vegetables for market, so that nothing special can be attempted in flower-gardening. There are, unfortunately, a good many such cases. The gardeners consider that if they plant a few flower-beds with bulbs or wallflowers in autumn and antirrhinums in summer, and mow at least a part of the lawn, if only a ten-feet belt, they have done all that can reasonably be expected of them.
Happily a wave of garden-love has spread over the powerful commercial and professional classes of the country—classes with higher standards of education and culture than they are generally credited with possessing. We are all familiar with the tradesman or merchant (he is apt to be a soap-boiler) of the novel and the stage, who misplaces his aspirates. He lingers in fiction and at the play because those forms of “entertainment” are hopelessly archaic. In reality, he is to-day a well-educated man with a flair for public life and with cultured womenfolk who have a passion for flowers, which they study closely.
This wave has amply compensated for the loss — if indeed there is a loss —in the gardens of the aristocracy. It has swollen immensely the membership of the Royal Horticultural Society. It takes greater crowds than ever to the larger shows. It has raised the standard of gardening in all the more important public resorts, It has added pretty flower-gardens to thousands of good new middle-class houses and villas. We have, indeed, become a flower-growing people.