A beautiful house in a fair landscape is the most delightful scene of the cultivated earth—all the more so if there be an artistic garden—the rarest thing to find! The union—a happy marriage it should be—between the house beautiful and the ground near it is worthy of more thought than it has had in the past, and the best ways of effecting that union artistically should interest men more and more as our cities grow larger and our lovely landscape shrinks back from them. The views of old writers will help us little, for a wholly different state of things has arisen in these mechanical days. My own view is that we have never yet got from the garden, and, above all, the home landscape, half the beauty which we may get by abolishing the needless formality and geometry which disfigure so many gardens, both as regards plan and flower planting. Formality is often essential in the plan of a flower garden near a house—never as regards the arrangements of its flowers or shrubs. To array these in lines or rings or patterns can only be ugly wherever done!
That men have never yet generally enjoyed the beauty that good garden design may give is clear from the fact that the painter is driven from the garden! The artist dislikes the common garden with its formality and bedding; he cannot help hating it! In a country place he will seek anything but the garden, but may, perhaps, be found near a wild Rose tossing over the pigsty. This dislike is natural and right, as from most flower gardens the possibility of any beautiful result is shut out! Yet the beautiful garden exists, and there are numbers of gardens in India that are as “paintable” as any bit of pure landscape!
Why is the cottage garden often a picture, and the gentleman’s garden near, wholly shut out of the realm of art, a thing which an artist cannot look at long? It is the absence of pretentious “plan” in the cottage garden which lets the flowers tell their tale direct; the simple walks going where they are wanted; flowers not set in patterns; the walls and porch alive with flowers. Can the gentleman’s garden then, too, be a picture? Certainly; the greater the breadth and means the better the picture should be. But never if our formal “decorative” style of design is kept to. Reform must come by letting Nature take her just place in the garden.