Page images
PDF
EPUB

As the modern style owes its origin mainly to the English, so it has also been developed and carried to its greatest perfection in the British Islands. The law of primogeniture, which has there so long existed, in itself, contributes greatly to the continual improvement and embellishment of those vast landed estates, that remain perpetually in the hands of the same family. Magnificent buildings, added to by each succeeding generation, who often preserve also the older portions with the most scrupulous care; wide spread parks, clothed with a thick velvet turf, which amid their moist atmosphere, preserves during great part of the year an emerald greenness-studded with noble oaks and other forest trees which number centuries of growth and maturity; these advantages, in the hands of the most intelligent and the wealthiest aristocracy in the world, have indeed made, almost, an entire landscape garden of "merry England." Among a multitude of splendid examples of these noble residences, we will only refer the reader to the celebrated Blenheim, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough, where the lake alone (probably the largest piece of artificial water in the world) covers a surface of two hundred acres : Warwick Castle, a venerable pile, portions of which have been built a thousand years, standing on a hill from whence the eye, though ranging over a wide-spread landscape, only beholds the park and wooded demesne of one proprietor: and Woburn Abbey, the grounds of which are full of the choicest specimens of trees and plants, and where the park, like that of Ashbridge, Chatsworth, and several other private residences in England, is only embraced within a circumference of from ten, to twenty miles.

On the continent of Europe, though there are a multitude of examples of the modern style of landscape gardening,

which is there called the English or natural style, yet in the neighborhood of many of the capitals, especially those of the south of Europe, the taste for the geometric or ancient style of gardening still prevails to a considerable extent; partially no doubt because that style admits, with more facility, of those classical and architectural acompaniments of vases, statues, busts, etc., the passion for which pervades a people rich in ancient and modern sculptural works of art. Indeed many of the gardens on the continent are more striking from their numerous sculpturesque ornaments, interspersed with fountains and jets-d'eau, than from the beauty or rarity of their vegetation, or from their arrangement.

In the United States, it is highly improbable that we shall ever witness such splendid examples of landscape gardens as those abroad, to which we have alluded. Here the rights of man are held to be equal; and if there are no enormous parks, and no class of men whose wealth is hereditary, there is, at least, what is more gratifying to the feelings of the philanthropist, the almost entire absence of a very poor class in the country; while we have, on the other hand, a large class of independent landholders, who are able to assemble around them, not only the useful and convenient, but the agreeable and beautiful, in country. life.

The number of individuals among us who possess wealth and refinement sufficient to enable them to enjoy the pleasures of a country life, and who desire in their private residences so much of the beauties of landscape gardening and rural embellishment as may be had without any enormous expenditure of means, is every day increasing. And although, until lately, a very meagre plan of laying out the grounds of a residence, was all that we could lay claim

[ocr errors]

to, yet the taste for elegant rural improvements is advancing now so rapidly, that we have no hesitation in predicting that in half a century more, there will exist a greater number of beautiful villas and country seats of moderate extent, in the Atlantic States, than in any country in Europe, England alone excepted. With us, a feeling, a taste, or an improvement, is contagious; and once fairly appreciated and established in one portion of the country, it is disseminated with a celerity that is indeed wonderful, to every other portion. And though, it is necessarily the case where amateurs of any art are more numerous than its professors, that there will be, in devising and carrying plans into execution, many specimens of bad taste, and perhaps a sufficient number of efforts to improve without any real taste whatever, still we are convinced the effect of our rural embellishments will in the end be highly agreeable, as a false taste is not likely to be a permanent one in a community where every thing is so much the subject of criticism.

With regard to the literature and practice of Landscape Gardening as an art, in North America, almost every thing is yet before us, comparatively little having yet been done. Almost all the improvements in the grounds of our finest country residences, have been carried on under the direction of the proprietors themselves, suggested by their own good taste, in many instances improved by the study of European authors, or by a personal inspection of the finest places abroad. The only American work previously published which treats directly of Landscape Gardening, is the American Gardener's Calendar, by Bernard McMahon of Philadelphia. The only practitioner of the art, of any note, was the late M. Parmentier of Brooklyn, Long Island.

M. André Parmentier was the brother of that celebrated

horticulturist, the Chevalier Parmentier, Mayor of Enghien, Holland. He emigrated to this country about the year 1824, and in the Horticultural Nurseries which he established at Brooklyn, he gave a specimen of the natural style of laying out grounds, combined with a scientific arrangement of plants, which excited public curiosity, and contributed not a little, to the dissemination of a taste for the natural mode of landscape gardening.

During M. Parmentier's residence on Long Island, he was almost constantly applied to for plans for laying out the grounds of country seats, by persons in various parts of the Union, as well as in the immediate proximity of New-York. In many cases he not only surveyed the demesne to be improved, but furnished the plants and trees necessary to carry out his designs. Several plans were prepared by him for residences of note in the Southern States; and two or three places in Upper Canada, especially near Montreal, were, we believe, laid out by his own hands and stocked from his nursery grounds. In his periodical catalogue, he arranged the hardy trees and shrubs that flourish in this latitude in classes, according to their height, etc., and published a short treatise on the superior claims of the natural, over the formal or geometric style of laying out grounds. In short we consider M. Parmentier's labours and example as having effected, directly, far more for landscape gardening in America, than those of any other individual whatever.

The introduction of tasteful gardening in this country is, of course, of a very recent date. But so long ago as from 25 to 50 years, there were several country residences highly remarkable for extent, elegance of arrangement, and the highest order and keeping. Among these, we desire especially, to record here the celebrated seats of Chancellor Liv

ingston, Wm. Hamilton Esq., Theodore Lyman Esq., and Judge Peters.

Woodlands, the seat of the Hamilton family, near Philadelphia, was, so long ago as 1805, highly celebrated for its gardening beauties. The refined taste and the wealth of its accomplished owner, were freely lavished in its improvement and embellishment; and at a time when the introduction of rare exotics was attended with a vast deal of risk and trouble, the extensive green-houses and orangeries of this seat, contained all the richest treasures of the exotic flora, and among other excellent gardeners employed, was the distinguished botanist Pursh, whose enthusiastic taste in his favorite science was promoted and aided by Mr. Hamilton. The extensive pleasure grounds were judiciously planted singly and in groups, with a great variety of the finest species of trees. The attention of the visitor to this place is now arrested by two very large specimens of that curious tree, the Japanese Ginko, (Salisburia) 60 or 70 feet high, perhaps the finest in Europe or America, by the noble magnolias, and the rich park-like appearance of some of the plantations of the finest native and foreign oaks. From the recent unhealthiness of this portion of the Schuylkill, Woodlands has fallen into decay, but there can be no question that it was, for a long time, the most tasteful and beautiful residence in America.

The seat of the late Judge Peters, about five miles from Philadelphia, was, 30 years ago, a noted specimen of the ancient school of landscape gardening. Its proprietor had a most extended reputation as a scientific agriculturist, and his place was also no less remarkable for the design and culture of its pleasure-grounds, than for the excellence of its farm. Long and stately avenues, with

« PreviousContinue »