Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
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THE garden is the touch of nature which mediates between the seclusion of the home and the publicity of the street. It is nature controlled by art. In this assembling of trees, shrubbery, vines and flowers about the home, in this massing of greensward or beds of bloom, man is conjuring the beauties of nature into being at his very doorstep, and compelling them to refresh his soul with an ever-changing pageantry of life and color.
Unfortunately, in this workaday world, the possibility of the householder to be also a gardener is regulated by severe necessity. As men crowd together, the value of land increases, and so it is that in the heart of a large city only an enlightened public sentiment makes practicable the setting apart of areas where all may enjoy the redeeming grace of foliage and flowers. In proportion to the scattering of men is the extension of the garden possible, until the limit is reached in the lodge amid the wilderness, where the overpowering presence of nature makes the intrusion of an artificial garden an impertinence. In the village, then, the opportunities of the garden seem to be greatest.
But even the city home need not be wholly without the purifying influence of plants and flowers. Where houses are most congested and there is no land about the walls, one may resort to potted plants, and the streets may be decorated with palms or small trees in tubs or big terra-cotta pots. Vines may be planted in long wooden boxes, or, better still, in cement troughs against the sides of the
house. If one objects to growing flowers in the rooms, little balconies or railed-in brackets may be built outside the windows for holding rows of potted plants. Hanging baskets containing vines or ferns are most effective on porches, while boxes of earth may stand upon upper balconies from which vines may grow and trail over the outer walls. A movement for the decoration, with geraniums and other plants and vines, of the residence district of the poor, would, I firmly believe, yield immediate returns in the advancement of culture.
Another expedient in the absence of land about the home is the roof garden. If this were sheltered from the prevailing wind with a wall or screen of glass, it would give the urbanite a miniature park where be could enjoy fresh air in seclusion.
But these devices are all makeshifts for the unfortunate ones who must live in the heart of a city. When a home is built in the town or country, the matter of a garden must be taken into consideration. Indeed, this should be studied even before the house is located on the land. Modern town lots are commonly cut up in long, narrow strips, so that by putting the house in the midst of a lot there will be a front and a back yard. This conventional arrangement has its advantages, although, as a rule, an unnecessary amount of space is wasted on the back yard, the chief utility of which seems . to be to afford room for the garbage barrel and for drying clothes. If a hint is taken from the compact method of clothes-drying practiced by the Chinese at their laundries, the land so often set apart for this purpose can be greatly restricted, thus correspondingly enlarging the garden. Two alternatives then remain to place the house far back on the lot and have the garden all at the front, or to bring the house forward and have a small open plot in front and a retired garden in the rear.
hillsides, if the streets are laid out in a rational manner to
conform with the contour of the land, winding naturally up the
slopes, the lots will of necessity be cut into all sorts of irregular
shapes. This gives endless latitude in the placing of the houses upon
the lots, so that unconventional
buildings may be set upon the landscape in the most picturesque
fashion. But even when the lots are of the usual rectangular shape,
much ingenuity may be exercised in the location of the house with
reference to the garden. I have in mind one corner lot with a stream
winding through it, shaded with venerable live-oaks. By putting the
rear of the house on the property line of the side street, the front
wall was close to the bank of the stream, and was approached by a
simple brick bridge which led to the broad veranda about the
entrance. This unusual location gave the effect of a large front
garden, and made the stream the principal feature. A more
conventional arrangement would have relegated this charming little
watercourse to the back yard.
Brick Home in Dutch Style Approached Over a Bridge
Whenever an entire block of homes can be studied in one plan, much more can be accomplished than by the customary method of each man for himself, regardless of the interests of his neighbors. For example, if the houses must be crowded together on lots of fifty-feet width, the garden space could be made to yield the utmost privacy by some such arrangement as the following: Suppose the houses to be set two or three feet back from the property line, leaving just room enough to plant vines and bright flowers along the front. If, then, a brick fire wall were erected on each fifty-foot division line, the houses could be built touching one another, and thus completely filling the block, save for the margin of flowers. By planning each house on three sides of a hollow square, with long, narrow rooms in wings extending lengthwise on the lots, each home would have an inner court, completely sheltered from neighbors, and with ample space behind it for a back yard. Or this scheme might be reversed by facing the hollow square to the street, in which case the court might be sheltered by a hedge or low wall. According to the former plan, the long front wall would perhaps appear somewhat monotonous, but it could be diversified by having generous passageways opening directly through the houses into the courts, and by the judicious use of open timber work and carving, if the houses were of wood, or of ornamental terra-cotta, if of brick. The continuous line of varied bloom next the sidewalk, with shade trees on the street, would relieve this scheme of any stiffness. I mention these devices merely to show that many interesting garden effects might be obtained by the exercise of more thought in the placing of the house, and especially by studying a group of structures in connection with their surrounding land.
Now, as to the garden itself: In the matter of architecture, two leading types appear to be in vogue in California, a northern and a southern, differentiated by an extreme or slight roof pitch. In considering the garden, two pronounced types are also encountered the natural and formal each of which is subject to two modes of treatment according to the character of vegetation used, whether this be predominantly indigenous or predominantly exotic.
By a natural garden I understand one that simulates, as nearly as may be, the charm of the wilderness, tamed and diversified for convenience and accessibility. A treatment of this sort demands very considerable stretches of land to produce a satisfactory result. The English parks are probably the finest examples of this type, which can hardly be successfully applied to town lots not over a hundred feet in width at most. In a district where the lots are happily laid out on a somewhat more generous plan, and especially where nature has not been already despoiled of all her charms, this form of garden may be developed to best advantage. If situated in the California Coast region, within the redwood belt, nothing could give greater sense of peace and charm than a grove of these noble trees varied with liveoaks, and with other native trees and shrubs growing in their shade, such as madroρo and manzanita, sweet-scented shrub, wild currant, redbud and azalea, with wild-flowers peering from the leafy covert the hound's tongue, baby-blue-eyes, shooting-star, fritillaria, eschscholtzia, and a host of others. About such a garden as this there is a purer sentiment a more refined love of nature undefiled, than can be obtained by more artificial means; but such a garden needs room. Big trees, and especially such native evergreens as the redwood and live-oak, take an unexpected amount of space, and if crowded together make the surroundings too dark and gloomy. On the California Coast there is need of all the sunlight that heaven bestows. Then, too, many people build their homes on the hillsides to enjoy the view. If numbers of large trees are set out about their homes, the outlook is soon obliterated, and the charm of far sweeps of bay and purple ranges is lost. It may be suggested that there are plenty of smaller native trees and shrubs that can be used, which will be adapted to a restricted plot of ground. Practically it will be found, it seems to me, that a garden thus limited to indigenous plants will prove rather dull in color and lacking in character. Without the woodsy effect of light and shadow, or the brilliance of cultivated flowers, the little patch of green will be apt to seem rather commonplace.
This brings me to the second treatment of the natural type of garden the introduction of exotic plants into the scheme. The coast of California, as far north as the San Francisco Bay region, and the interior valleys for a hundred miles and more farther to the northward, have a climate of such temperateness that an extraordinary variety of exotics will thrive which, in less favored regions, would only live under glass. Bamboo, palms, dracaenas, magnolias, oranges, bananas, and innumerable other fragrant or showy plants of New Zealand and Australia, of Africa, South America and the Indies, grow with the hardihood of natives. Among the trees most commonly introduced are such as the eucalypti, acacias, pittosporums, grevilias, and araucarias, but the number of successfully growing exotics is bewildering.
Flowers which in colder climates must be carefully tended in pots, grow here like rank weeds, while vines that in more rugged localities develop a few timid sprays, shoot up here like Jack's beanstalk. An entire house may be embowered in a single rose vine. Geranium hedges may grow to a height of eight feet or more. It is a common sight to see hundreds of feet of stone wall so packed with the pink blossoms of the ivy-geranium that it appears like a continuous mass of bloom. The calla sends up its broad leaves and white cups as high as a man's head. The lemon verbena grows into a tree.
In the old-fashioned California gardens, advantage was taken of this prodigal growth, but without much study of arrangement. They were natural gardens of exotics, with curved paths, violet bordered, winding through the shrubbery. Often there was great incongruity in the assembling of plant forms, and the charm lay in the individual plants rather than in the ensemble.
Over against the natural garden, whether of indigenous or exotic plants, may be set by way of contrast, the formal garden. The Italians are masters of this type of garden architecture, and it is to them that Californians may well turn for inspiration. A formal garden is one arranged according to an architectural plan, with terraces, pools, fountains and watercourses, out-of-door rooms, and some suggestions of architectural or sculptural adornment. It would be possible to design a formal garden exclusively or mainly of indigenous plants, but this would unnecessarily cramp the artist in his work. By having a choice of all the plants of the temperate zone, the landscape gardener is given limitless power of expression in his art. It is, of course, a prime essential to consider the effects of massing and grouping, the juxtaposition of plants that seem to belong together, and a due regard for harmony in color scheme.
Another type which may be studied by the Californians to great advantage is the Japanese garden. Conventional to a degree with which the Western mind cannot be expected to sympathize, it is, nevertheless, a miniature copy of nature made with that consummate aesthetic taste characteristic of the Japanese race. The garden as they conceive it must have its mimic mountains and lakes, its rivulets spanned by arching bridges, its special trees and stones, all prescribed and named according to certain stereotyped plans. But despite all this conservatism and conventionality, the details are free and graceful, with a completeness and subtlety of finish that makes the Western
garden seem crude and commonplace by comparison. Their carved gates, patterned bamboo fences, stone lanterns, thatched summer houses, and other ornamental accessories are original and graceful in every detail. Like the Italians, the Japanese make use of retired nooks and out-of-door rooms, while artificial watercourses are features of their gardens.
My desire in calling especial attention to these two types of gardens developed by races as widely sundered as the Italian and the Japanese, is not that we in California should imitate either, or make a vulgar mixture of the two, but, rather, by a careful study of both, to select those features which can be best adapted to our own life and landscape, so that a new and distinctive type of garden may be evolved here, based upon the best examples of foreign lands. As to the precise form which this new garden type of California should assume, it is perhaps premature to say, but one thing is vital, that at least a portion of the space should be sequestered from public view, forming a room walled in with growing things and yet giving free access to light and air. To accomplish this there must be hedges or vine-covered walls or trellises, with rustic benches and tables to make the garden habitable. If two or more of these bowers are planned, connected by sheltered paths, a center of interest for the development of the garden scheme will be at once available. My own preference for a garden for the simple home is a compromise between the natural and formal types a compromise in which the carefully studied plan is concealed by a touch of careless grace that makes it appear as if nature had unconsciously made bowers and paths and sheltering hedges.
selection of plants there is one point which may be well kept in mind
to strive for a mass of bloom at all periods of the year. A
little study of the seasons at which various species flower will
enable one to have his garden a constant carnival of gay color. As
the China lilies and snowdrops wane in midwinter, the iris puts forth
its royal purple blossoms, followed by the tulips, the cannas, the geraniums
and the roses (both
of which latter are seldom entirely devoid of blossoms). In midsummer
there are eschscholtzias, poppies, hollyhocks, sweet peas and
marigolds, while chrysanthemums bloom in the autumn and early winter.
These are but the slightest hints of the way in which a study of the
floral procession of the seasons makes it possible to keep the garden
aglow with color at all seasons of the year.
In the Japanese Garden at Golden Gate Park
Let us, then, by all means, make the most of our gardens, studying them as an art, the extension of architecture into the domain of life and light. Let us have gardens wherein we can assemble for play or where we may sit in seclusion at work; gardens that will exhilarate our souls by the harmony and glory of pure and brilliant color, that will nourish our fancy with suggestions of romance as we sit in the shadow of the palm and listen to the whisper of rustling bamboo; gardens that will bring nature to our homes and chasten our lives by contact with the purity of the great Earth Mother.