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Finish

Both richness and polish will, to a certain extent, be the result of keeping... Extreme thinness of plants in beds skirting a lawn, an inferior order of plants in the neighborhood of the house or by the sides of the grass glades, and the use of commonplace or uncongenial ornaments, are inconsistent with richness.

— Edward Kemp.

No one will have read so far as this without having observed the outline which the text attempts to follow. As indicated in that outline, it has been conceived that there are five distinct artistic qualities, in which any ornamental planting may be good or bad. These are unity, variety, character, propriety and finish. These are all in some degree essential; but it will strike the reader at once that they are not all equally important. Those things which are here included under the unsatisfactory term "finish," are not of such paramount and continual necessity as those discussed under unity, for instance. And yet one may understand, without puzzling, that any sort of an art composition may answer all the requirements thus far set forth, and yet fail to yield a due satisfaction because it lacks a painstaking finish. Besides, one may note this defect in the concrete only too easily among pictures, books or landscapes.

In gardening, finish means several things, some of which we may designate here. In the first place, it requires good specimens. All the plants employed must be good of their kind; the minor groups must be good; and the masses must be good. The individual plants must be excellent in proportion to their conspicuousness. If a single specimen of some rare and striking species stand in a prominent place, it cannot be permitted to wear a decrepit, unthrifty, untidy appearance. But besides this, it should have positive excellence to its credit. It should be a plant worth seeing, not merely as a botanical curiosity, but as an example of nature's best work.

Good care is required to keep trees thrifty, to keep plants growing vigorously and luxuriantly. Cultivation and manure are needed. Pruning must be done. Crowded clumps must be thinned out. Sheared trees must be kept sheared, and mowed lawns must be kept mowed. The walks and drives must be kept graded and surfaced and free from weeds. Buildings must be kept painted, and fences put together and standing straight. And dozens of similar matters demand constant attention, or directly the finish of the composition is marred and its whole effectiveness diminished.

Perhaps cleanliness is only a matter of good care; but it sometimes happens that a gardener becomes so absorbed in taking good care of his shrubs and flower beds that he forgets the general cleanliness of his grounds. In public parks the lawns and walks rapidly become littered with papers and rubbish of all sorts, and this may quickly reach such a point as to interfere seriously with the satisfaction of the park habitues. In the farm yard, where good attempts at ornamental gardening are often made, a proper regard for cleanliness would suggest that a wheelbarrow should not be left standing in front of the house unused for a week, and that chicken coops, dog kennels, grindstones and other agricultural paraphernalia should be put behind the main dwelling house, or at least kept off the lawn. On any grounds more or less litter is bound to accumulate, and this may readily amount to enough to spoil the best studied effect of unity, variety, character and propriety.

Yet after the landscape gardener has done everything within his power, has gathered the last item of horticultural excellence, and has disposed of it with the artist's happiest effect, he is still dependent, in a very great measure, on the favor of the unmanageable elements for the pleasure he may give his patrons. No one will see a delicately penciled sky line or a softly harmonized background through a blinding dust storm; and a bed of finest roses is apt to look very sorry and drabbled in the midst of a cold rain. Differences in sunshine, light and atmosphere make very surprising differences in the effect of certain views; and as far as possible, all this should be taken into account by the gardener when he makes his plan. And besides the modifying influence which light and atmosphere exercise on landscape views, they are themselves often a very important part of the picture. Who cares to look at anything else on a day when an early, feathery snow fills the buoyant atmosphere with a delightful, softening, luminous, hush-compelling haze? And sometimes there are clouds and a sunset as beautiful as the woods or as sublime as the ocean. These do not belong to the gardener, but they may fit into his picture, and enhance the pleasure which it gives; and shall he not appropriate whatever of them he can? Everyone knows that the landscape painter spends his chiefest pains to give accurate representations and stirring suggestions of light and atmosphere; but the landscape gardener has the real commodities in unmeasured, ever-shifting variety. Let him make all possible use of them, and if the elements are commonly unpropitious, as they are in some countries, he may have his proper doubts about the practicability of undertaking any gardening plans at all. Fortunately almost every country, whatever its shortcomings, has some good qualities of climate which may be studied and turned to advantage.

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