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Unity

Every yard should be a picture. That is, the area should be set off from every other area, and it should have such a character that the observer catches its entire effect and purpose without stopping to analyze its parts. The yard should be one thing, one area, with every feature contributing its part to one strong and homogeneous effect.

— L. H. Bailey.

Pictorial composition may be defined as the proportionate arranging and unifying of the different features and objects of a picture.... There must be an exercise of judgment on the part of the artist as to fitness and position, as to harmony of relation, proportion, color, light; and there must be a skilful uniting of all the parts into one perfect whole.

— John C. Van Dyke.

Unity and coherence are not quite synonymous, yet the ideas are very closely related, and in any extensive composition are practically inseparable. Thus a number of objects of exactly the same sort placed together would undoubtedly secure unity without any effort for coherence; but several dissimilar objects may also be assembled in satisfying unity if, by some obvious relation or natural connection, they readily cohere.

Unity in any landscape composition means that some one idea shall prevail throughout, and that all details shall be subordinate to it. Some particular style of expression must be determined upon and consistently adhered to; and the chosen style must not be varied except within wide limits of space. Every item of the composition, then, must contribute to the perfection of the predominant style, or must be vigorously expurged, no matter what its individual excellence.

Unity is not to be realized unless the entire construction is under control of one mind, and this one directing mind must not only have a perfectly clear and definite conception of what the finished product is to be, but must also be attached to that ideal with such zealous unalterableness that no item, however desirable by itself, shall be admitted if not in strictest harmony with the pervading spirit of the work. Practically this means that a definite plan must be made on paper. The unrecorded ideal, even of the artist whose conceptions are clearest, is sure to change in time; and since it must always require a considerable season to compass any landscape plans, the first keynote is likely to have been lost before the end is reached, and the later additions are apt to be out of harmony with the earlier work. The plan should be drawn with good inks on the most durable paper; and it should be supplemented by written specifications made equally durable. In both plans and specifications too great care cannot be taken, nor too deep a study made of the whole and of each of its parts; for, as has already been pointed out, it is fatal to leave latitude for alteration in case some part proves to have been ill-considered. These plans and specifications, too, cannot descend too deeply into the minutiae of the composition; for an unsympathetic treatment of the smallest items may mar irreparably the grandest conception. Mistake is common at this point. Many people, even landscape gardeners, seem to think that if the general outlines of the plan are determined by a master artist, the construction and all minor matters may be left to the plantsman, the florist, or the man-of-all-work. Plans and specifications are not too explicit if they locate every lilac bush and spiraea and clump of columbine, and if they demand that the lilac shall be a Frau Dammann, the spiraea a prunifolia, and the columbine of the variety Skinneri.

It is no controversion of this statement to say,— what is the undeniable fact,—that the best considered plans will not always work out with exactness upon the ground. It is indeed true that there are always arising, in the construction, exigencies which require this addition, that omission, or an entire change. It becomes, then, all the more important that, in all things where it is at all possible, a predetermined scheme shall be followed. The ideas of the author, conscientiously worked out in some parts, give a definite suggestion for the concordant treatment of other parts to which his foresight could not have extended. Nor is it a sufficient excuse for changing any detail of a plan that some other item seems at the time to be better than the one originally proposed, even though it be to introduce some new and beautiful plant not known to the artist. Only a few of these changes are required to alter conspicuously the original idea, and possibly to destroy forever the unity of its expression.

Even in the smallest compositions, such as the planting of a town lot or the ornamentation of a cemetery block, a definite and explicit plan should be decided upon at the outset; it should be reduced in full to paper, and should ever after be unswervingly followed.

There are two great styles of landscape gardening, —the natural and the architectural. The former is sometimes called the English style, from the circumstance that it received its first great development at the hands of the English gardeners; and the latter is often known as the Italian style, from having been brought to a high degree of perfection by Italian artists. It is quite possible to conceive of other legitimate styles, and room is accordingly made for a method of treatment not seldom employed, called here the picturesque style. This is neither "natural," in the sense of belonging to the English school, nor in the least architectural. It is not commonly spoken of as a distinct style; yet it seems better to treat it here as such, and to point out that there may be other distinctive styles adopted in special cases, though none has yet become sufficiently prominent to be named and classified.

These several styles are, to a great degree, mutually exclusive. It is not simply that a landscape gardener is likely to be a partisan of one of the great schools,—though that is true,—but the different styles, especially the natural and the architectural, are utterly diverse in their objects and their methods, so that when brought together they produce nothing but discord. Within wide space limits two styles may be used, but it requires a master hand to effect a coherence along the line of junction. Those who remember the Wooded Island and the Court of Honor in the World's Fair grounds at Chicago, have in mind an excellent illustration of this. Even here the English was not mixed with the Italian style; but the two were separated as widely as the room permitted. One has only to imagine the architectonic and sculpturesque features of the Court transferred to the midst of the Island to feel at once what a raging discord would have resulted. In the broadest terms, then, it is correct to prescribe that some one style must be chosen and consistently followed throughout the development of any landscape plan. This is the first step toward securing unity.

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