You are here: Home / Landscape Design Guide / The Artistic Qualities Of Landscape Composition / Variety / Variety In Season

Variety In Season

The horticultural calendar has certain well-marked divisions to which the exhibitor of growing plants may well have thoughtful regard. The first essay that was ever written in the English language on the subject of ornamental gardening opened with an extreme prescription for this arrangement. "I do hold it," says Bacon,* "in the royal ordering of gardens, there ought to be gardens for all the months of the year, in which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season." The essayist proceeds immediately to give a catalogue of the plants seasonable to each month of the year, "for the climate of London." We may doubt whether ten or twelve classes of plants can practicably be made on this basis; but we distinguish in our own aesthetic sensibilities with great differences between spring greens, June roses, midsummer's wealth of foliage, autumn colors and choice winter scenes. Any particular plant is not likely to figure in its perfection through more than one or two of these seasons; and this opens to the landscape gardener a serious problem. The question is, shall we attempt to intermingle the perfections of all the year so as to have somewhat of attractiveness in each several group at all times? Or shall we rather follow the dictum of Lord Bacon, and group together those plants suitable to each successive season? Doubtless each method is at times expedient. If one's garden is so small as to hold only a single group of plants he will scarcely care to buy a single month of superlative perfection at the expense of eleven months of dullness and desolation. But where the gardening is on a more extensive scale the artist may distribute his beauties into any sort of an annual cyclorama which he chooses. He will gain, at all events, a most acceptable variety by having regard to the special seasons mentioned.

It is not within the range of our present inquiry to enumerate those special plants which are ready to the gardener's hand for these diverse effects. This has already been done in many useful books, and some suggestions are made in Part III of the present volume. The competent gardener should be able, out of his own knowledge, to select the most pleasing materials for his pictures.

The light gray-greens are perhaps characteristic of the early spring. As trees and shrubs put forth their first unfolding buds the general effect is much different from that given by the same plants after the full dress of foliage is put on. Usually the color is several shades lighter—grayer—and this appearance is further heightened by the grayer twigs not yet covered out of sight but showing more and more dimly through the thickening screen of green leaves. Certain plants are more beautiful in this spring dress than at any subsequent season.

Some of the willows should be prominently mentioned in this category; for example, the Royal willow, Salix regalis. Among the smaller flowering plants there is a specially rich field of possibilities, including crocus, narcissus, jonquils, hyacinths, tulips and others. These are suitable not only to be the first occupants of the bleak flower beds after the mulch is removed in the spring, but they should be scattered with a liberal hand through the grass and in the borders, where they come on year after year amid surroundings which make them seem even more dainty and graceful and delightful harbingers of returning spring than when grown in specially prepared beds.

June is the month of roses, brides and college graduates. It is particularly a month of fetes and of care-free enjoyment of living. Weddings and commencements are the gardener's good patrons, and for them the grounds may well put on their holiday attire. June is the youthful gala time of the garden; and the bold and blushing, smiling and nodding, vain and conscious roses, which would be thought immodest amid the tranquillity of summer or the somberness of autumn, are now received with gladness as the fitting expression of our exuberant emotions. Flowers in abundance, with roses predominating; bright colors and heavy perfumes; with greens and grays and old folks kept in the background—these are the colors for the June picture, the chords for the June music.

In midsummer nothing is more delightful than quiet rest under cooling shade. No flashing colors for us now. No jarring contrasts for the tired eyes. The trees now invite us with their thickest canopy of foliage; and if beneath them stretch a cool, clean greensward, and if the shadows fall all untroubled into a still pool near by, we rest amid these scenes with an overflowing gratitude for the kind hands by which they are provided. We have fled the dusty highway, the burning streets, the noise and hurry and commotion of business. Quiet and solitude are our chief desires. These feelings, common to all men at such times, indicate unequivocally the duty of the gardener. With so unmistakable a demand upon him, he is no gardener at all who will not know what he ought to do.

The beautiful colors of autumn are too much looked upon as secondary qualities of the plants which affect them, and their disposition on the grounds is too much a matter of chance. The gardener ought to recognize in these autumn colors another opportunity for the aggregation of scattered beauties. Through these he may produce one more almost spectacular effect before the winter shuts us all indoors away from the enjoyment of his works.

Without speaking of the individual excellencies of the oaks, the liquidambar, the maples and the tulip trees, we may note that two distinct colors appear in great quantities, namely the reds and the yellows. Each of these is present in comparative purity • in certain species, and their combination is specially adapted to provide the most extraordinary contrasts. And at no other time of the year would the eye accept such gaudy hues,—no, not even in June,— much less delight in them. But now as our overcoats are buttoned on and as we hurry along to get ourselves under shelter from the bustling wind, we are in no mood to note details and examine delicate effects. A picture must cry out after us if it would get our attention. And so the gardener may mass together as much as he pleases of those gorgeous colors of the early frost; and we will stop a moment to admire his work again and to thank him for it ere we betake ourselves to the blazing hearth and the absorbing book.

But even the winter does not wholly rob the gardener of opportunity to please us. Indeed, some of the most gracious products of the ornamental grounds are those blessings which are enjoyed in midwinter. It is a mistake to suppose that the ground must be all bleakness and desolation as soon as snow falls. There is a whole host of the evergreens to refute such a supposition. The variety of them is greater than the uninitiated might at all suspect. With them may be arranged many shrubs and small trees which, though deciduous, have bark of such bright and pleasing hues that they may be shown against dark backgrounds in many cheery combinations. Such are the Golden willow, the Golden spiraea and the Red branched dogwood. A long list of others might easily be made. There are certain corners of the garden which are usually especially conspicuous from the windows of the living rooms; and it is a pity if part of this scene at least cannot be robbed of its winter bleakness and dreariness. If such spots are chosen for beautiful winter effects the designer has gained another triumph in his art.

*Lord Francis Bacon, Essays, "Of Gardening."


See Also

Comments? Suggestions? Compliments? Criticisms?

Please tell us what you think about this page. (E-mail addresses are kept in complete confidence).

^ Top