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Variety In Surface

In seeking to vary the surface on which our gardening is to be done, our attention falls first upon the three simplest forms of ground, viz., the plane, the concave and the convex surfaces. And we note also that the concave and convex surfaces give in themselves a much greater variety of view than is afforded by a plane. This is so potent a fact that in making up the surface of the grounds for park or residence purposes great care is usually taken to avoid a perfect plane, and still to give a uniform swell or depression. Breaking the plane with a succession of little hillocks would be fatal indeed. Of these three classes of surface the concave is usually to be preferred for small areas, for it gives much the best effect of extent. From any point within a concavity the whole surface is visible. This is not true of a convexity; and a perfectly flat surface will, unless given some bold and striking treatment, always have a suggestion of inconsequentiality about it.

A caution needs to be inserted here to secure the best use of these several varieties of surface. As long ago as 1770 Thomas Wheatley said: "In made ground the connection is, perhaps, the principal consideration. A swell which wants it is but a heap; a hollow but a hole; and both appear artificial... Such shapes should be contiguous as most readily unite; and the actual division between them should be anxiously concealed. If a swell descends upon a level; if a hollow sinks from it, the level is an abrupt termination, and a little rim marks it distinctly. To cover that rim a short sweep at the foot of the swell, a small rotundity at the entrance of the hollow, must be interposed." All these cautions are fully worth attention; for the slightest differences in the surface of the ground are obvious and important to the sympathetic beholder.

Broken ground offers an evident and spicy variety. The value of broken ground for developments of the picturesque has already been touched upon.

Sloping grounds have a value all their own, and for their most effective utilization, require a special treatment. Mr. Parsons, in his "Landscape Gardening," includes a chapter of useful directions for the treatment of such sites, which the student will do well to consult. Here we will content ourselves by saying that two opportunities are afforded the gardener by sloping grounds which are elsewhere unusual. The first is in the diversity of surface presented. The second is in the advantageous situation for the display of many plants which, in any other position, would not appear to advantage. In respect to the first, it should be explained that even comparatively gentle slopes may be emphasized by proper treatment until they appear to be steep declivities. The first expedient to this end lies in the treatment of the ground itself. It is simply to contrive small irregularities of the surface by placing here and there a little swell which rises abruptly and then falls away very gently down the hill. This part of the declivity will of course be steeper than the general slope; and a few of these contrasts will give the appearance desired. Such variety is often to be sought on a nearly flat and featureless place. A slope also furnishes a specially suitable location for the disposition of rocks, both because they are needed to hold the hillside against washing by rains, and because they appear to much better advantage than on level ground. If the rocks used on a hillside are not in their natural stratifications, and plainly so, they should always be mingled with grass and shrubs and trailing vines. Many trailing vines give great satisfaction if allowed to run at liberty down the side of a bank.*

Water in any form furnishes an ever pleasing addition to a garden, whether as a bubbling fountain, a sparkling brook, or a cool and quiet expanse of mirror-like surface. In brooks and ponds it furnishes one of the most delightful resources of the landscape gardener. Besides the wonderful variety of pleasing effects of which it is in itself capable, it provides the only opportunity for growing many species and varieties of our most beautiful plants. The possibilities which are open to the landscape gardener in the treatment of water surfaces are so magnificent and manifold that neither description nor enumeration is practicable here. We can only declare with all emphasis that when water surfaces are brought into a landscape composition an immeasurable field of harmonious variety is opened for cultivation by the resourceful gardener.

*Trailing plants may often be used to great advantage. In many such situations the hardy perennials are especially desirable. See The Gardener's Materials / Climbers


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