S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I am one, you must know, who am looked upon as a humorist in gardening. I have several acres about my house, which I call my garden, and which a skilful gardener would not know what to call. It is a confusion of kitchen and parterre, orchard and flower garden, which lie so mixt and interwoven with one another, that if a foreigner who had seen nothing of our country should be conveyed into my garden at his first landing, he would look upon it as a natural wilderness, and one of the uncultivated parts of our country.
Many of the old philosophers passed away the greatest parts of their lives among their gardens. Epicurus himself could not think sensual pleasure attainable in any other scene. Every reader who is acquainted with Homer, Virgil, and Horace, the greatest geniuses of all antiquity, knows very well with how much rapture they have spoken on this subject; and that Virgil in particular has written a whole book on the art of planting.
This art seems to have been more especially adapted to the nature of man in his primæval state, when he had life enough to see his productions flourish in their utmost beauty, and gradually decay with him. One who lived before the flood might have seen a wood of the tallest oaks in the acorn.
God Almighty first planted a garden; and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks: and a man shall ever see that when ages grow to civility and elegancy men come to build stately, sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection. I do hold it, in the royal order of gardens there ought to be gardens for all the months in the year in which, severally, things of beauty may be then in season.
The English have not yet brought the art of gardening to the same perfection with the Chinese, but have lately begun to imitate them; nature is now followed with greater assiduity than formerly; the trees are suffered to shoot out into the utmost luxuriance; the streams, no longer forced from their native beds, are permitted to wind among the valleys; spontaneous flowers take place of the finished parterre, and the enamelled meadow of the shaven green.
Yet still the English are far behind us in this charming art; their designs have not yet attained a power of uniting instruction with beauty. An European will scarcely conceive any meaning, when I say that there is scarcely a garden in China which does not contain some fine moral couched under the general design, where one is not taught wisdom as he walks, and feels the force of some noble truth, or delicate precept, resulting from the disposition of the groves, streams, or grottoes.
The taste of the English in the cultivation of land, and in what is called landscape gardening, is unrivalled. They have studied nature intently, and discover an exquisite sense of her beautiful forms and harmonious combinations. Those charms which in other countries she lavishes in wild solitudes are here assembled round the haunts of domestic life. They seem to have caught her coy and furtive graces, and spread them, like witchery, about their rural abodes.
As gardening has been the inclination of kings and the choice of philosophers, so it has been the common favourite of public and private men; a pleasure of the greatest and the care of the meanest; and, indeed, an employment and a possession for which no man is too high nor too low.
In every garden four things are necessary to be provided for,flowers, fruit, shade, and water; and whoever lays out a garden without all these must not pretend to any perfection. It ought to lie to the best parts of the house, or to those of the masters commonest use; so as to be but like one of the rooms out of which you step into another. The part of your garden next your house (besides the walks that go round it) should be a parterre for flowers, or grass-plots bordered with flowers; or if, according to the newest mode, it be cast all into grass-plots and gravel walks, the dryness of these should be relieved with fountains, and the plainness of those with statues; otherwise, if large, they have an ill effect upon the eye. However, the part next the house should be open, and no other fruit but upon the walls. If this take up one-half of the garden, the other should be fruit-trees, unless some grove for shade lie in the middle: if it take up a third part only, then the next third may be dwarf trees, and the last standard fruit; or else the second part fruit-trees, and the third all sorts of winter-greens, which provide for all seasons of the year. I will not enter upon any account of flowers, having only pleased myself with seeing or smelling them, and not troubled myself with the care, which is more the ladies part than the mens; but the success is wholly in the gardener.