Frank Frankfort Moore.

A garden of peace, a medley in quietude online

. (page 6 of 18)
Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 6 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


a place of peace. I shall refer to the fight in another
chapter; for surely a stimulating spectacle was that
of the distinguished horticulturalist attacking the
distinguished architect with mighty billets of yews
which, like Samson before his fall, had never known
shears or secateur, while the distinguished architect
responded with bricks pulled hastily out from his
builders' wall. In the meantime I shall try to account
for my treatment of my predecessor's lawn, which,
as I have already mentioned, occupied all the flat space
between the house and the mound with the cherries
and mays and laburnums towered over by the syca-
mores and chestnuts.

It was all suggested to me by the offer which I had
at breaking-up price of what I might call a " garden
suite," consisting of a fountain, with a wide basin, and
the carved stone edging for eight beds sufficient to
transform the whole area of the lawn " into something
rich and strange," as I thought.

I had to make up my mind in a hurry, and I did so,
though not without misgiving. I had never had a
chance of high gardening before, and I had not so
much confidence in myself as I have acquired since,
misplaced though it may be, in spite of my experience.
I see now what a bold step it was for me to take, and
I think it is quite likely that I would have rejected it
if I had had any time to consider all that it meant.
I had, however, no more than twenty-four hours, and
before a fourth of that time had passed I received



A GARDEN OF PEACE 95

some encouragement in the form of my publisher's
half-yearly statement.

Now, Dorothy and I had simply been garden-
lovers I mean lovers of gardens, though I don't take
back the original phrase. We had never been garden
enthusiasts. We had gone through the Borghese,
the Villa d'Este, the Vatican, the bowers behind the
Pitti and the Uffizi, and all the rest of the show-places
of Italy and the French Riviera we had spent
delightful days at every garden-island of the Carib-
bean, and had gone on to the plateaus of South
America, where every prospect pleases and there is
a blaze of flowers beneath the giant yuccas we had
even explored Kew together, and we had lived within
a stone's throw of Holland House and the painters'
pleasaunces of Me] bury Road, but with all we had
remained content to think of gardens without making
them any important part of our life. And this being
so, I now see how arrogant was that act of mine in
binding myself down to a transaction with as far-
reaching consequences to me as that of Dr. Faustus
entailed to him.

Now I acknowledge that when I looked out over the
green lawn and thought of all that I had let myself
in for, I felt anything but arrogant. The destruction
of a lawn is, like the state of matrimony in the Church
Service, an act not to be lightly entered into; and I
think I might have laid away all that stone-work
which had come to me, until I should become more
certain of myself that is how a good many people
think within a week or two of marriage if I had not,



96

with those doubts hanging over me, wandered away
from the lawn and within sight of the straggling
orchard with its rows of ill-planted plums and apples
that had plainly borne nothing but leaves for many
years. They were becoming an eye-sore to me, and the
thought came in a flash:

" This is the place for a lawn. Why not root up
these unprofitable and uninteresting things and lay
down the space in grass? "

Why not, indeed? The more I thought over the
matter the more reconciled I became to the trans-
formation of the house lawn. I felt as I fancy the
father of a well-beloved daughter must feel when she
tells him that she has promised to marry the son of
the house at the other side of his paddock. He is
reconciled to the idea of parting with her by the
reflection that she will still be living beyond the fence,
and that he will enjoy communion with her under
altered conditions. That is the difference between
parting with a person and parting from a person.

And now, when I looked at the house lawn, I saw
that it had no business to be there. It was an element
of incongruity. It made the house look as if it were
built in the middle of a field. A field is all very well
in its place, and a house is all very well in its place,
but the place of the house is not in the middle of a
field. It looks its worst there and the field looks its
worst when the house is overlooking it.

I think that it is this impression of incongruity that
has made what is called The Formal Garden a ne-
cessity of these days. We want a treatment that will



A GARDEN OF PEACE 97

take away from the abruptness of the mass of bricks
and mortar rising straight up from the simplest of
Nature's elements. We want a hyphenated House-
and-Garden which we can look on as one and indi-
visible, like the First French Republic.

In short, I think that the making of the Formal
Garden is the marriage ceremony that unites the
house to its site, " and the twain shall be one flesh."

That is really the relative position of the two. I
hold that there are scores of forms of garden that may
be espoused to a house ; and I am not sure that such
a term as Formal is not misleading to a large number
of people who think that Nature should begin the
moment that one steps out of one's house, and that
nothing in Nature is formal. I am not going to take
on me any definition of the constituent elements of
what is termed the Formal Garden, but I will take it
on me to stand up against such people as would have
us believe that the moment you enter a house you
leave Nature outside. A house is as much a product
of Nature as a woodland or a rabbit warren or a lawn.
The original house of that product of Nature known
as man was that product of Nature known as a cave.
For thousands of years before he got into his cave he
had made his abode in the woodland. It was when he
found he could do better than hang on to his bough
and, with his toes, take the eggs out of whatever nests
he could get at, that he made the cave his dwelling;
and thousands of years later he found that it was
more convenient to build up the clay into the shape
of a cave than to scoop out the hillside when he wanted



98 A GARDEN OF PEACE

an addition to the dwelling provided for him in the
hollows made by that natural incident known as a
landslide. But the dwelling-house of to-day is nothing
more than a cave built up instead of scooped out.
Whether made of brick, stone, or clay all products
of Nature it is fundamentally the same as the
primeval cave dwelling; just as a Corinthian column
is fundamentally identical with the palm-tree which
primeval man brought into his service when he wished
to construct a dwelling independent of the forest of
his pendulous ancestors. The rabbit is at present in
the stage of development of the men who scooped out
their dwellings ; the beaver is in the stage of develop-
ment of the men who gave up scooping and took to
building ; and will any one suggest that a rabbit warren
or a beaver village is not Nature?

Sir R. Blomfield, in his book to which I have
alluded, will not have this at all. : ' The building," he
says, " cannot resemble anything in Nature, unless
you are content with a mud hut and cover it with
grass." That may be true enough; but great archi-
tect that he is, he would have shown himself more
faithful to his profession if he had been more careful
about his foundations. If he goes a little deeper into
the matter he will find that man has not yet been
civilised or " architected " out of the impressions
left upon him by his thousands of years of cave-dwell-
ing, any more than he has been out of his arboreal
experiences of as many thousand years. While, as
a boy, he retains vividly those impressions of his ances-
tors which gradually wear off though never so



A GARDEN OF PEACE 99

completely as to leave no trace behind them he can-
not be restrained from climbing trees and enjoying
the motion of a swing ; and his chief employment when
left to his own devices is scooping out a cave in a
sand-bank. For the first ten or fifteen years of his
life a man is in his instincts many thousand years
nearer to his prehistoric relations than he is when
he is twenty; after that the inherited impressions be-
come blurred, but never wholly wiped out. He is
still stirred to the deepest depths of his nature by the
long tresses of a woman, just as was his early parent,
who knew that he had to depend on such long tresses
to drag the female on whom he had set his heart to
his cave.

Scores of examples could be given of the retention
of these inherited instincts; but many of them are
in more than one sense of the phrase, " far-fetched."
When, however, we know that the architectural design
which finds almost universal favour is that of the
column or the pilaster which is little more than the
palm-tree of the Oriental forest of many thousand
years ago I think we are justified in assuming that
we have not yet quite lost sight of the fact that our
dwellings are most acceptable when they retain such
elements as are congenial with their ancient homes,
which homes were undoubtedly incidents in the natu-
ral landscape.

That is why I think that the right way to claim
its appropriateness for what is called the Formal
Garden is, not that a house has no place in Nature,
and therefore its immediate surrounding should be



100 A GARDEN OF PEACE

more or less artificial, but that the house is an inci-
dent in Nature modified by what is termed Art,
and therefore the surround should be of the same
character.

At the same time, I beg leave to say in this place
that I am not so besotted upon my own opinion as
to be incapable of acknowledging that Sir R. Blom-
field's belief that a house can never be regarded as
otherwise than wholly artificial, may commend itself
to a much larger clientele than I can hope for.

In any case the appropriateness of the Formal Gar-
den has been proved (literally) down to the ground.
As a matter of fact, no one ever thought of question-
ing it in England until some remarkable innovators,
who called themselves Landscape Gardeners, thought
they saw their way to work on a new system, and in
doing so contrived to destroy many interesting fea-
tures of the landscape.

But really, landscape gardening has never been
consistently defined. Its exponents have always
been slovenly and inconsistent in stating their aims;
so that while they claim to be all for giving what they
call Nature the supreme place in their designs, it
must appear to most people that the achievement of
these designs entails treating Nature most un-
naturally. The landscape gardeners of the early
years of the cult seem to me to be in the position of
the boy of whom the parents said, " Charlie is so very
fond of animals that we are going to make a butcher
of him." To read their enunciation of the principles
by which they professed to be inspired is to make one



A GARDEN OF PEACE 101

feel that they thought the butchery of a landscape
the only way to beautify it.

But, I repeat, the examples of their work with which
we are acquainted show but a small amount of con-
sistency with their professions of faith. When we read
the satires that were written upon their work in the
eighteenth century, we really feel that the lampooners
have got hold of the wrong brief, and that they are
ridiculing the upholders of the Formal Garden.

So far as I was concerned in dealing with my insig-
nificant garden home, I did not concern myself with
principles or theories or schools or consistency or
inconsistency ; I went ahead as I pleased, and though
Friswell shook his head I have not finished with him
yet on account of that mute expression of disagree-
ment with my aims I enjoyed myself thoroughly, if
now and again with qualms of uneasiness, in laying
out what I feel I must call the House Garden rather
than the Formal Garden, where the lawn had spread
itself abroad, causing the wing of the house to have
something of the appearance of a lighthouse springing
straight up from a green sea. As it is now, that green
expanse suggests a tropical sea with many brilliant
islands breaking up its placid surface.

That satisfies me. If the lighthouse remains, I have
given it a raison d'etre by strewing the sea with islands,

I made my appeal to Olive, the practical one.

" Yes," she said, after one of her thoughtful inter-
vals. ' Yes, I think it does look naturaler."

And I do believe it does.



CHAPTER THE NINTH

I DIFFER from many people who know more about
garden-making than I know or than I ever shall know,
in believing that it is unnecessary for the House Gar-
denI will adopt this name for it to be paved be-
tween the beds. I have seen this paving done in many
cases, and to my mind it adds without any need what-
soever a certain artificiality to the appearance of this
feature of the garden. By all means let the paths be
paved with stone or brick ; I have had all mine treated
in this way, and thereby made them more natural in
appearance, suggesting, as they do, the dry water-
course of a stream: every time I walk on them I
remember the summer aspect of that beautiful water-
course at Funchal in the island of Madeira, which
becomes a thoroughfare for several months of the
year; but I am sure that the stone edgings of the
beds and of the fountain basin look much better
surrounded by grass. All that one requires to do
in order to bring the House Garden in touch with
the house is to bring something of the material of the
house on to the lawn, and to force the house to
reciprocate with a mantle of ampelopsis patterned
with clematis.

All that I did was to remove the turf within the

102



A GARDEN OF PEACE 103

boundary of my stone edging and add the necessary
soil. A week was sufficient for all, including the foun-
tain basin and the making of the requisite attachment
to the main water pipe which supplies the garden
from end to end.

And here let me advise any possible makers of
garden fountains on no account to neglect the intro-
duction of a second outlet and tap for the purpose
of emptying the pipe during a frost. The cost will
be very little extra, and the operation will prevent so
hideous a catastrophe as the bursting of a pipe pass-
ing through or below the concrete basin. My plumber
knew his business, and I have felt grateful to him for
making such a provision against disaster, when I have
found six inches of ice in the basin after a week's
frost.

At first I was somewhat timid over the planting of
the stone-edged beds. I had heard of carpet bedding,
and I had heard it condemned without restraint. I
had also seen several examples of it in public gardens
at seaside places and elsewhere, which impressed me
only by the ingenuity of their garishness. Some one,
too, had put the veto upon any possible tendency on
my part to such a weakness by uttering the most
condemnatory words in the vocabulary of art Early
Victorian! To be on the safe side I planted the beds
with herbaceous flowers, only reserving two for
fuchsias, of which I have always been extremely
fond.

I soon came to find out that a herbaceous scheme
in that place was a mistake. For two months we had



104 A GARDEN OF PEACE

to look at flowers growing, for a month we had to look
at things rampant, and for a month we had to watch
things withering. At no time was there an equal show
of colour in all the beds. The blaze of beauty I had
hoped for never appeared: here and there we had a
flash of it, but it soon flickered out, much to our dis-
appointment. If the period of the ramp had syn-
chronised for all the beds it would not have been so
bad; but when one subject was rampant the others
were couchant, and no one was pleased.

The next year we tried some more dwarf varieties
and such annuals as verbenas, zinnias, scabious, gode-
tias, and clarkias, but although every one came on all
right, yet they did not come on simultaneously, and I
felt defrauded of my chromatic effects. A consider-
able number of people thought the beds quite a suc-
cess; but we could not see with their eyes, and our
feeling was one of disappointment.

Happily, at this time I bought for a few shillings
a few boxes of the ordinary echeveria secunda glauca,
and, curiously enough, the same day I came upon a
public place where several beds of the same type as
mine, set in an enclosed space of emerald grass, were
planted with echeveria and other succulents, in pat-
terns, with a large variety of brilliantly-coloured
foliage and a few dwarf calceolarias and irisines. In
a moment I thought I saw that this was exactly what
I needed whether it was carpet bedding or early
Victorian or inartistic, this was what I wanted, and I
knew that I should not be happy until I got it. Every
bed looked like a stanza of Keats, or a box of enamels



A GARDEN OF PEACE 105

from the Faubourg de Magnine in Limoges, where
Nicholas Laudin worked.

That was three years ago, and although I planted
out over three thousand echeverias last summer, I
had not to buy another box of the same variety ; I had
only to find some other succulents and transplant
some violas in order to achieve all that I hoped for
from these beds. For three years they have been
altogether satisfying with their orderly habits and
reposeful colouring. The glauca is the shade that the
human eye can rest upon day after day without weari-
ness, and the pink and blue and yellow and purple
violas which I asked for a complement of colours, do
all that I hoped they would do.

Of course we have friends who walk round the
garden, look at those beds with dull eyes of disap-
proval, and walk on after imparting information
on some contentious point, such as the necessity to
remove the shoots from the briers of standard roses,
or the assurance that the slugs are fond of the leaves
of hollyhock. We have an occasional visitor who
says,

" Isn't carpet-bedding rather old-fashioned? "

So I have seen a lady in the spacious days of the
late seventies shake her head and smile pityingly in
a room furnished with twelve ribbon-back chairs made
by the great Director.

"Old-fashioned gone out years ago!" were the
terms of her criticism.

But so far as I am concerned I would have no more
objection to one of the ribbon-borders of long ago, if



106 A GARDEN OF PEACE

it was in a suitable place, than I would have to a round
dozen of ribbon-back chairs in a panelled room with
a mantelpiece by Bossi and a glass chandelier by one
of the Adam Brothers. It is only the uninformed
who are ready to condemn something because they
think that it is old-fashioned, just as it is only the
ignorant who extol something because it happens to be
antique. I was once lucky enough to be able to buy
an exquisitely chased snuff-box because the truthful
catalogue had described it as made of pinchbeck. For
the good folk in the saleroom the word pinchbeck
was enough. It was associated in their minds with
something that was a type of the meretricious. But
the pinchbeck amalgam was a beautiful one, and the
workmanship of some of the articles made of it was
usually of the highest class. Now that people are
better educated they value or at least some of them
value a pinchbeck buckle or snuff-box for its artistic
beauty.

We see our garden more frequently than do any of
our visitors, and we are satisfied with its details
within bounds, of course. It has never been our
ambition to emulate the authorities who control the
floral designs blazing in the borders along the sea-
front of one of our watering-places, which are admired
to distraction by trippers under the influence of a
rag-time band and other stimulants. We do not
long so greatly to see a floral Union Jack in all its
glory at our feet, or any loyal sentiment lettered in
dwarf beet and blue lobelia against a background
of crimson irisine. We know very well that such



A GARDEN OF PEACE 107

marvels are beyond our accomplishment. What we
hoped for was to have under our eyes for three months
of the year a number of beds full of wallflowers,
tulips, and hyacinths, and for four months equally
well covered with varied violas, memsembrianthium,
mauve ageratum, the praecox dwarf roses, variegated
cactus used sparingly, and as many varieties of eche-
veria used lavishly, with here and there a small dracsena
or perhaps a tuft of feathery grass or the accentuations
of a few crimson begonias to show that we are not
afraid of anything.

We hold that the main essential of the beds of the
House Garden is " finish.'* They must look well from
the day they are planted in the third week of May
until they are removed in the last week of October.
We do not want that barren interval of a month or
six weeks when the tulips have been lifted and their
successors are growing. We do not want a single day
of empty beds or colourless beds; we do not want to
see a square inch of the soil. We want colour and
contour under our eyes from the first day of March
until the end of October, and we get it. We have no
trouble with dead leaves or drooping blooms no
trouble with snails or slugs or leather- jackets. Every
bed is presentable for the summer when the flowers
that bloom in the spring have been removed; the
effect is only agreeably diversified when the begonias
show themselves in July.

Is the sort of thing that I have described to be called
carpet-bedding? I know not and I trow not; all that
I know is that it is the sort of thing that suits us.



108 A GARDEN OF PEACE

Geometry is its foundation and geometry represents
all that is satisfying, because it is Nature's closest
ally when Nature wishes to produce Beauty. Almost
every flower is a geometrical study. Let rose bushes
ramp as they may, the sum of all their ramping is
that triumph of geometry, the rose. Let the clematis
climb as unruly as it may, the end of its labours is a
geometrical star; let the dandelion be as disagreeable
as it pleases I don't intend to do so really, only for
the sake of argument but its rows of teeth are beauti-
fully geometrical, and the fairy finish of its life, which
means, alas ! the magical beginning of a thousand new
lives, is a geometrical marvel.

But I do not want to accuse myself of excusing
myself over much for my endeavour to restore a
fashion which I was told had " gone out." I only say
that if what I have done in my stone-edged geometri-
cal beds is to be slighted because some fool has called
it carpet-bedding, I shall at least have the satisfaction
of knowing that I have worked on the lines of Nature.
Nature is the leader of the art of carpet-bedding on
geometrical lines. Nature's most beautiful spring
mattress is a carpet bed of primroses, wild hyacinths,
daffodils, and daisies every one of them a geometri-
cal marvel. As a matter of fact the design of every
formal bed in our garden is a copy of a snow crystal.

Of course, so far as conforming to the dictates of
fashion in a garden is concerned, I admit that I am a
nonconformist. I do not think that any one who
has any real affection for the development of a garden
will be ready to conform to any fashion of the hour



A GARDEN OF PEACE 109

in gardening. I believe that there never was a time
when the artistic as well as the scientific side of garden
design was so fully understood or so faithfully adhered
to as it is just now. There is nothing to fear from
the majority of the exponents of the art; it is with
the unconsidering amateurs that the danger lies. The
dangerous amateur is the one who assumes that there
is fashion in gardening as there is a fashion in gar-
ments, and that one must at all hazards live up to the
dernier cri or get left behind in the search for the right
thing. For instance, within the last six or seven years
it has become " the right thing " to have a sunk gar-
den. Now a sunk garden is, literally, as old as the
hills ; the channel worn in the depth of a valley by an
intermittent stream becomes a sunk garden in the
summer. The Dutch, not having the advantage of
hills and vales, were compelled to imitate Nature by
sinking their flower-patches below the level of the
ground. They were quite successful in their attempt
to put the garden under their eyes; by such means
they were able fully to admire the patterns in which
their bulbs were arranged. But where is the sense
in adopting in England the handicap of Holland?
It is obvious that if one can look down upon a garden
from a terrace one does not need to sink the ground
to a lower level. And yet I have known of several
instances of people insisting on having a sunk garden


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreA garden of peace, a medley in quietude → online text (page 6 of 18)