Samuel Parsons.

The art of landscape architecture, its development and its application to modern landscape gardening online

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The Treatment of the Natural Wood-lawn and the Brook, by the Owner, on
the Estate of John Staples, Esq., Newburgh N. Y.

Zhc Hrt of
Xanbscape Hrcbitecture

Its Development and its Application to
Modern Landscape Gardening


Samuel parsons

Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects
Author of " Landscape Gardening," etc.

With 48 Illustrations

G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York and London

Cbe finichcrbocftcc press i


Copyright, 191 5



Ube •Rnfcltctbocfcer f5rc8s, tlew JSort


•j X





the Father of Greater New York, this book is respectfully dedicated
in recognition of the fact that he was Central Park's best friend from
the time of its inception and because he was always and ever the loyal
and powerful support of the author in his endeavours to protect the Park
from ill-judged and injurious invasions.





THERE have been several authoritative books
written entitled Observations or Hints on Mod-
ern Gardening or else the Theory and Practice
of Landscape Gardening. In later times, however, it
has been felt that a title of wider scope was needed than
"landscape gardening," which seems to limit the sub-
ject in the minds of many to the treatment of a flower
garden or an exhibition of brilliant colour in a parterre
of bedding plants.

An architect, taken from the Greek, means master
builder. He is one who designs and frames any com-
plex structure; one who arranges elementary material
on a comprehensive plan.

Plato made "the causes of things to be matter, ideas,
and an efficient architect." Although the term archi-
tect has come to mean almost exclusively master
builders in wood, stone, iron, etc., the term landscape
architect is equally appropriate. A landscape artist,
who creates scenery from trees and flowers and earth
and rock and water, arranges elementary materials on
a comprehensive plan. He has his standards of work-
manship like the architect, and these standards are
subtle and difficult to establish and explain, because


vi preface

they are dependent for their value on the growth of
living things. Such artistic work is also dependent
for value on the general consensus of opinion delivered
by well recognized authorities. The work is done in-
stinctively; criticism and rules may be deduced from
the work afterwards, but good artistic design and crafts-
manship are instinctive. Kant, in discussing aesthetic
judgment, said, "judgments of taste are not susceptible
of proof, but they may be evoked when an opportunity
for immediate perception occurs. Their general valid-
ity is exemplary, i.e., it is gained by means of examples,
not rules. " Investigating the production of the beauti-
ful in art, the same writer says "that the production
like the estimation is carried on without the guidance of
abstract rules, and yet in such wise that that which is
produced is the object of general recognition and may
serve as a model, " and Schopenhauer even goes so far
as to say that "the fine arts do not advance beyond
intention and hence give fragments, and examples, but
no rule or totality."

Therefore, it will be conceded that the art of land-
scape architecture is not subject to the application of
hard and fast rules as a science would be. The study
of nature assisted by the best examples is the proper
field for the art of landscape architecture. Models
are based on approval by persons of recognized fitness
for rendering judgment. One can no more indicate the
rules that govern the development of the work of the
landscape architect than he can explain how a Titian
was painted. The result is evident, and ideas and

pretace vii

suggestions are evoked, helpful to the artist, not only
because he recognizes excellences himself, but because
he is stimulated by the approval of respectable author-
ities and taught (if he has it in him) to do something
of similar value transfused by the peculiar genius of his
own mind and spirit.

In order to work out landscape designs properly some
knowledge of good practice is necessary. Hints and
suggestions point the way and lighten the labour of
traversing it. The hints and suggestions of this feook
refer to both theory and practice and give as much
information as the space will allow. The student
should seek to dwell on the various features of land-
scape interest in gardens and parks or estates, a few of
which are here considered and illustrated. Especially
worthy of consideration are the features of small es-
tates. They show less evidence of the academic in-
fluences which naturally make the large places hardly
available as practical examples for general use.

It is rather remarkable that one of the oldest of the
arts, landscape gardening, has had comparatively small
attention given to the exposition of examples, and the
ideas they evoke. In fact, among all the writers on
this subject, scarcely half a dozen have attacked this
particular phase of it; Whately, Repton, Prince Piick-
ler, A. J. Downing, and Edouard Andre have shown in
their writings that they have grasped the subject in a
large and competent way. The difficulty of late years
seems to have been that horticulture has developed so
rapidly that in the desire to display novel and beautiful

viii preface

plants, the real essence of landscape gardening has been
allowed to escape like a lost fragrance. If there are
quantities of beautiful foliage and flowers available it
has been thought only necessary to have what is called
"good taste" to be able to arrange them on a lawn.
The idea seems seldom to have been considered that
models in the form of scenes on large and small estates
should be studied in the light of the best literature
on the subject before attempting to do landscape

Further proof of the ignorance of the general public of
the essence of landscape gardening is shown by the lack
of interest in the writings of the greatest of landscape
gardeners, Whately, Repton, and Prince Puckler.
The latter has not even been translated into English;
Whately has been read in no new edition for more than
one hundred years, and Repton, after almost an equal
length of time, has been published by Houghton & Mif-
flin in an edition by John Nolen, a well-known land-
scape architect in Boston, Massachusetts, who has
written an illuminating introduction of Repton's work,
including his sketches and hints and his theory and
practice of landscape gardening. The writings of
Olmsted & Vaux, the designers of Central Park, New
York City, whose pronouncements on the subject of
landscape gardening are of the highest value, have
never been collected from their reports, letters, and
addresses. William A. Stiles, editor of the Garden and
Forest Magazine, 1 888-1 898, where he frequently dis-
cusses with comprehension, and great literary skill,

preface ix

the fundamental principles of landscape gardening, is
almost unknown to the public.

It will be found that the contents of some of the
chapters deal with landscape gardening in ways that
will be liable to give a slight shock to those who have
the ordinary conception of the art. For example, the
treatment of grading, of planting, of roads and paths,
rocks, islands, water, the poetry of parks, the proper
function of gardens may seem to go somewhat far in
taking what might be termed novel views of the sub-
ject, in giving "a touch more than the maximum." It is
for that reason, chiefly, that many quotations are used in
order to prove that the ideas presented have the support
of competent authorities both ancient and modern ; and
the reference to models of standard excellence in many
periods and countries has a similar purpose in view.

My own contribution to the present work has been
largely limited to the collection of these citations and
references made in the text and footnotes, and such
definition and explanation of ideas presented as will
tend to simplify their proper understanding. I have
endeavoured to show that landscape gardening has been
and is the result of an evolution and growth of an impor-
tant art, based on the deepest instincts of human nature.

Above most other arts, landscape architecture is
based on nature, and my own particular function in this
book I conceive to be to point out how and why the art
should be practised on natural lines, and something of
the degree to which this course, in spite of much seeming
divergence, is supported by well-recognized authorities.

X ipretace

It has beep, moreover, my object to show that the
evolution of growing things, the development of dis-
tinct types of effect, although greatly varied, can be, and
should be, made to bear the stamp alike of definite
though perhaps instinctive ideas throughout the vari-
ous kinds of landscape gardening, whether it be a park,
an estate, a village garden, or a window box. It should
make a fine picture no matter how small or how large.

The growth or evolution of landscape gardening has
been more than a mere series of individual experiences,
for "experience is extended and enriched by, we have to
remember, not merely and primarily knowledge. We
begin by trying and end by knowing. Practice is the
parent of theory and realization the surest verification. "
Moreover, "evolution, strictly taken, presupposes a
fundamental unity in which all that is eventually evolved
or disclosed was involved or contained from the first.
The whole is more than the sum of the parts, that is the
character of evolution. A unity that is not more than
its constituent elements is no real unity at all. Experi-
ence fiu-nishes instances of this at every turn. The
timbre of a musical note is more than the sum of its
constituent tones: a melody, more than the sum of its
separate notes"; again: "if the whole be a tree, it may
be true that one fails to see the trunk because of the
branches, and yet it is from the trunk that all these

It is for this reason that the past of landscape garden-
ing is so fruitful of valuable suggestions for the present.

' Realm of Ends, Prof. James Ward, pp. loo, loi, 104.

preface xi

The past is not only valuable as a lesson with which
to correct and enrich present-day practice, but because
it will help to develop, or release perhaps, germs of
thought, which will eventually correct and enrich all
we learn in the future.

My own experience has had considerable scope in
the way of working out landscape gardening problems
on parks and estates with Mr. Calvert Vaux, and by
myself, not only in Central Park, New York, but in dif-
ferent estates and parks of America. I have naturally
studied many examples both at home and abroad.
Nevertheless, I have cited few examples of my own work
and have taken the liberty of devoting the greater part
of the book to extracts from writings of unquestioned
authority in support of my ideas, hoping thereby to
more firmly establish the art of landscape architecture
in the dignified position it already occupies in the
brotherhood of artistic professions.

It has been also recognized throughout the book that
the object sought is the exposition of landscape-gar-
dening doctrine and different methods of laying out
grounds. The chapter at the end of the book is only
intended to give practical suggestions in regard to the
use of a certain number of choice groups of plants.

My endeavour has been to make my ideas clear, and
this is one reason I have used so many and lengthy
quotations, expecting that by the use of the phrases of
masters of the language as well as of the art of land-
scape architecture I might attain a better degree of
success. Master of the art of eloquent and lucid Ian-

xii preface

guage I do not claim to be, but I feel that, as a landscape
architect, in advocating important landscape-garden-
ing principles and ideas I have a message to deliver
and therefore propose to convey it to the best of my
ability, hoping that I may be able to impart a reason-
able portion of my meaning to the reader.

My thanks are due to Mr. August F. Jaccaci, Mr.
William B. Van Ingen, and Dr. Fred Hovey Allen for
the trouble they have taken to assist me by means of
criticisms and valuable suggestions. Mr. W. W. Cook
was the first to encourage me to undertake the work of
writing this book and he has made many suggestions,
the value of which I realize and appreciate. The
compilation of authorities by Albert Forbes Sieveking
has also afforded me assistance. As far as possible
without unduly overloading the text I have endeav-
oured to give credit to the authorities from whom I
have quoted. I wish to express my appreciation of the
courtesy and kindness which I have received from the
officials of the New York Public Library and from those
of the Library of Columbia University. I cannot close
without again referring to the inspiration of the late
Calvert Vaux, the influence of whose ideas on land-
scape architecture has been and always will be for me
a potent stimulus to seek to do only good work in
the practice of my profession and to arrive at sound
solutions of the various problems of the art.

S. P.

New York, January, 1915.



Preface ........ iii

I.— Introduction ...... i

II. — The Laying out of a Park or Estate . 40 ^'
III. — Size and Extent of an Estate . . 77
IV. — Enclosures ...... 91

* V. — Location of Buildings .... 102

VI. — Grass Spaces ...... 120

• VII. — Roads and Paths . . . . .132

■ VIII. — Water 143

• IX. — Islands ....... 163

X. — Rocks 170

XI. — Grading and Shaping Grounds . .184

XII. — Plantations ...... 200

XIII. — Maintenance ...... 226

XIV.— Gardens 238

xiv Contents


XV. — Public Parks 264

XVI. — Choice Trees and Shrubs . . . 305

Bibliography ....... 337

Index 343



The Treatment of the Natural Wood-lawn

AND THE Brook, by the Owner, on the

Estate of John Staples, Esq., Newburgh,

N. Y. . . . . . . Frontispiece

A Japanese Garden lo

From a Photograph by Underwood & Underwood. (Repro-
duced by Permission.)

Mount Vernon, the Home of George Washing-
ton 58

Reproduced by Permission of Doubleday, Page & Co.
From a Photograph by Arthur G. Eldredge.

BoscA, OR Grove, on a Place near Elmsford, N. Y. 58

Photograph by William J. Wilson.

The Lawn in Front of the Castle, in the Park of
MusKAU, AS Originally Laid Out ... 60

Taken from an Old Print.

The Same Lawn in Front of the Castle, in the
Park of Muskau as Redesigned by Prince
Puckler ....... 60

Redrawn from an Old Print.

A View of the Residence and the Drive at
Skylands — A Country Estate in New Jersey . 70

From a Photograph by William J. Wilson.


xvi Ullustrations


Strathfield Save, the Estate of the Duke of
Wellington, England ..... 72

From a Photograph by Brown Bros. (Reproduced by Per-

A Country Home near Elmsford, N. Y. . . 74

From a Photograph by WiUiam J. Wilson.

A Distant Vista in the Park of Prince Puckler
VON MusKAu, Silesia, Germany ... 80

From a Photograph by Thomas W. Sears, Providence, R. I.

The Gates of the Highlands of the Hudson
River FROM West Point, N. Y. . . .90

From a Photograph by WiUiam Hale Kirk.

Goethe's Cottage at Weimar .... 98

Redrawn from an Old Print.

A Honeysuckle Hedge Growing on Wire Mesh
AND Iron Posts ...... 98

A Gardener's Cottage AT Skylands . . .102

From a Photograph by William J. Wilson.

Windsor Castle, England 102

From an Old Print.

The Open Lawn near the Obelisk and the East
Drive, near the Art Museum, Central Park,
New York City 120

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

A Diagram Showing the Planting Scheme for
Trees and Shrubs i34

From Puckler's Atlas, 1834.

A Diagram Showing Different Arrangement of
Paths i34

From Puckler's Atlas, 1834.

•ffUustrattons xvii


A Winding Road IN THE Trosachs . . . 140

From a Photograph.

A Straight Drive on the East Side of the Reser-

Park, New York City 142

Lover's Lane, a Winding Walk Parallel with
THE South Side of the South Reservoir,
Central Park, New York City . . .144

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

An Artificial Lake AT Skylands .... 146

From a Photograph by William J. Wilson.

On the Shore of the Harlem Mere, Central
Park, New York City 148

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

A View of the River as Arranged and Improved
BY Prince Puckler von Muskau, in his Park
AT MusKAu, Silesia, Germany . . . .152

Redrawn from an Old Print.

The Boundary Fence in the Park of Prince
Puckler VON Muskau ..... 152

Redrawn from an Old Print.

An Artificial Lake Bordered by Rhododendrons,
Irises, and Other Water Plants at Holm Lea,
THE Estate of Professor Charles A. Sargent,
Brookline, Mass. ...... 158

From Photograph by Thomas E. Marr & Son. (Repro-
duced by Permission.)

The Castle and the Moat, and a View of the
Park, on the Estate of Prince Puckler von
Muskau 160

From a Photograph by Thomas W. Sears.

xviii IFllustrations


A Castle, Lake, and Moat on the Estate of
Prince Puckler von Muskau . . .160

From a Photograph by Thomas W. Sears, Providence, R. I.

The Natural History Museum in Manhattan
Square, and in Connection with it a Pool and
Bridge in Central Park, New York City . 162

Park Treatment of Water in the Neighbour-
hood of Durham Cathedral, England . . 164

From a Photograph by F. Hovey Allen.

A Granite Wall Made of Large Blocks of Stone
WITH Interstices Filled with Earth and Rock
Plants. On the Estate of W. W. Cook Esq.
Port Chester, N. Y ...... 174

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

The Rustic Bridge Adjoining the Cave in the
Ramble, Central Park, New York City . .180

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

The Rough Stone Bridge, over an Arm of the
Pond in Central Park, near 59TH Street and
5TH Avenue, New York City .... 182

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

A Bridge at Leatherton, Dartmoor, England . 184

From a Photograph Taken from Garden and Forest. (By

A Rough Stone Bridge in the Park on the Estate
of Prince Puckler VON Muskau . . . 184

From a Photograph by Thomas W. Sears, Providence, R. I.

The Waterfall near the Loch, Central Park,
New York City ...... 186

The Waterfall South of, and near, the Boulder
Bridge, Central Park, New York City . . 186

HUustrations xix


A View of the North Meadow, with a Note-
worthy Vista on. Either Side of a Small Group
OF Trees, Central Park, New York City . . 196

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

A View of the Lawn of J. G. Agar Esq., Premium
Point, New Rochelle, N. Y. . . . . 200

A Diagram Showing Arrangement of Trees and
Shrubs ........ 202

From Piickler's Atlas, 1834.

Diagrams Showing Arrangements of Rivers,
Lakes, and Islands ...... 202

From Piickler's Atlas, 1834.

Diagrams Showing Arrangement of Trees and
Shrubs . 204

From Puckler's Atlas, 1834.

A Diagram Showing Different Arrangements of
Islands ......... 204

From Puckler's Atlas, 1834.

A Diagram Showing Arrangement of Shrubs and
Herbaceous Plants ..... 206

From Puckler's Atlas, 1834.

The Umpire Rock and the Ball Ground, Lower
End of Central Park, near 59TH Street and 8th
Avenue, New York City .... 232

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

A Picturesque View in the Ramble, Central
Park, New York City 234

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

The Arrangement of the Beds of Foliage Plants
SUCH AS Cannas, Coleuses, and Geraniums

XX miustrations



City ........ 240

From a Photograph by Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons. (Re-
produced by Permission.)

Another View of the Arrangement of the Beds
OF Foliage Plants ...... 240

From a Photograph by Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons.
(Reproduced by Permission.)

The Boboli Gardens, Florence, with a View of
the City ....... 250

From a Photograph Used by Permission of William E. Bliz-
Zard, L. A.

The Villa D'Este, Tivoli, with the Casino at
the Left, just out of Sight .... 254

From a Photograph Used by Permission of William E. Bliz-
Zard, L. A.

The Formal Garden on the Estate of R. Beale,
Esq., Newburgh, N. Y . . . . . 256

An Old-Fashioned Garden belonging to Mrs.
Benedict, Union College, Schenectady, N. Y . 262

From a Photograph.

The Bow Bridge over the Lake in Central Park,
New York City ...... 292

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

The Boulder Bridge near the Harlem Mere,
North End of Central Park, New York City. 294

From a Photograph by William Hale Kirk.

The Plan of Park Treatment of the Territory
Situated between the Capitol Grounds and the
Washington Monument and Pennsylvania and
Delaware Avenues, Washington, D.C . . 302

From the Author's Design.

HUustratlons xxi

Birch Woods on the Estate of Elon H. Hooker,
Esq., Greenwich, Conn ..... 312

From a Photograph by Miss Frances Benjamin Johnston —
Mrs. Mattie Edwards Hewitt. (Reproduced by Permis-

A Picturesque Effect of the Native Dogwood,
(coRNus Florida) on the Estate of R. W. De-
forest, Esq., Cold Spring, Long Island . .314

From a Photograph by Miss Frances Benjamin Johnston —
Mrs. Mattie Edwards Hewitt. (Reproduced by Per-

Art of Landscape Architecture


HAVING studied carefully the works and the
method of working of the Creator, the de-
signer of a landscape can bring into successful
play the great forces of nature, and, subordinating
his own personality, can secure for his work an
undying vitality, which can only follow from such a
direct reliance on the resources of the Infinite. In
every difficult work the key-note of success lies, of
course, in the idea of thorough subordination; but it
must be an intelligent penetrative subordination, an
industrious, ardently artistic, and sleeplessly active
ministry that is constantly seeking for an opportunity
to do some little thing to help forward the great result
on which nature is lavishing its powers of creation. "^

' Concerning Lawn Planting, Calvert Vaux.


2 3Lant>scape Hrcbftecture

\"A11 man's activity rests upon a given natural
order; his work can only succeed when it strikes out
in the direction prescribed by nature; it becomes
empty and artificial if it tries to sever its connexions
or to act in opposition to nature, "j

"Let man turn where he will, undertake no matter
what, he will ever come back again to that path that
nature has mapped out for him. "

When Goethe wrote the above words he doubtless
knew Prince Puckler's great work on landscape garden-
ing based upon his treatment of his estate at Muskau,
for he has left on record a most appreciative estimate of
Prince Puckler's ability and genius.

As he paced the garden walks with the Prince whose
life had been devoted to landscape-gardening art, the
recollection of these words he had penned would have
seemed doubly true to him. Something also like the
quotation, "Time is not able to bring forth new truths,
but only an unfolding of a timeless truth," may well
have been remarked by either of these two men, when
the Prince told his companion his experience in travel-
ling in many countries. How he had found the best in
England, and yet perhaps quite as good here and there,
elsewhere, and how everywhere he found the nearer he
kept to nature the nearer he was to the true ideal of
landscape art. We can imagine his relating how he
revelled in an old rose garden of Damascus full of

'Rudolph Eucken's Problem of Human Life.

irntro&uction 3

grace and charm and thus described in Eothen by

"Wild as the highest woodland of a deserted
home in England is the sumptuous Garden of Da-
mascus. Forest trees tall and stately enough, if
you could see their lofty crests, yet lead a bustling
life of it below, with their branches struggling against
strong numbers of bushes and wilful shrubs. The
shade upon the earth is black as night. High, high

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Online LibrarySamuel ParsonsThe art of landscape architecture, its development and its application to modern landscape gardening → online text (page 1 of 23)