Artificial Water by Unknown


ONE of the most difficult parts of a landscape gardener’s work is the treatment of what our grandfathers called “pieces of water” in scenes where a purely natural effect is desired. The task is especially hard when the stream, pond or lake has been artificially formed; for then Nature’s processes must be simulated not only in the planting but in the shaping of the shores. Our illustration partially reveals a successful effort of this sort—a pond on a country-seat near Boston.

It was formed by excavating a piece of swamp and damming a small stream which flowed through it. In the distance towards the right the land lies low by the water and gradually rises as it recedes. Opposite us it forms little wooded promontories with grassy stretches between. Where we stand it is higher, and beyond the limits of the picture to the left it forms a high, steep bank rising to the lawn, on the further side of which stands the house. The base of these elevated banks and the promontories opposite are planted with thick masses of rhododendrons, which flourish superbly in the moist, peaty soil, protected, as they are, from drying winds by the trees and high ground. Near the low meadow a long stretch of shore is occupied by thickets of hardy azaleas. Beautiful at all seasons, the pond is most beautiful in June, when the rhododendrons are ablaze with crimson and purple and white, and when the yellow of the azalea-beds—discreetly separated from the rhododendrons by a great clump of low-growing willows—finds delicate continuation in the buttercups which fringe the daisied meadow. The lifted banks then afford particularly fortunate points of view; for as we look down upon the rhododendrons, we see the opposite shore and the water with its rich reflected colors as over the edge of a splendid frame. No accent of artificiality disturbs the eye despite the unwonted profusion of bloom and variety of color. All the plants are suited to their place and in harmony with each other; and all the contours of the shore are gently modulated and softly connected with the water by luxuriant growths of water plants. The witness of the eye alone would persuade us that Nature unassisted had achieved the whole result. But beauty of so suave and perfect a sort as this is never a natural product. Nature’s beauty is wilder if only because it includes traces of mutation and decay which here are carefully effaced. Nature suggests the ideal beauty, and the artist realizes it by faithfully working out her suggestions.