The necessities of man, as the family of mankind increased, obliged him to cultivate the vegetable products of the earth, and to appropriate, each person or head of a family to himself, particular spots for this purpose; and having so employed himself in the tilling of these portions of land, and in the care of the various plants designed for use (which constituted the sustaining medium of the art we are about to consider), he was induced in time to select also those which were ornamental, and to dispose and arrange the whole not merely with regard to convenience, but so as to produce beauty as well, whence originated and was invented the art of gardening. For this purpose, the best and purest models for imitation were afforded by nature herself, in the exhibition of her choicest scenery where, undisturbed by the ruthless inroads of civilization, she has been permitted to luxuriate. While the efforts of man require art to ornament them, the efforts of nature are of themselves ornamental without art; and man recklessly despoils them of this quality, to which art only restores them. Science, which aids us in sinking mines and constructing railroads, has done much to violate the beauties of nature. Mountainous romantic countries and valleys, where the most picturesque scenes are observed in all their glory, and beneath which rich minerals are deposited, are more-over the most liable to be injured in this respect. Like beauty in woman, this precious gift but too often proves the occasion of their ruin.
Gardening in its fullest and most comprehensive sense, includes not merely laying out beds of flowers, but the general disposal of ornamental grounds, and the ordering of the landscape of a country so far as this depends on art, or where art is required to restore what nature had made perfect, but which man by his interference has spoiled. In many cases indeed, the resuscitation of nature, or the prevention of her own design from being interfered with, is the highest aim and attainment of this art.
Gardening may, however, be contended to be not art but nature, both as regards its end and the materials used in carrying it into operation, which are not only real but living. On this account, it may be said to be merely an application of the principles of art in general to the cultivation of nature,training nature through the medium of art so as to attain the greatest perfection as regards her appearance. But, on the other hand, although the elements used in this art are real and living,as may to a certain extent be said to be the case also with poetry, and eloquence, and acting; yet the mode of applying and combining them, wherein consists the essence of art, is wholly artificial, and the result produced is essentially and entirely artificial also. Thus, by the art of gardening, plants of great. variety from far distant regions, which would never by nature have been associated, with rocks and other substances, are brought together; and the ground is so laid out, and shaped, and disposed, as to produce an effect similar, it may be, to what is observable in nature, but very different to what nature would of itself and unaided by art in this particular instance, have achieved. As in a composition in painting, so in what may be termed a gardening composition, our aim should be to attain a result corresponding with that which nature in her most perfect form either actually exhibits, or may be supposed to display.
From the circumstance that taste is here employed as the regulating principle, and that an appeal to the mind constitutes the ultimate end of this art, is derived its full claim to be thus ranked.
In gardening is afforded the most complete illustration of the manner in which art originates in nature, and how art and nature ought to be united. But, as in the other arts we work by art and regulate our operations by nature; so here we work by nature and regulate our operations by the rules of art.
Costume and gardening may both be said to have had their origin, and to have been invented in Paradise, man being there taught by his Maker to deck himself with leaves and other substances for the purpose of clothing, and being placed in a garden designed by the skill and taste of omnipotent creative genius. Hence, these two arts were the earliest of them all, and God himself was their original inventor.