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"And all without were walkes and alleys dight
  With divers trees enrang'd in even rankes;
  And here and there were pleasant arbours pight
  And shadie seats, and sundry flowering bankes
  To sit and rest the walkers' wearie shanks."
-- EDMUND SPENSER'S " Faerie Queene."

CHAPTER XVI

GARDEN FURNITURE

WHEN, in the exuberance of our joy at being released from the confines of the house in the spring we spend in the open air as much of every day as we can until autumn storms and chilly winds drive us to our firesides again, garden furniture assumes practical importance to the home maker. Breakfasts and teas under a tree or leafy arbour imply comfortable seats, at least, for families predisposed to prolong each meal with much conversation. A tendency on the women's part to carry all portable workout of doors -- the hulling of strawberries, the shelling of peas, the arranging of flowers for the house, letter-writing, mending, and the superfluous but pretty needlework -- these various occupations necessitate plenty of weather-proof chairs that are not too conducive to laziness, yet are comfortable enough not to precipitate flight. To have a charming garden and never be able to live in it, or even to sit down in the shade for a few peaceful moments to enjoy its beauty in different lights and atmospheres (the most potent factors of every garden picture), is to neglect a golden opportunity. A garden has need to be lived with on friendly, intimate terms if its interests are to be safeguarded and if the same taste which characterises the interior of the home is to be exercised in its surroundings where, unhappily, the gardener's, alone and undirected, is too often expressed. Where a garden lacks an appreciative master or mistress of intelligence and taste it is apt to be no more inviting than a house without one. Such ever lacks personality and soul.

In this busy country gardening is regarded as of interest chiefly to women of leisure, and to them, for the most part, it is left; whereas in England especially, but on the Continent, too, one rarely meets an educated man, and almost never a gentlewoman, not intelligently, usually actively interested in gardens, and as ready to discuss them at the dinner-table as to talk about the latest play or novel. The Europeans live in their gardens, and have wondrously beautiful ones in which, as a rule, they take keen interest and just pride. Very fast are we following in their footsteps.

When the pioneer in Colonial times sat on the stump of the tree he had felled to rest and enjoy the view, he had as comfortable a seat as many of his wealthy descendants still provide in their gardens, if, indeed, they provide any at all. Most out-of-door furniture is hopelessly uncomfortable, crude, or inartistic -- quite unnecessarily so, which is not to say that a split log laid between two trees for a seat in a wild garden is not everything it ought to be. But a little more thought expended on a seat, a fountain, or other detail, seemingly trivial and unimportant, makes a surprising difference in the effect, and does much to lift a country home above the level of the commonplace. The furnishings need not be expensive, but they should be well adapted to their uses and they ought to be beautiful.

Garden seats, like other out-of-door furniture, may be of either one of two kinds -- made at home or manufactured to be sold. Both are possible to people of small means. The rustic garden seat, as commercially manufactured out of rough logs, contorted branches and twisted roots, with all their natural excrescences left on to torture the sitter, may be provided by a gentle, well-meaning little woman simply because it is everywhere offered for sale and she assumes that it must be what is needed in her garden. Yet such a seat, placed in the hot sun, is about as comfortable as the gridiron on which St. Lawrence was broiled alive. However, simple, dignified rustic work may be made by the village carpenter out of small cedar logs, which are the most durable, or of arborvitae, or locust, or birch, whose respective merits are in the order named. Good design implies an absence of meaningless ornament. It means lines that suggest strength and comfort. Rustic arbours, trellises, rose arches, bird houses, and garden seats and tables for afternoon tea or breakfast out of doors, rustic frames for woven-wire back-stops on the tennis-court, all suggest informality and the naturalistic treatment of the home grounds. A rustic pergola next a house that is in the severely classic style of Colonial architecture would be an anachronism. But for a simple little country cottage or a house whose architecture is nondescript, rustic garden furniture may be not only the cheapest but the most appropriate and artistic that can be had.


ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES IN HAVING A FOUNTAIN NEAR THE HOUSE IS THAT IT BRINGS BIRDS TO
BATHE AND TO DRINK AT YOUR VERY DOORSTEP.


THE MARBLE TABLE, IN WHICH THE SUN-DIAL  RESTS, IS A COPY OF ONE UNEARTHED AT POMPEII.

Any amateur who can use a saw and hammer can make a rustic arch to grow climbing roses on. A row of arches seen from end to end looks like a continuous bower of greenery. If a garden scene be flat or monotonous there is no better way to diversify it and give it charm than by using arches freely across the paths -- never an isolated one on a lawn. Quick-growing annual vines will cover them while the permanent climbers are starting. Few vines do well on iron arches which bake in the hot sun. They are top-heavy, unlovely things and are apt to be loosened by the wind in many cases. They rust. But if they must be used for the sake of their strength, try to enclose them in a wooden lattice. No arch should be less than a yard across; a greater width is preferable, especially if a frame be needed through which an especially beautiful garden picture may be seen. A single broad bowery arch will lead the eye toward a distant vista as surely as a pointed finger.

An Elizabethan half-timbered house, whose projecting beams are coated with tar and oil, has its wooden lattices that screen the drying ground and its arbour that is overhung with Wichuraiana roses, clematis and wild grape, coated with the same effective tar preservative which, however, cannot be used on seats lest it rub off on one's clothes. The seats for the garden around this house are built of sturdy oak planks left to weather-stain -- one plank laid across four log uprights forms a seat; another narrower one, joined by large oak dowels to two of the tall upright posts, serves for a back. Although cedar and locust rot less readily than other wood used in gardens, even these are greatly benefited by having the ends of the posts that are sunk in the earth dipped in tar.

Spar varnish as well as tar oil preserves rustic and wooden work that is exposed to the weather; moreover, it does not conceal the natural colour and grain of the wood and it protects it from borers.

Not long ago a man, who was brought before a judge for some petty offence, was asked his occupation.

"Boring worm holes with hot wire in antique furniture, Your Honour," said the prisoner at the bar.

Worm holes in rustic furniture never increase its value, however, even to the unwary; on the contrary, they may utterly destroy it. The popular hickory chairs and settees for camps, piazzas and rustic summer houses, need varnish especially, for they usually contain occupants other than human. If little piles of sawdust form daily on the floor under the spots where the borers are tunnelling nursery holes for destructive descendants in the furniture, a small hand syringe should be filled at once with a strong carbolic wash to be injected into the holes before the varnish is applied.


ENTRANCE TO A FORMAL GARDEN ENLIVENED BY A DOUBLE ROW OF HYDRANGEAS. 
LARGE TERRA-COTTA, STONE OR MARBLE POTS FOR BAY TREES, CLIPPED EVERGREENS,
BOXWOOD, SHEARED PRIVET FOR FORMAL EFFECTS ARE DECORATIVE ADDITIONS TO
THE VERANDA OR FLOWER GARDEN.


RUSTIC FURNITURE, THAT MAY BE LEFT OUT IN ALL WEATHERS, IS A COMFORTABLE KIND TO OWN.
UNDER THIS OLD APPLE TREE TEA IS SERVED IN THE LONG SUMMER AFTERNOONS.

Old English gardens, and the copies of them that were made in this new land during Colonial times, usually contained a few choice pieces of wooden furniture that were painted white to correspond with the pillars, cornices, railings, pilasters and other trim of the dwelling. Delightfully designed and comfortable settees, some with lattice patterns like Chinese fret-work on their backs, and smooth slats for seats that shed the rain; straight settees to place against a hedge at the end of a direct garden walk, or on either side of the front door on the porch; semi-circular settees for niches in garden walls or at the turn of a curved path; circular settees to go around the trunk of a tree that afforded shade or a fine view -- all these were counted desirable accessories of a garden about a house built in the Georgian or Colonial style. Happily such seats are being manufactured again to-day, the exact copies of good old models. When soiled, they may be scrubbed and finally repainted. They are heavy and do not overturn in storms. If they can be given a permanent position -- and no seat should ever be placed permanently where there is not either a pleasant prospect, shade, or some other good reason for its being there -- it pays to lay a few bricks or a shallow bed of concrete where the seats rest on the soil, lest dampness injure them in time. Such seats look best with a dark hedge or shrubbery for a background against which the pattern of the white lattice at their backs stands out in high relief. They are also appropriate and beautiful in pergolas, since they, too, had their origin in Italy. But they imply a certain formality of house and garden treatment, and are as much out of place next a very modern-looking house or where half wild or naturalistic planting come close to the doors as a patent  swing would be in an old-fashioned garden. Fitness is a factor in giving pleasure.

The Colonial lattice of many patterns is, perhaps, seen at its best about Southern houses. An elaborately illustrated chapter might be devoted to the infinite variety of the lattice alone. Where it is used for porches, galleries, fences, screens, well enclosures, summer houses and garden furniture generally, it has a decorative value none may gainsay.

Wood is the most popular material for out-of-door furniture, chiefly because it may be adapted to various styles; it can be made up artistically and it is cheap, but comparatively few gardeners have any idea of the charming and varied uses to which lattices may be put aside from screening off unsightly places and affording a foothold for vines. Iron can rarely be introduced into a garden unless it be handsomely wrought into grills for gates or frames for lanterns at an entrance, or used for arches to support roses and other climbers, as has been said. The iron mushroom seats painted white or green that are often seen in public parks; the comfortless settees made of painted iron slats, usually rusty and destructive of clothes; the iron chairs with alleged decorations of iron grape-vines; the iron figure of a little Negro boy holding out a ring to tie a horse to; iron urns that afford the scarlet geraniums and magenta petunias a rarely lost opportunity to swear at each other; the iron fountain where a child holds a rusty iron umbrella over its head to catch the spray; the iron deer that stands at bay amid harmless flower beds on a suburban lawn-these and all their awful kind are rubbish for the junk heap, intolerable eyesores to people of taste. Would that they might be banished forever from the American flower garden!


THE FORMALITY OF ARCHITECTURE HERE DEMANDS EXTREME FORMALITY IN THE TREATMENT OF THE
GROUNDS IMMEDIATELY ADJOINING IT.  STONE SEATS, VASES AND LIONS, USED IN PAIRS, ARE PERFECTLY
CONSISTENT WITH THIS STYLE OF HOUSE.


AN OUT-OF-DOOR LIVING-ROOM. RED CEDAR IS THE BEST WOOD FOR RUSTIC WORK, WHITE CEDAR AND
BIRCH COMING NEXT. MORE AND MORE SHALL WE LIVE IN THE OPEN AIR.

In Tuscany, hard-baked clay most exquisitely designed and wrought into garden seats, sun-dial mounts, fountains, vases, big pots for bay trees and smaller jardinières for porches and window gardens, well-heads and decorative devices for garden walls, are still manufactured from Renaissance and ancient classical models. Florence, which remains the centre of this craft in terra cotta after centuries of supremacy, exports quantities of her charming wares to America. Mrs. Watts, the widow of the Royal Academician, conducts a village industry for the manufacture of similar work at Guilford, England; and in this country, where we have an infinite variety of beautiful clays, a few potteries, not so well patronised as they should be, are beginning to supply the home market with pieces of original design. Red terra cotta is never conciliatory with flowers, but for evergreens it is especially effective. Some great pots of biscuit-coloured clay, three feet in diameter, with a simple Aztec arrow design about their top, hold shapely specimens of pyramidal boxwood at a garden entrance. They were made at a woman's pottery in New Jersey. After the sprinklings of a single summer they took on a mossy tone. Cecil Rhodes used forty similar pots for blue hydrangeas in his famous garden at Cape Town, South Africa.

Garden furniture in stone and marble is an indulgence for the wealthy only. Somehow marble looks harder and colder in our country than in sunny Italy where, weather-worn and harmonious though it be, a dark background of ilex, cypress, or other evergreen is invariably given it; but it could be used here much oftener and more effectively than it is, especially in Southern and California gardens, were imported pieces sold less absurdly high and if a proper setting for them might be furnished. A single piece of marble statuary, like Elihu Vedder's charming figure of a youth upholding a bronze bowl to catch the splash from the fountain in Mr. Louis Tiffany's garden, has a reason for existence, and it suffices on a large estate of remarkable beauty. But to clutter a garden with marble figures and mutilated fragments of antiques from a New York auction room in the misguided belief that such are essential to an American garden designed in the Italian style is "good taste misplaced."

Old English formal gardens contained much lead statuary which was, counted more harmonious with the sombre landscape than white marble images. A craze for the curious figures has recently revived among our cousins across the sea, but it has little to feed upon because many were shipped to America as "works of art" during the Revolution and promptly melted into bullets here -- probably the most effective use to which they were ever put. A very few that escaped the smelting pot are still extant in old New England and Southern gardens.

Native stone of mellow colour makes admirable garden furniture and it ages well, which cannot be said of marble in our climate. Simple pieces in stone may be made at a not prohibitive cost by any good mason, working by the day -- slab seats and tables for pergolas, sun-dial pedestals and low, broad steps, for example. Wherever stone and marble seats are used in shady places, portable cushions will surely be laid on them by the sensitive and the rheumatic. Elaborate ornaments for entrance gates, balustrades for terraces, fountains and vases will probably be secured by one's architect and seldom be home made, unless one can secure the services of some exceptionally skilful stone-cutter with an artistic eye who can be trusted to copy a picture or scale drawing. But Italian masons, expert in decorative work, are already numerous in this country, and more will be forthcoming. See to it that the replicas of the urns and vases, if Greek and Roman models be used, have deeper bowls than most of them possess, and holes in the bottom for drainage, otherwise the plants set out in them on terraces, walls and balustrades will surely wither away. The brims should be smoothly rounded if they are not to cut the vines growing over the edge. Vases need not necessarily be used in pairs, even in the most formal of gardens. A replica of a splendid great Greek vase may well be given a niche to itself in the concave wall of a clipped evergreen hedge against which its faultless symmetry stands revealed in bold relief. To duplicate a dignified and satisfying ornament of this character is but to cheapen its effect.


FOUNTAIN OF BRONZE AND MARBLE DESIGNED BY ELIHU VEDDER.

Everyone who may have a fountain in his garden should not deprive himself of the refreshing sound of its splashing waters, the mirror-like effect of its pool, the companionship of birds which it will bring close to his doorstep. Nothing attracts so many feathered neighbours as fresh water for them to bathe in and to drink -- (they are not squeamish, they will drink their baths). Goldfish, which should live in every fountain basin to keep mosquito larvae exterminated, may be tamed, as well as the birds, to eat out of one's hand. Robins, thrushes, cat-birds, brown-thrashers and mocking-birds, especially, are inveterate bathers and hard drinkers. No others are finer songsters.

One cannot think of fountains without seeing on the inner eye visions of the superbly beautiful ones in Italy, the land of garden magic. At the Villa d'Este, where the use of fountains, cascades, canals, rivulets and pools would seem to have reached the pinnacle of possibility, thanks to the abundant water supply of the river Anio, there is a studied simplicity in the midst of grandeur which it would be well to follow in gardens large or small. No posing mermaids combing their hair, no spouting dolphins, no Dianas surprised at the bath, detract from the central point of interest in these fountains -- just a single jet of water tossed high into the air -- forty or fifty feet in the larger ones -- and falling in clouds of misty spray among the towering cypresses and pinkacacias in the surrounding groves. Everywhere is water in motion -- the same water utilised over and over again -- now sparkling and prismatic in the sunshine, now deep and dark in pools that reflect the exquisite colours of the surrounding vegetation or the moss-grown balustrades on the lofty terraces that rise tier upon tier up the steep, verdant hillside. Whoever owns even a little brook and a little cottage on a hill and a little money to invest in joy will wish to play with some of the ideas for garden making that crowd his mind as he strolls through the grounds designed by Cardinal Ipolito d'Este, the master gardener of his day. For the principles of art are of well nigh universal application.

Happily for those to whom stone work and marble are prohibitively costly, there are now made in this country some admirable reproductions of classical models in artificial stone that withstand frost. The fountain of conventionalised lions that is the central feature of a small circular garden in a carriage turn-around, illustrated in the second chapter of this book, is made of a concrete composition that is as practical as it is effective and inexpensive, having weathered five winters without showing a crack. A village carpenter made the moulds for the round basin into which concrete was poured to dry and harden in the sun. Garden furnishings in artificial stone -- Pompeiian tablets, Roman chairs, Greek vases, Italian fountains, pergola columns, balustrades, well-heads, ornaments for entrance gates and garden walls, sundial mounts, big decorative pots for flowers, clipped boxwood, bay and formal evergreen trees, may all be bought so cheaply that no one who can afford the luxury of architecture in the classic style for house and garden need forego a coveted piece for their embellishment. Even the stone lantern, without whose saving presence to frighten away evil sprits no Oriental man with a hoe would be content to work in a Japanese garden, is now reproduced in an artificial material so durable as to almost defy detection. From the old-fashioned garden, however simple, the sun-dial need not be missing when standards like the best ones designed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may be bought for ten dollars or less.


A SHELTERED PERGOLA UNITING HOUSE AND GARDEN. NOTE THE LOW WAINSCOT EFFECT OF THE PRIVET HEDGE; THE NOTES OF HARMONIOUS COLOUR INTRODUCED BY THE BRICK PAVEMENT, FIELD-STONE ARCHES AND WOODEN SEATS; THE AIRY GRACE OF THE CLEMATIS VINES.

Quite suddenly and violently, as is our wont, have Americans taken to pergolas: every type of house and garden in this broad land now boasts one. Many are meaningless, leading from no place in particular to no place in particular; opening up no vista through leafy arches toward a beautiful view; sheltering no cosy breakfast or tea table; inviting no one to rest awhile on comfortable, shady seats; growing no especially beautiful vines (usually the crimson rambler to the exclusion of every other one); extending no architectural lines that end too abruptly; tying no building to the surrounding garden or landscape -- having, in short, no well-thought-out reason for their existence. Following fashion blindly is a weakness not confined to clothes. But how exceedingly beautiful is the well-made, well-placed, vine-clad pergola!

Its forerunner in old-fashioned gardens, the alley of pleached or braided trees that afforded our ancestors a cool retreat on a hot day, a fragrant bowery to stroll through on a summer evening, has been almost wholly superseded by this recent innovation. The Italian word "pergola" itself means a certain kind of grape; but it soon came to be applied to the rough-and-ready arbours over which the vine was grown - stones of all sizes picked up in the vineyard and piled dry into pillars on which was laid, as an open roof, a trellis of projecting poles. A temporary lattice between the pillars on the sides of the pergola was used, too, until the vines that were trained over it reached the roof, when the side poles were usually removed. Within the leafy pergola the hardy Italian peasant and his family spent many hours of every day, and the out-of-door living-room was nothing if not practical and picturesque. The pergola had long been enjoyed by the contadino's prosperous neighbours, who adopted it purely for its aesthetic value, not for the utilitarian purpose of growing grapes. In the great villas around the principal Italian cities it was constructed almost exclusively of stone, the massive columns, plain or carved, were wreathed with flowering vines: passion flower, clematis and roses of every hue; the wooden crossbeams overhead festooned with swaying garlands none of which, however, wafted a fragrance so delicious as that of the blossoming grape. Along the leafy colonnade stone seats were placed. Much formal entertaining has been done in such an out-of-door reception room; much happy family life is still passed in Italian pergolas far less pretentious.

As the pergola may vary from the severe lines of the classic marble columns to the rough pillars of dry-laid field stone, stucco and rubble, or the knotty posts made of trees with their branches lopped off for the supports of its roof, it is adaptable to every kind of home conditions here. Only the Italian is an adept at utilising the materials lying next his hand. We have need to apply his methods, for the most picturesque effects are often attained with the simplest materials. Carving or other ornamentation on the columns enters into hopeless competition with the vines.

Because it is adaptable to so many styles of houses and gardens, and may be made of whatever material best suits its surroundings and the size of the owner's purse, and chiefly because it is as beautiful as it is useful and healthful, the pergola will not soon, if ever, disappear from this land of its adoption. A happier day is dawning for Americans if they, like the Italians, may be enticed out of houses through leafy pergolas to spend more of every day under the open sky. 



THE END

copyright, Kellscraft Studio
1999-2004
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