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WOMEN AND THE ART OF LANDSCAPE GARDENING
BY MARY BRONSON HARTT
“ There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners; ... they hold up Adam's profession," was the not altogether unprejudiced opinion of the First Gravedigger; and we may infer from Mr. John La Farge's statement that the Fiji Isiander arranges his garden with an engaging taste, not inartistic, that the art of landscape gardening was known before the dawn of civilization. But, like most of the other arts, it was of comparatively late development in this country. Its greatest American exponent, the late Frederick Law Olmsted, did not enter upon his career as a landscape architect until after the Civil War. The secure and honorable position which landscape gardening has now come to hold among the professions and its successful adoption by a small group of earnest women have led The Outlook to ask Miss Hartt to present a study of this latter phase of the subject. Landscape gardening for women is no longer an experiment, though the question of the extent to which the natural aptitude and the requisite training for it can be combined with the necessary strength and endurance may still remain unanswered. In connection with Miss Hartt's article we present a series of photographs which, while only in part portraying the work of women, illustrate certain general phases of the subject.—THE EDITORS. VOLLECTORS of novel
occupa- scores of young women who do not get tions for women-how many they so far as this are talking of taking up
arė, to be sure, and how con- landscape gardening, for all the world as scientiously they scour the earth for if it were a craft, like basketry or burntthings a woman might supposedly be wood. able to do 1-are lightly holding out the These good ladies have commonly the profession of landscape gardening as a most rudimentary notions as to the congenial, soothing, out-of-doors pursuit demands, the hardships, or the rewards to which a woman of taste, who loves of the profession. Herein they are in flowers, cannot do better than turn her no worse case than their fathers and hand. Such counsel is taking sure effect, brothers. A well-known Boston archihelped on, no doubt, by the flood of tect assures me that an amazing number .“how-to” gardening books, in which the of otherwise sane, responsible business art seems to simmer down to a question men come to him every year, saying : whether to put sweet-peas here or nas- “ I'm all worn out. I need a rest. Once turtiums there. Landscape architects upon a time I dug a rose-bush and it tell me that they are continually besieged got on famously. Do you know, I've a with letters from fair aspirants seeking notion to go in for landscape gardening !" advice how best to arm themselves for Plainly it is time for a rational discareers in the garden. And certainly cussion of the subject.
FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY THE J. HORACE M'FARLAND COMPANY
IN A LANDSCAPE GARDEN FLOWERS EXIST, IF AT ALL, FOR THE SAKE OF THE WHOLE EFFECT
A delightful vagueness seems to fill the house, and consistently preserve and public, mind at the mention of landscape develop the most effective features in art—and, indeed, the proíusion of sound- the scene, or whether, his advice being ing terms used by the profession does sought at the eleventh hour, he has to not conduce to clarity of thinking. We make what he can of the havoc left by hear of landscape gardeners, landscape contractors—the principle is the same. artists, landscape architects, and land- The art is one, though its problems are scape designers. The reason for this is infinitely varied. And those who are that the really professional men have carelessly contemplating “ taking it up" flown distractedly from one, term to had best face the fact that it is nothing another to avoid being confused with less than the profession of the late certain unprofessional quacks. For that Frederick Law Olmsted in which they word “ landscape ” is easily prefixed to are planning to dabble. the titles of canny gentlemen with an Is there, then, no field for women here eye to dollars, when plain "gardener,"
gardener," at all ? or at most " horticulturist,” would more The answer to that question is a galaccurately fit their case.
lant little group of women who have The luckless public, however, not forged for themselves National reputabeing in the secret, fancies it sees a dis- tions. It is a very iittle group, it is true, tinction between terms which mean pre scarce half a dozen all told. cisely the same thing. A young woman considering the smallness of the body of who would shrink affrighted from the men in the profession—the American thought of meddling with anything so Society of Landscape Architects, men ambitious as landscape architecture con and women together, numbers not half ceives herself quite capable of mastering a hundred names—the showing is not so the art of landscape gardening, which she bad. supposes consists in the effective arrange Ask any notable landscape architectment of flowers in beds, in gardens which any man, I mean—what standing he exist for the sake of the flowers.
gives to the work of the women in his Now in a landscape garden, if one may profession, and he will tell you cordially use the term, flowers exist, if at all, for enough that some of it at least wiil bear the sake of the whole effect. To a true comparison with similar work by the best landscape gardener flowers, shrubs, trees, of the men. Having said so much, he and shaven lawns are not so much things will probably hasten to add a guarded of beauty in themselves as pigments, doubt whether women will ever achieve masses of light and shade, textures, sur success on a grand scale, whether they faces, with which he composes his out conceive largely enough to undertake door pictures. The design's the thing public works like the laying out of great the comprehensive scheme which takes parks or the plotting of plans for new the house with the grounds, or in park cities. lands the varied elements in the scene, From this verdict the women themand coaxes them into one satisfying, selves are little inclined to appeal. Miss harmonious whole.
Beatrix Jones, of New York, doyenne of The design may be formal, as in the the profession in America, says: “ So far old French or Italian gardens, or, as is as I can learn from the present trend of more likely in this country, it may be things, it seems likely that for some time naturalistic, so that those of us not too to come women's work will be almost familiar with nature in her untutored entirely limited to that of a domestic phases shall say with a sigh of pleasure character." (This although Miss Jones that it looks as if it just grew. It is all has herself some little public work, in one whether it be the grounds of a mod- the way of designs for squares or parks, est suburban villa, or a park, or a great to her credit.) Miss Martha Brown, also country estate; it matters not whether of New York, and another prominent the artist is called in before ever the member of the little group mentioned land is bought that he may help to deter- above, thinks that woman's skill and mine the site, select the best spot for the patience might be utilized in co-operation
with men in originating planting schemes Who, then, are the women who ought for public parks; but that, if she must to feel themselves called to prepare for work alone, private estates are better it? adapted to her powers.
In answering this, it should be pointed Mr. John Nolen points out that, in out that landscape gardening, being not justice to the women, it should be remem- a trade but a profession, shares with bered that they are little likely to get other professions this peculiarity, that the chance to show what they might do it cannot be taught. You cannot reduce in a public way. In other arts there is it to tables, as : four trees make one nothing to restrain a woman from mak- clump, ten clumps make one grove, ten ing a deliberate display of her powers. groves make one wood. Much that is If she wants to paint a Last Judgment, contributory to it, like horticulture, may or model a Pietà, no one can stop her. be learned in the schools, indeed must But in landscape architecture success be learned ; the novice may be put in the waits on invitation. A woman might way of coming to her highest developmap out the most ambitious plans for ment; but, however lavish her initial an imaginary park. But even supposing equipment, in the long run she must she could get any one to look at them, work out her own salvation. they would be valueless. For the essence This argues a certain native endowof success in such designing is that the ment. And, indeed, the woman who plans shall fit specific conditions. Pub- looks towards landscape gardening may lic prejudice would operate against a well take serious counsel with herself. woman's being trusted with public work, As truly as any painter must she have and she would rarely be asked to submit pictorial imagination, the artist's eye for plans for specific projects.
form and color, for proportion, for comThere is one notable exception to the position. For, looking upon ugliness, statement that women do not excel in she must see the potential beauty bepublic designing-Miss Wilkinson, an neath. She has not the painter's freedom English woman who was adjudged worthy of hand, for no, blank canvas, but a more to be made adviser to the London or less stubborn tract of the earth's Board of Works. However, we will let surface, is spread to receive the picture Miss Wilkinson prove the rule, leaving conceived by her brain. In a sense she to women the ample field of designing needs to add the sculptor's gift to that beautiful settings for beautiful homes. of the painter, for it is hers to mold the Herein her male critics agree in paying very contours of the earth. her more than tolerant regard. Her This is much, but there is more. The feeling for beauty is allowed to be, if work of the landscape artist needs not anything, more sensitive than man's; she only beauty that appeals to the eye, but has a discriminating eye for color. that added beauty of fitness, of perfect Moreover, she has that kind of genius adaptation to use. Not only to dream which consists in a capacity for taking dreams, but to make the dreams comfortlimitless pains. "A woman will fuss able to live in—such is the demand upon with a garden," so says Mr. Guy Lowell, her who makes beautiful compositions out of the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- of home grounds. Hence along with nology,“ in a way that no man will ever imagination must go keen practicality. have the patience to do. If necessary, And with practicality, constructive ability. she will sit on a camp-stool and see every Most women plan well, many women individual plant put into the ground. I arrange well, but the building, the conhave no hesitation in saying that where structive, instinct has sometimes seemed the relatively small garden is concerned, the monopoly of man. the average woman will do better than Suppose a woman sufficiently an artist, the average man.”
a devout lover of nature, with the necesOh, yes, there's a field for women in sary practical endowments, she may then landscape gardening; but scarcely a proceed to ask herself whether she is field large enough to invite the sex in a enough of an artist in dealing with men. body.
She may have pictured her future life as