WILDERNESSES, if rightly situated, artfully contrived, and judiciously planted, are very great ornaments to a fine garden; but it is rare to see these so well executed in gardens as could be wished, nor are they often judiciously situated; for they are frequently so situated as to hinder a distant prospect, or else are not judiciously planted; the latter of whichis farce ever to be found in any of our most magnificent gardens, very few of their designers ever studying the natural growth of trees so as to place them in such manner, that they may not obstruct the sight from the several parts of the plantation which are presented to the view; I shall therefore briefly set down what has occurred to me from time to time, when I have considered these parts of gardens, whereby a person will be capable to form an idea of the true beauties which ought always to be studied in the contrivance of Wildernesses
1. Wildernesses should always be proportioned to the extent of the gardens in which they are made, that they may correspond in magnitude with the other parts of the garden; for it is very ridiculous to fee a large Wilderness planted with tall trees in a small spot of ground; and on the other hand, nothing can be more absurd, than to see little paltry squares, or quarters of Wilderness work, in a magnificent large garden.
2. As to the situation of Wildernesses, they should never be placed too near the habitation, becauce the great quantity of moisture which is perspired from the trees will cause a damp unwholesome air about the house, which is often of ill consequence. Nor should they be situated so as to obstruct any distant prospcet of the country, which should always be preserved wherever it can be obtained, there being nothing so agreeable to the mind as an unconfined prospect of the adjacent country; […]
3. The trees should always be adapted to the size of the plantation, for it is very absurd to see tall trees panted in small squares of a little garden; and so likewise, if in large designs are planted nothins but small srubs, it will have a mean appearance. It should also be observed, never to plant evergreen among deciduous trees, but always place the evergreens in a Wilderness, or a separate part of the Wilderness by themselves, and that chiefly in sight, because these afford a continual pleasure both in summer and winter, when in the latter season the deciduous trees do not appear so agreeable; therefore, if the borders of Wilderness quarters are skirted with evergreens, they will have a good effect.
4. The walks must also be proportioned to the size of the ground, and not make large walks in a small Wilderness (nor too many walks, though smaller) whereby the greatest part of the ground is employed in walks; nor should the grand walks of a large Wilderness be too small, both of which are equally faulty. These walks should not be entered immediately from those of the pleasure-garden, but rather be led into by a small private walk, which will render it more entertaining; or if the large walk be tutned in form of a serpent, so as not to shew its whole extent, the mind will be better pleased, than if the whole were to open to the view.
The old formal method of contriving Wildernesses was to divide the whole compass of ground, either into squares, angles, circles, or other figures, making the walks correspondent to them, planting the sides of the walks with hedges of Lime, Elm, Hornbeam, &c. and the quarters within were planted with various kinds of trees promiscuoufly without order; but this can by no means be esteemed a judicious method becauce first hereby there will be a great expence in keeping the hedges of a large Wilderness in good order by shearing them, which, instead of being beautiful, are rather the reverse; for as these parts of a garden should, in a great measure, be designed from nature, whatever has the stiff appearance of art, does by no mean correspond therewith ; besides, these hedges are generally trained up so high, as to obstrud the sight from the stems of the tall trees in the quarters, which ought never to be done.
In the next place the walks are commonly made to intersect each other in angles, which asfo shew too formal and trite for such plantations, and are by no means comparable to such walks as have the appearance of meanders or labyrinths, where the eye cannot discover more than twenty or thirty yards in length; and the more these walks are turned, the greater pleasure they will afford. These should now and then lead into an open circular piece of Grass, in the center of which may be placed either an obelifk, statue, or fountain; and if in the middle part of the Wilderness there be contrived a large opening, in the center of which may be erected a dome or banquetinghouse surrounded with a green plat of Grass, it will be a considerable addition to the beauty of the place. […]
In the distribution of these plantations, in those parts which are planted with deciduous trees, there may be planted next the walks and openings, Roses, Honeysuckles, Spiræa Frutex, and other kinds of low-flowering shrubs, which maybe always kept very dwarf, and may be planted pretty close together; and at the foot of them, near the sides of the walks, may be planted Primroses, Violets, Daffodils, and many other sorts of wood flowers, not in a strait line, but rather to appear accidental, as in a natural wood. Behind the first row of shrubs should be planted Syringas, Cytisuses, Althæa frutex, Mezereons, and other flowering shrubs of a middle growth, which may be backed with Laburnums, Lilacs, Guelder Roses, and other flowering shrubs of a large growth: these may be backed with other sorts of trees, rising gradually to the middle of the quatters, from whence they should always slope down every way to the walks.
By this distribulon you will have the pleasure of the flowering shrubs near the sight, whereby you will be regaled with their scent as you pass through the walks, which is seldom observed by those who plant Wildernesses, for nothing is more common than to see Roses, Honeysuckles, and other small flowering shrubs, placed in the middle of large quarters, under the droprping and shade of large trees, where they seldom thrive; and if they do, the pleasure of them is Iost, becaufe they are secluded from the sight. […]
But, beside these grand walks and openings, (which may be: laid with turf, and kept well mowed) there should be some smaller serpentine walks throuh the middle of the quarters, where persons may retire for privacy. […]
In the general design for these Wildernesses it should not be studied to make the several parts correspondent,for that is so formal and stiff, as to be now quite rejected. The greater diversity there is in the distribution of these parts, the more pleasure they will afford; and since, according to this method of designing and planting, the different parts never present themselves to the same views, it is no matter how different they are varied asunder; that part of them which is most in view from the house, or other parts of the garden, may be planted with evergreens, but the other parts may be planted with deciduous trees […].
The part planted with evergreens may be disposed in the follownig manner, viz. in the first line next the great walks may be placed Laurustinus, Boxes, Spurge Laurel, Juniper, Savin, and other dwarf evergreens; behind these may be planted Laurels, Hollies, Arbutuses, and other evergreens of a larger growth; next to these may be placed Alaternuses, Phyllireas, Yews, Cypresses, Virginian Cedars, and other trees of the fame growth; behind these may be planted Norway and Silver Firs, the True Pine, and other forts of the like growth; and in the middle should be planted Scotch Pines, Pinaster, and other of the largest growing evergreens, which will afford a most delightful prospect, if the different shades of their greens are curiously intermixed.[…]
In small gardens where there is not room for these magnificent Wildernesses, there may be some rising clumps of evergreens, fo designed as to make the gound appear much larger than it is in reality; and if in these there are some serpentine walks well contrived, it will greatly improve the places, and deceive those who are unacquainted with the ground as to its size. These clumps or little quarters of evergreens should be placed just beyond the plain opening of Grass before the house, where the eye will be carried from the plain surface of Grass to the regular slope ofevergreens, to the great pleasure of the beholder; but if there is a distant prospect of the adjacent country, from the house, then this should not be obstructed, but rather be left open for the prospect bounded on each side with these clumps, which may be extended to those parts of the ground, where no view is obstructed. These small quarters should not be surrounded with hedges, for the reasons before given; nor should they be cut into angles, or any other studied figures, but be designed rather in a rural manner, which is always preferable to the other, for these kinds of plantations.
In Wildernesses there is but little trouble or expence after their first planting, which is an addition to their value; the only labour required is to mow and roll the large Grass walks, and to keep the other ground walks free from weeds. And in the quarters, if the weeds are hoed down two or three times in a summer, it will still add to their neatness. The trees should also be pruned to cut out all dead wood, or irregular branches, where they cross each other, and just to preserve them with due bounds; and […], if the ground be (lightly dug between the trees, if will greatly promote their vigour. This being the whole labour of a Wilderness, it is no wonder they are so generally esteemed, especially when consider the pleasure they afford.
philip miller, ‘the gardeners dictionary: containing the best and newest methods of improving the kitchen, fruit, flower garden, and nursery; as also for performing the practical parts of agriculture: including the management of vinyards, […]. london, 1768 (8th edition).