The Embellishment of Public Pleasure Grounds

“The Embellishment of Public Pleasure Grounds”, read before the Western New York Horticultural Society at Rochester, on January 22, 1890.

Superintendent William McMillan of the Buffalo Park System read the first paper presented at the evening session. It was entitled “The Embellishment of Public Pleasure Grounds.” The subject included the making of drives and walks, planting trees and flowers and all improvements. All this work should be of the most durable kind. It was the cheapest in the end. Some general plan should be adopted but there should not be a blind adherence to it in the matter of detail. Mr. McMillan thought showy and costly ornamentation should be avoided. He spoke about the duties of the Park policeman. The system was costly, hard to secure and hard to maintain. On the whole the park looked better in plain dress than in that of shabby gentility. Floral embellishment, that is the use of the newest and finest flowers was not practicable. It required constant policing. Even then the beds were subject to injury from dogs and cats during the nights. The only satisfactory way to protect these displays was by a fence. Foliage beds were more practicable. Fantastic arrangements pleased the eye pleased the eye more than the intrinsic value of the flowers. A display of highly colored foliage was false to nature. It might please some, but it would be on the principle on which a bad chrome is admired when a good painting is overlooked.

“Nature is moderate in her display of high colors. The rainbow is evanescent. A gorgeous sunset is a matter of a few moments. But if the gardener follows nature he will please some and offend none.

“A highly colored artificial flower garden is out of place in a rural setting. A display of tender exotics is likely to be kept at the expense of other portions of the park. It is bad taste to array one portion to purple and fine linen while the rest is poorly clothed in tattered rags.”

Mr. McMillan thought many native trees and shrubs were neglected. His taste in ornamenting public grounds was in favor of the quiet, attractive and pleasing effects. The essential element of a park was the landscape – the deep woods, open glades, rolling hills. The walks, drives and bridges were necessary evils. Water was necessary. It was to the landscape what the eye is to the face.

Mr. McMillan’s paper scholarly and well written. It contained many valuable suggestions.

– Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 23 January 1890.