Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bellwood Plantation - the Wilderness

I'm still thinking about Bellwood Plantation, pictured in the previous post. A quick google turns up many Bellwoods, but unfortunately nothing on one in Upson County, Georgia. But it's a fascinating picture, and there is much to learn from it.

One of its most prominent features is the heavily treed 'wilderness' around the house.

I got quite a jolt when my tutor in England told me that there was essentially no natural landscape there. 'Everything you see has been intentionally planted or altered', he said.

So if this were an English painting, I would assume that the trees were all planted and wonder at the fact that the shrubbery--the artificial wilderness--had been installed so near the house, as it was typical to set them farther away as part of a regression from formality into informality. Because it is American, I know that the landscape is almost certainly a partially natural one; the house has been set into a stand of existing trees, into a natural wilderness whose heart has been carved into a home.

The presence of wild nature, even still today, is a seminal feature of the American landscape and of the American imagination. As I walk around my university I see a landscape largely composed of trees and shrubs scattered randomly across open lawns, only rarely arranged into formal patterns or punctuated by seating.

It's the same way most Americans landscape their own homes, creating what is essentially a landscape park rather than a garden.

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