Cottage 3 Cottage Outside Decoration
Nothing so perfectly sets off a cottage, in external appearance, as the presence of plants and shrubbery around it. A large tree or two, by giving an air of protection, is always in place; and creeping vines, and climbing shrubs about the windows and porch, are in true character; while a few low-headed trees, of various kinds, together with some simple and hardy annual and other flowers—to which should always be added, near by, a small, well-tended kitchen garden—fill up the picture.
In the choice of what varieties should compose these ornaments, one can hardly be at a loss. Flanking the cottage, and near the kitchen garden, should be the fruit trees. The elm, maples, oak, and hickory, in all their varieties, black-walnut, butternut—the last all the better for its rich kernel—are every one appropriate for shade, as large trees. The hop, morning-glory, running beans—all useful and ornamental as summer climbers; the clematis, bitter-sweet, ivy, any of the climbing roses; the lilac, syringa, snow-ball, and the standard roses; while marigolds, asters, pinks, 232 the phloxes, peonies, and a few other of the thousand-and-one simple and charming annuals, biennials, and perennials, with now and then a gorgeous sunflower, flaunting in its broad glory, will fill up the catalogue. Rare and costly plants are not required, and indeed, are hardly in place in the grounds of an ordinary cottage, unless occupied by the professional gardener. They denote expense, which the laboring cottager cannot afford; and besides that, they detract from the simplicity of the life and purpose which not only the cottage itself, but everything around it, should express.
There is an affectation of cottage building, with some people who, with a seeming humility, really aim at higher flights of style in living within them, than truth of either design or purpose will admit. But as such cases are more among villagers, and those temporarily retiring from the city for summer residence, the farm cottage has little to do with it. Still, such fancies are contagious, and we have occasionally seen the ambitious cottage, with its covert expression of humility, insinuating itself on to the farm, and for the farmer's own family occupation, too, which at once spoiled, to the eye, the substantial reality of the whole establishment. A farmer should discard all such things as ornamental cottages. They do not belong to the farm. If he live in a cottage himself, it should be a plain one; yet it may be very substantial and well finished—something showing that he means either to be content in it, in its character of plainness, or that he intends, at a future day, to build something better—when this may serve for the habitation of one of his laborers.
The cottage should never occupy a principal, or prominent site on the farm. It should take a subordinate position of ground. This adds to its expression as subordinate in rank, among the lesser farm buildings. A cottage cannot, and should not aspire to be chief in either position or character. Such should be the farm house proper; although unpretending, still, in style, above the cottage; and if the latter, in addition, be required on the farm, it should so appear, both in construction and finish; just what it is intended for—a tenement for economical purposes.
There is another kind of cottage, the dwellers in which, these pages will probably never reach, that expresses, in its wild structure, and rude locality, the idea of Moore's pretty song—
I knew by the smoke that so gracefully curled
Above the green elms, that a cottage was near.
Yet, in some parts of our country, landlords may build such, for the accommodation of tenants, which they may make useful on the outskirts of their estates, and add indirectly to their own convenience and interest in so doing. This may be indulged in, poetically too—for almost any thinking man has a spice of poetry in his composition—vagabondism, a strict, economizing utilitarian would call it. The name matters not. One may as well indulge his taste in this cheap sort of charitable expenditure, as another may indulge, in his dogs, and guns, his horses and equipages—and the first is far the cheapest. They, at the west and south, understand this, whose recreations are occasionally 234 with their hounds, in chase of the deer, and the fox, and in their pursuit spend weeks of the fall and winter months, in which they are accompanied, and assisted, as boon companions for the time, by the rude tenants of the cottages we have described:
A cheerful, simple, honest people.
Another class of cottage may come within the farm enclosures, half poetical, and half economical, such as Milton describes:
Hard by a cottage chimney smokes,
From betwixt two aged oaks;
and occupied by a family pensioner and his infirm old wife—we don't think all poor old folks ought to go to the alms-house, because they cannot work every day of the year—of which all long-settled families of good estate have, now and then, one near to, or upon their premises. Thousands of kind and liberal hearts among our farming and planting brethren, whose impulses are—
Open as the day to melting charity,
are familiar with the wants of those who are thus made their dependents; and in their accommodation, an eye may be kept to the producing of an agreeable effect in locating their habitations, and to rudely embellish, rather than to mar the domain on which they may be lodged.
In short, cottage architecture, in its proper character, may be made as effective, in all the ornament which it should give to the farm, as that of any other structure; 235 and if those who have occasion for the cottage will only be content to build and maintain it as it should be, and leave off that perpetual aspiration after something unnatural, and foreign to its purpose, which so many cottage builders of the day attempt, and let it stand in its own humble, secluded character, they will save themselves a world of trouble, and pass for—what they now do not—men possessing a taste for truth and propriety in their endeavors.