A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
History of Early American Landscape Design


[http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/research/casva/research-projects.html A Project of the National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts ]
Revision as of 19:13, July 11, 2018 by Bchristen (talk | contribs) (CE)

See also: Grove, Plantation, Shrubbery, Thicket, Wood


Fig. 1, Francis Guy, Bolton, view from the South, c. 1805.

The clump emerged as a garden feature in the 18th century in both England and America. The earliest treatises available in North America defined a clump as a group of seven or eight trees planted to form a single unit [Fig. 1]. The Complete Farmer (1769) stipulated that this grouping of trees was “without shape or order,” and Samuel Johnson (1755) referred to a clump as “a shapeless piece of wood.” Johnson, however, added that the feature was “nearly equal in its dimensions,” suggesting thatit was round in plan. Geographer Jedidiah Morse’s 1789 description of the “circular clumps” at Mount Vernon indicates that some Americans interpreted rounded, symmetrical groupings of trees as clumps.

English author Thomas Whately in 1770 provided an extensive discussion of clumps that was often cited by later treatise writers . He characterized a clump as a smaller version of a “close wood” or an “open grove. ” Unlike his predecessors, Whately insisted that a clump could be made of two trees and that the most agreeable form of it “extended rather in length than in breadth,” thus contradicting Johnson’s stipulation that a clump was “nearly equal in its dimensions.” Whately’s argument that clumps should be irregular in form derived from contemporary debates in landscape gardening that cautioned against the artificial appearance of overly regularized forms. In short, irregularity suggested the desired quality of naturalness (see Landscape gardening and Modern style). To adhere to the new aesthetic of naturalness, clumps had to display both a variety of vegetation and forms according to the scenery in which they were placed.

The composition of clumps varied according to American treatise writers and observers. Bernard M’Mahon in 1806 was inclusive when he stated that clumps could be composed solely of trees or shrubs, or a mixture of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. Ten years later, G. (George) Gregory in his New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816) suggested that clumps “of shrubs all of the same kind” created “good” effects. Clumps from a mixture of larger and smaller deciduous trees, such as the horse chestnut and red bud, were created at Monticello, as described by Thomas Jefferson (1807).

The arrangement of plant material within clumps was equally varied. An article in the 1833 volume of the New England Farmer recommended that “a proper system” be adopted in order to avoid “a heterogeneous mass, without meaning, without taste or design.” By contrast, American gardeners John Gardiner and David Hepburn, in the American Gardener (1804), recommended the use of a graduated slope for such plantings.

Regarding the placement of this feature in the landscape, Whately distinguished between two modes. “Independent clumps,” considered “beautiful objects in themselves” could be used to “break an extent of lawn” or as a “continued line . . . of ground or of plantation.” “Relative clumps,” however, planted in relation to other garden features, could be used to create harmonies and contrasts, thus unifying the disparate parts of landscape garden into a single composition. Whately’s disparagement of artifice led him to regard independent clumps with suspicion because of their obvious artificiality. The best treatment of an independent clump, according to Whately, was the placement of “open” clumps (meaning that the plant material was well spaced) “at the point of an abrupt hill, or on a promontory into a lake or river,” where it served to focus the viewer’s attention. “Relative clumps” were more natural, according to Whately’s aesthetic, and a sensitive placement of them intensified the viewer’s visual experience of the garden by providing a succession of open and occluded views.

Fig. 2, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sketch plan for landscaping the grounds of the President’s House, c. 1802–5.

Thomas Jefferson, when writing in 1804 of his plan to create “advantageous catches of prospect” through the careful planting of clumps, was clearly familiar with Whately’s guidelines for “relative clumps.” This idea was especially apparent when Jefferson specified that he intended to break up his “canvas” of grove—“trimmed very high, so as to give it the appearance of open ground”—with “clumps of thicket, as the open grounds of the English are broken by clumps” of trees. Even in the 1830s when other garden styles, such as the gardenesque, were current, garden designers still envisioned clumps as a means to control access to a view, as in C. M. Hovey’s 1835 description in American Gardeners’ Magazine of Mansion House in Brookline, Massachusetts (see Gardenesque).

Fig. 3, Anonymous, A clump, in A.J. Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1849), 96.

Several late 18th- and early 19th-century American gardens exemplify the use of clumps according to Whately’s categories. Benjamin Henry Latrobe's 1807 plan for the White House made use of planting features that corresponded to relative clumps, positioned to create a transition from the wood and garden [Fig. 2]. The notion that clumps could “relieve” the plainness of lawns or woods was found in C. M. Hovey’s description in the Magazine of Horticulture of Mrs. Pratt’s house in Boston (1850), which noted how clumps “broke” the monotony of the landscape. At Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, H. A. S. Dearborn (1831) praised how the clumps of trees and shrubs helped to diversify the “picturesque sheets of water.”

The aesthetic concerns of Whately and his contemporaries were complemented by the material advantages that clumps offered. As Charles Marshall wrote in 1799, clumps of four or five fenced-in forest trees provided an excellent resource for timber. Americans who cleared away trees for their homesteads presumably perceived the advantage of leaving standing clumps of trees for later use as construction or heating materials, as indicated in P. Campbell’s 1793 description of the Catskill Mountains.

Several treatise writers, however, condemned clumps. British designer Humphry Repton, while acknowledging that groups of trees were important elements in landscape design, argued that “formal” clumps of trees of equal height surrounded by a fence for their protection were ugly deformities because of their sameness. In one of his earliest writings (1836), American designer A. J. Downing declared the clump to be perfect. By the time he wrote his treatise (1849), he confessed that experience had taught him that the clump was the product of an amateur ornamental planting. He judged trees of the same height that were planted equidistant from one another in a circular form as overly artificial [Fig. 3]. Like Repton, Downing instead recommended arranging trees in irregular patterns in order to achieve “variety, connexion, and intricacy.”

Anne L. Helmreich



  • Washington, George, March 2, 1785, describing Mount Vernon, plantation of George Washington, Fairfax County, VA (Jackson and Twohig, eds., 1978: 4:97)[1]
“Planted the remainder of the Ash Trees—in the Serpentine walks—the remainder of the fringe trees in the Shrubberies—all the black haws—all the large berried thorns with a small berried one in the middle of each clump—6 small berried thorns with a large one in the middle of each clump—all the swamp red berry bushes & one clump of locust trees.”

  • G., L., June 15, 1788 [?], in a letter to her sister, Eliza, describing The Woodlands, seat of William Hamilton, near Philadelphia, PA (quoted in Madsen 1989: 19)[2]
“[The walks were] planted on each side with the most beautiful & curious flowers & shrubs. They are in some parts enclosed with the Lombardy poplar except here & there openings are left to give you a view of some fine trees or beautiful prospect beyond, & in others, shaded by arbours of the wild grape, or clumps of large trees under which are placed seats where you may rest yourself & enjoy the cool air.”

  • Morse, Jedidiah, 1789, describing Mount Vernon, plantation of George Washington, Fairfax County (1789; repr. 1970: 381)[3]
“. . . the lands in that side are laid out somewhat in the form of English gardens, in meadows and grass grounds, ornamented with little copses, circular clumps and single trees.”

  • Campbell, P., April 9, 1793, describing the vicinity of the Hudson River in New York (1793: 287)[4]
“On the east side I could see the country to be pretty closely inhabited, each farm having a clump of wood by it for fuel.”

  • La Rochefoucauld Liancourt, François Alexandre-Frédéric, duc de, 1796, describing Drayton Hall, plantation of John Drayton, Charleston, SC (1800: 2:438)[5]
“We stopped to dine with Dr. DRAYTON at Drayton-hall. The house is an ancient building, but convenient and good; and the garden is better laid out, better cultivated and stocked with good trees, than any I have hitherto seen. In order to have a fine garden, you have nothing to do but to let the trees remain standing here and there, or in clumps, to plant bushes in front of them, and arrange the trees according to their height. Dr. Drayton’s father, who was also a physician, began to lay out the garden on this principle; and his son, who is passionately fond of a country life, has pursued the same plan.”

  • Hamilton, Alexander, c. 1801–4, describing possible planting methods for Hamilton Grange, estate of Alexander Hamilton, New York, NY (quoted in Lockwood 1931: 1:263)[6]
“. . . some laurel should be planted along the edge of the shrubbery and round the clump of trees near the house.”

“The ground between the upper and lower roundabouts to be laid out in lawns & clumps of trees, the lawns opening so as to give advantageous catches of prospect to the upper roundabout.. . .
“The canvas at large must be Grove, of the largest trees, (poplar, oak, elm, maple, ash, hickory, chestnut, Linden, Weymouth pine, sycamore) trimmed very high, so as to give it the appearance of open ground, yet not so far apart but that they may cover the ground with close shade.
“This must be broken by clumps of thicket, as the open grounds of the English are broken by clumps of trees. plants for thickets are broom, calycanthus, altheas, gelder rose, magnolia glauca, azalea, fringe tree, dogwood, red bud, wild crab, kalmia, mezereon, euonymous, halesia, quamoclid, rhododendron, oleander, service tree, lilac, honeysuckle, brambles.”

“The Approach, its road, woods, lawn & clumps, are laid out with much taste & ingenuity.”

  • Latrobe, Benjamin Henry, March 17, 1807, describing the White House, Washington, DC (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
“In removing the ground, it would certainly be necessary to go down in front of the colonnade to the level of about one foot below the bases of the Columns but, it will certainly not deprive this colonnade of any part of its beauty to pass behind a few gentle Knolls and groves or Clumps in its front, and much expense of removing earth would be thereby saved.”

N. E.   S. E.   S. W.   N. W.
clump   clump   clump   clump
13. Paper mulberries   2.   2.   5.   4
6. Horse chestnuts   3   3
2. Taccamahac poplars   1   1
4. purple beach   2   2
2. Robinia hispida   1   1
2. Choak cherries   1   1
3. Mountain ash.       1   2
Sorbus Aucuparia
2. Xanthoxylon   1   1
1. Red bud   1

“[Planted] clump of Anthenian & Balsam poplars at each corner of house. intermix locusts, common & Kentucky, red-bud, dogwoods, calycanthus, liriodendron.”

Fig. 4, Thomas Chambers, Mount Auburn Cemetery, mid-19th century.
  • Dearborn, H. A. S., September 30, 1831, describing Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA (quoted in Ward 1831: 48)[11]
“. . . the small ponds and morasses converted into picturesque sheets of water, and their margins diversified by clumps and belts of our most splendid native flowering trees, and shrubs, requiring a soil thus constituted for their successful cultivation.” [Fig. 4]

  • Hovey, C. M. (Charles Mason), February 1835, “Calls at Gardens and Nurseries,” describing Mansion House, country estate of Thomas H. Perkins, Brookline, MA (American Gardeners’ Magazine 1: 73)[12]
“There are several large clumps of the above [Pinus Stròbus, Abies canadénsis, balsamífera, and Alba] which serve to break the view of the garden from the mansion.”

“The remainder of the grounds on this side of the deer-park is specially appropriated to the use of the male patients. In this division is a fine grove of large trees, several detached clumps of various kinds and a great variety of single trees standing alone or in avenues along the different walks, which, of brick, gravel or tan, are for the men, more than a mile and a quarter in extent. The groves are fitted up with seats and summer houses, and have various means of exercise and amusement connected with them”

  • Leuchars, R. B., February 1850, “Notes on Gardens and Gardening in the neighborhood of Boston,” describing the residence of Mrs. Pratt, near Boston, MA (Magazine of Horticulture 16: 53)[14]
“The landscape for a considerable distance is ornamented with, and broken by, individual trees, clumps, and masses of cedars and pines, which, in summer, must have a fine effect, when contrasted with the lighter foliage of the deciduous trees.”

  • Watson, John Fanning, 1857, describing the residence of William Bingham, Philadelphia, PA (1857: 1:414)[15]
“The grounds generally he had laid out in beautiful style, and filled the whole with curious and rare clumps and shades of trees; but in the usual selfish style of Philadelphia improved grounds, the whole was surrounded and hid from the public gaze by a high fence.”

  • Watson, John Fanning, 1857, describing Wilton, property of Joseph Turner, near Philadelphia, PA (1857: 2:478)[15]
Wilton, the place once of Joseph Turner, down in the neck, was the nonpareil of its day. . . . Every possible attention was paid to embellishment, and the garden cultivation was superior. The grounds had ornamental clumps and ranges of trees.”


  • Miller, Philip, 1733, The Gardeners Dictionary (1754; repr. 1969: 1527)[16]
“In small Gardens, where there is not room for these magnificent Wildernesses, there may be some rising Clumps of Ever-greens, so designed as to make the Ground appear much larger than it is in Reality; and if in these there are some Serpentine-walks well contriv’d, 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 Ever-greens 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 of Ever-greens, to the greatest 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 a larger Opening allowed for the View, bounded on each Side with these rising Clumps, which may be extended to half the Compass of the Ground: and on the back Part from the Sight, may be planted the several kinds of flowering Shrubs, according to their different Growths, which will still add to the Variety. These small Quarters should not be surrounded with Hedges, for the Reasons before given for the larger Plantations; 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.”

  • Johnson, Samuel, 1755, A Dictionary of the English Language (1755: 1:n.p.)[17]
CLUMP. n.s. [formed from lump.] A shapeless piece of wood, or other matter, nearly equal in its dimensions.”

  • Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, 1769, The Complete Farmer (1769: n.p.)[18]
AVENUE. . . .
“The old method of planting avenues was with regular rows of trees, and this has been always kept till of late; but we have now a much more magnificent way of planting avenues: this is by setting the trees in clumps or platoons, making the opening much wider than before, and placing the clumps of trees about three hundred feet distant from one other. In each of these clumps there should be planted either seven or nine trees; but it is to be observed, that this is only to be practised where the avenue is to be of some considerable length, for, in short walks, this will not appear so sightly as single rows of trees. The avenues made by clumps are fittest of all for parks. The trees in each clump should be planted thirty feet asunder, and a trench should be thrown up round the whole clump, to prevent the deer from coming to the trees to bark them. Miller’s Gard. Dict. . . .
CLUMP, a number of trees growing together without shape or order.”

  • Whately, Thomas, 1770, Observations on Modern Gardening (1770; repr. 1982: 53–58)[19]
“It has been already observed, that clumps differ only in extent from a wood, if they are close; or from a grove, if they are open. . . . But besides the properties they may have in common with woods or with groves, they have others peculiar to themselves, which require examination.
“They are either independant or relative; when independant, their beauty, as single objects, is solely to be attended to; when relative, the beauty of the individuals must be sacrificed to the effect of the whole, which is the greater consideration.
“The least clump that can be, is of two trees; and the best effect they can have is, that their heads united should appear one large tree; two therefore of different species, or seven or eight of such shapes as do not easily join, can hardly be a beautiful groupe, especially if it have a tendency to a circular form. Such clumps of firs, though very common, are seldom pleasing; they do not compose one mass, but are only a confused number of pinnacles. The confusion is however avoided, by placing them in succession, not in clusters; and a clump of such trees is therefore more agreable when it is extended rather in length than in breadth. . . .
“If humbler growths at the extremity can discompose the strictest regularity, the use of it is thereby recommended upon other occasions. It is indeed the variety peculiarly proper for clumps: every apparent artifice affecting the objects of nature, disgusts; and clumps are such distinguished objects, so liable to the suspicion of having been left or placed on purpose to be so distinguished, that to divert the attention from these symptoms of art, irregularity in the composition is more important to them than to a wood or to a grove; being also less extensive, they do not admit so much variety of outline: but variety of growths is most observable in a small compass; and the several gradations may often be cast into beautiful figures.
“The extent and the outline of a wood or a grove engage the attention more than the extremities; but in clumps these last are of the most consequence: they determine the form of the whole; and both of them are generally in sight: great care should therefore be taken to make them agreable and different. The ease with which they may be compared, forbids all similarity between them: for every appearance of equality suggests an idea of art; and therefore a clump as broad as it is long, seems less the work of nature than one which stretches into length.
“Another peculiarity of clumps, is the facility with which they admit a mixture of trees and of shrubs, of wood and of grove; in short, of every species of plantation. None are more beautiful than those which are so composed. Such compositions are, however, more proper in compact than in straggling clumps: they are most agreeable when they form one mass: if the transitions from very lofty to very humble growths, from thicket to open plantations, be frequent and sudden, the disorder ismore suited to rude than to elegant scenes.
“The occasions on which independent clumps may be applied, are many. They are often desirable as beautiful objects in themselves; they are sometimes necessary to break an extent of lawn, or a continued line, whether of ground or of plantation; but on all occasions a jealousy of art constantly attends them, which irregularity in their figure will not always alone remove. Though elevations shew them to advantage, yet a hillock evidently thrown up on purpose to be crowned with a clump, is artificial to a degree of disgust: some of the trees should therefore be planted on the sides,to take off that appearance. The same expedient may be applied to clumps placed on the brow of a hill, to interrupt its sameness: they will have less ostentation of design, if they are in part carried down either declivity. The objection already made to planting many along such a brow, is on the same principle: a single clump is less suspected of art; if it be an open one, there can be no finer situation for it, than just at the point of an abrupt hill, or on a promontory into a lake or a river. It is in either a beautiful termination, distinct by its position, and enlivened by an expanse of sky or of water, about and beyond it. Such advantages may ballance little defects in its form; but they are lost if other clumps are planted near it: art then intrudes, and the whole is displeasing. . . .
“But though a multiplicity of clumps, when each is an independant object, seldom seems natural; yet a number of them may, without any appearance of art, be admitted into the same scene, if they bear a relation to each other: if by their succession they diversify a continued outline of wood; if between them they form beautiful glades; if all together they cast an extensive lawn into an agreeable shape, the effect prevents any scrutiny into the means of producing it. But when the reliance on that effect is so great, every other consideration must give way to the beauty of the whole. The figure of the glade, of the lawn, or of the wood, are principally to be attended to: the finest clumps, if they do not fall easily into the great lines, are blemishes: their connections, their contrasts, are more important than their forms.
“A line of clumps, if the intervals be closed by others beyond them, has the appearance of a wood, or of a grove; and in one respect the semblance has an advantage over the reality. In different points of view, the relations between the clumps are changed; and a variety of forms is produced, which no continued wood or grove, however broken, can furnish. These forms cannot all be equally agreeable; and too anxious a sollicitude to make them every where pleasing, may, perhaps, prevent their being ever beautiful. The effect must often be left to chance; but it should be studiously consulted from a few principal points of view; and it is easy to make any recess, any prominence, any figure in the outline, by clumps thus advancing before, or retiring behind one another.
“But amidst all the advantages attendant on this species of plantation, it is often exceptionable when commanded from a neighbouring eminence; clumps below the eye lose some of their principal beauties; and a number of them betray the art of which they are always liable to be suspected; they compose no surface of wood; and all effects arising from the relations between them are entirely lost. A prospect spotted with many clumps can hardly be great: unless they are so distinct as to be objects, or so distant as to unite into one mass, they are seldom an improvement of a view.”

  • Marshall, Charles, 1799, An Introduction to the Knowledge and Practice of Gardening (1799: 1:119, 122, 124–25, 129)[20]
“As to small plantations, of thickets, coppices, clumps, and rows of trees, they are to be set close according to their nature, and the particular view the planter has, who will take care to consider the usual size they attain, and their mode of growth. An advantage at home for shade or shelter, and a more distant object of sight, will make a difference: for some immediate advantage, very close planting may take place, but good trees cannot be thus expected; yet if thinned in time, a strait tall stem is often thus procured, which afterwards is of great advantage.
“For little clumps, or groupes of forest trees, (aselms) there may be planted three or four in a sport, within five or six feet of one another, and thus be easily fenced: having the air freely all round, and a good soil, such clumps produce fine timber. . . .
RURAL and extensive gardening is naturally connected with a taste for planting forest trees; and an idea of the picturesque should ever accompany the work of planting. Merely for the sake of objects to gratify the eye, planting is very often pursued, and wherever trees can be introduced to improve a view from the house, or accustomed walks, there a man, having it in his power, a proprieter of the land, ought to plant.
“If to planting in clumps, coppices, groves, avenues, and woods, be added levelling of ground, improving of water courses, and pastures, making lawns, &c. the expense incurred would be honourable, and answered by pleasures of the sincerest kind! . . .
“If there is good room, single trees of the fir kind, at due distances, are admirable ornaments about a house, and clumps of shrubs all of the same kind have a good effect. . . .
“Too much plain is to be guarded against, and when it abounds, the eye should be relieved, by clumps or some other agreeable object.”

  • Repton, Humphry, 1803, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803: 14, 46)[21]
“Small plantations of trees, surrounded by a fence, are the best expedients to form groupes, because trees planted singly seldom grow well; neglect of thinning and of removing the fence, has produced that ugly deformity called a Clump.
“Thus Brown has been treated with ridicule bythe contemptuous observation, that all his improvements consisted in belting, clumping, and dotting; but I conceive the two latter ought rather to be considered as cause and effect, than as two distinct ideas of improvement; for the disagreeable and artificial appearance of young trees, when protected by what is a called a cradle fence, together with the difficulty of making them grow thus exposed to the wind, induced Mr. Brown to form small clumps fenced round, containing a number of trees calculated to shelter each other, and to promote the growth of those few which might be ultimately destined to remain and form a group.
“This I apprehend was the origin and intention of those clumps, and that they never were designed as ornaments in themselves, but as the most efficacious and least disgusting manner of producing single trees and groups to vary the surface of a lawn, and break its uniformity by light and shadow.”

  • Gardiner, John and David Hepburn, 1804, The American Gardener (1804: 108)[22]
“Plant roses, honeysuckles, jasmins, lilacs,double hawthorn, cherry blossom, and other hardy shrubs, when the weather is mild.—In forming a shrubbery, plant the lowest shrubs in front of clumps, and the tallest most backward, three to six feet apart, according to the bulk the shrubs grow. They will thus appear to most advantage.”

  • M’Mahon, Bernard, 1806, The American Gardener’s Calendar (1806: 55–58)[23]
“In designs for a Pleasure-ground, according to modern gardening; consulting rural disposition, in imitation of nature; all too formal works being almost abolished . . . instead of which, are now adopted, rural open spaces of grass-ground, of varied forms and dimensions, and winding walks, all bounded with plantations of trees, shrubs, and flowers, in various clumps. . . .
“For instance, a grand and spacious open lawn, of grass-ground, is generally first presented immediately to the front of the mansion, or main habitation; sometimes widely extended on both sides, to admit of a greater prospect, &c. and sometimes more contracted towards the habitation; widening gradually outwards, and having each side embellished with plantations of shrubbery, clumps, thickets, &c. in sweeps, curves, and projections, towards the lawn. . . .
“First an open lawn of grass-ground is extended on one of the principal fronts of the mansion or main house, widening gradually from the house outward, having each side bounded by various plantations of trees, shrubs, and flowers, in clumps, thickets, &c. exhibited in a variety of rural forms, in moderate concave and convex curves, and projections, to prevent all appearance of a stiff uniformity. . . .
“Each boundary must be planted with a choice variety of ornamental trees and shrubs, deciduous, and ever-greens, arranged principally in several clumps; some consisting of lofty trees, others being entirely of the shrub kinds, and some consisting of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants together: in all of which, arrange the taller growing kinds backward, and the lower forward, according to their gradation of height; embellishing the front with the more curious low flowering shrubs, and ever-greens, interspersed with various herbaceous flowering perennials, all open to the lawn and walks. . . .
“Another part shall appear more gay and sprightly, displaying an elegant flower-ground, or flower-garden, designed somewhat in the parterre way, in various beds, borders, and other divisions, furnished with the most curious flowers; and the boundary decorated with an arrangement of various clumps, of the most beautiful flowering shrubs, and lively ever-greens, each clump also bordered with a variety of the herbaceous flowery tribe.”

  • Nicol, Walter, 1812, The Planter’s Kalendar (1812: 41–42)[24]
“We do not wish that our observations respecting grove plantations, should be understood as affecting those clumps, small patches of planting, or groups of trees that are merely intended to beautify the park or the lawn. Were such clumps planted for any other purpose, we doubtless would consider them as very improper appendages: but when properly pruned and thinned, they are very ornamental. The trees in such clumps, however, should never be pruned up in imitation of grove trees, but should be feathered from the bottom upwards.”

“If there is good room, single trees of the fir kind, at due distances, are admirable ornaments about a house, and clumps of shrubs all of the same kind have a good effect. . . .
“Too much plane is to be guarded against; and when it abounds, the eye should be relieved by clumps, or some other agreeable object.”

  • Abercrombie, John, with James Mean, 1817, Abercrombie’s Practical Gardener (1817: 478–79)[26]
“A clump is a group of timber trees, too small to be called a grove. Mr. Price says, ‘that the clump is a union of two faulty extremes in the composition of landscape; it is at once too crowded and too scattered; it is close and lumpish when considered by itself, and scattered in respect to the general composition.’ But if a majestic tree raise its head in the centre, and one end of the clump be comparatively open and scattering, and the other part narrow and dense, the independent defect will be removed; the relative defect may be avoided, by taking care to throw round every clump some circumstances to connect it with the principal surrounding objects. Clumps are of great use in breaking an extent of lawn, or relieving a line of plantation not sufficiently indented. To the sources of variety before noticed, may be added that of training some of the trees to feather down to the ground.”

Fig. 5, J. C. Loudon, Assemblage of trees, in An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1826), 942, fig. 628a–e.
“6811. In regard to extent, the least is a group (fig. 628. e and d), which must consist at least of two plants; larger, it is called a thicket (b c); round and compact, it is called a clump (a); still larger, a mass; and all above a mass is denominated a wood or forest, and characterised by comparative degrees of largeness. The term wood may be applied to a large assemblage of trees, either natural or artificial; forest, exclusively to the most extensive or natural assemblages. . . . [Fig. 5]
Fig. 6, J. C. Loudon, Clump of Scotch pines, in An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1826), 965, fig. 663.
“6923. Ornamental plantations are no less frequently neglected than such as are considered chiefly useful. Clumps, belts, and screens which have become thin, because they have not been thinned, are almost every where to be met with. ‘In those neglected plantations,’ says Lord Meadowbank, ‘where daylight may be seen for miles, through, naked stems, chilled and contracted by the cold, the mischief might, perhaps, be partially remedied, by planting young trees round the extremities, which, having room to spread luxuriantly, would exclude the winds, and the internal spaces might be thickened up with oak, silver firs, beeches, and such other trees as thrive with a small portion of light. When once the wind is excluded, the weakest of the old trees might be taken out, and the others left to profit by the shelter and space that is afforded.’ (Life of Lord Kaimes, by Tytler.) One of the most hopeless cases of improvement in this department is that of an old clump of Scotch pines . . . from which scarcely any trees can be taken without risking the failure of the remainder. The only way is to add to it, either by some scattered groups in one direction, or in various directions. Where a clump consists of a hard wood, either entirely or in part, it may sometimes, if effect permits, be reduced to a group, by gradually reducing the number of the trees. The group left should be composed of two or three trees of at least two species, different in bulk, and some what in habit, in order that the combined mass may not have the formality of the clump.” [Fig. 6]

  • Webster, Noah, 1828, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828: 1:n.p.)[28]
CLUMP, n. [Ger. klump; D. klomp; Sw. klimp; Dan. klump, a lump; W. clamp. It is lump with a prefix. It coincides with plump, and L. plumbum, lead; as the D. lood, G. loth, Dan . lod., Eng. lead, coincide with clod. It signifies a mass or collection. . . .]
“1. A thick, short piece of wood, or other solid substance; a shapeless mass. Hence clumper, a clot or clod.
“2. A cluster of trees or shrubs; formerly written plump. In some parts of England, it is an adjective signifying lazy, unhandy. Bailey.”

  • Floy, Michael, September 24 and October 1, 1830, “Description of Trees and Shrubs” (New England Farmer 9: 74, 84)[29]
Magnolia tripetala, or Umbrella tree, is very majestic, the leaves very large, giving a fine shade, the flowers are also large and white. It should be planted in clumps, or for the back ground of shrubbery. . . . :
Magnolia glauca, a small sweet scented magnolia, is best calculated for the centre row of the shrubbery, or for clumps. This is a native of our country, from Jersey and Carolina, and is perhaps the pretiest [sic] shrub in the world, all things considered. It ought to be planted in every garden and shrubbery.”
Rhus cotinus, Venetian sumach, Aaron’s beard, sometimes called fringe tree, is a fine shrub, calculated for the centre of the clump or shrubbery.”

  • Anonymous, December 5, 1833, “On Planting a Flower Garden” (New England Farmer 11: 164)[30]
“If a mixt flower garden, border or clump, be the object in view, particular attention must be given to the selection of sizes, colors, and the different times of flowering. In planting the different clumps, a proportion of ornamental flowering shrubs may, with propriety, be admitted. The herbaceous plants should be such as produce large heads or masses of flowers—an equal number of every color, and so selected that some shall always be in flower during spring, summer, and fall, with as near a proportion of the different colors as possible. All this can be effected with a very few flowers, so that none need be deterred from forming a flower garden, or properly distributing the various shades of color, under the impression that many plants are absolutely requisite to effect it. Much more regularity, and greater harmony in colors, may be effected by a select few, than by introducing a great number of sorts into one clump. For then a less distinctive or marked character would be the result. There should be a proper system decided upon before a single plant is planted, which will prevent the border or clump from appearing a heterogeneous mass, without meaning, without taste or design.”

Fig. 7, J. C. Loudon, A clump, in An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1834), 1118, fig. 874a.
“6310. Assemblages of trees, whether natural or artificial, differ in extent, outline, disposition of the trees, and kind of trees. “6311. In regard to extent, the least is a group. . . which must consist at least of two plants; larger, it is called a thicket (b c); round and compact, it is called a clump (a); still larger, mass; and all above a mass is denominated a wood or forest, and characterised by comparative degrees or largeness.” [Fig. 7]

  • Downing, Andrew Jackson, August 1836, “Remarks on the Fitness of the different Styles of Architecture for the Construction of Country Residences, and on the Employment of Vases in Garden Scenery” (American Gardeners’ Magazine 2: 283)[32]
“There can scarcely be ‘a more appropriate, agreeable and beautiful residence for a citizen who retires to the country for the summer, than a modern Italian villa, with its ornamented chimneys, its broad verandah, forming a fine shady promenade, and its cool breezy apartments. Placed where a pleasant prospect could be enjoyed—a few statues distributed with taste over the well-kept lawn—a few Italian poplars, with their conical summits rising out of the gracefully-rounded clumps of foliage which should surround it—the whole would be quite perfect and delightful.’”

“Nothing, at first thought, would appear easier than to arrange a few trees in the form of a natural and beautiful group,—and nothing really is easier to the practised hand. Yet experience has taught us that the generality of persons, in commencing their first essays in ornamental planting, almost invariably crowd their trees into a close, regular clump, which has a most formal and unsightly appearance, as different as possible from the easy, flowing outline of the group.
“‘Were it made the object of study’ said Price, ‘how to invent something, which, under the name of ornament, should disfigure a whole park, nothing could be contrived to answer that purpose like a clump. Natural groups, being formed by trees of different ages and sizes, and at different distances from each other, often too by a mixture of those of the largest size with others of inferior growth, are full of variety in their outlines; and from the same causes, no two groups are exactly alike. But clumps, from the trees being generally of the same age and growth, from their being planted nearly at the same distance, in a circular form, and from each tree being equally pressed by his neighbor, are as like each other as so many puddings turned out of one common mould. Natural groups are full of openings and hollows, of trees advancing before, or retiring behind each other; all productive of intricacy, of variety, of deep shadows and brilliant lights: in walking about them the form changes at every step; new combinations, new lights and shades, new inlets present themselves in succession. But clumps, like compact bodies of soldiers, resist attacks from all quarters; examine them in every point of view; walk round and round them; no opening, no vacancy, no stragglers; but in the true military character, ils sont face partout!’” [See Fig. 3]






  1. George Washington, The Diaries of George Washington, ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, 6 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978), view on Zotero.
  2. Karen Madsen, “To Make His Country Smile: William Hamilton’s Woodlands”, Arnoldia, 49 (1989): 14–23, view on Zotero.
  3. Jedidiah Morse, The American Geography; Or, A View of the Present Situation of the United States of America (1789; repr. Elizabeth Town, NJ: Shepard Kollock, 1789), view on Zotero.
  4. P. Campbell, Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America, In the Years 1791 and 1792 (Edinburgh: Printed by J. Guthrie, 1793), view on Zotero.
  5. François-Alexandre-Frédéric, duc de La Rochefoucauld Liancourt, Travels through the United States of North America, the Country of the Iroquois, and Upper Canada, in the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797, ed. by Brisson Dupont and Charles Ponges, trans. H. Newman, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (London: R. Philips, 1800), view on Zotero.
  6. Alice B. Lockwood, ed., Gardens of Colony and State: Gardens and Gardeners of the American Colonies and of the Republic before 1840, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s for the Garden Club of America, 1931), view on Zotero.
  7. Frederick Doveton Nichols and Ralph E. Griswold, Thomas Jefferson, Landscape Architect (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978), view on Zotero.
  8. Charles Drayton, “The Diary of Charles Drayton I, 1806,” 1806, Drayton Hall: A National Historic Trust Site, http://lcdl.library.cofc.edu/lcdl/catalog/lcdl:27554, view on Zotero.
  9. Thomas Jefferson, The Garden Book, ed. Edwin M. Betts (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1944), view on Zotero.
  10. S. Allen Chambers Jr., Poplar Forest and Thomas Jefferson (Forest, VA: Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, 1993), view on Zotero.
  11. Malthus A. Ward, An Address Pronounced Before the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (Boston: J. T. & E. Buckingham, 1831) view on Zotero.
  12. Charles Mason Hovey, “Calls at Gardens and Nurseries,” American Gardener’s Magazine, and Register of Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Horticulture and Rural Affairs 1, no. 2 (February 1835): 68–76, view on Zotero.
  13. Thomas S. Kirkbride, “Description of the Pleasure Grounds and Farm of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, with Remarks,” American Journal of Insanity 4, no. 4 (April 1848): 347–54, view on Zotero.
  14. R. B. Leuchars, “Notes on Gardens and Gardening in the neighborhood of Boston,” Magazine of Horticulture, Botany, and All Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Rural Affairs 16, no. 2 (February 1850): 49–60, view on Zotero.
  15. 15.0 15.1 John Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time; Being a Collection of Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Incidents of the City and Its Inhabitants, and of the . . . Inland Part of Pennsylvania from the Days of the Founders, 2 vols (Philadelphia: John Pennington and Uriah Hunt, 1844), view on Zotero.
  16. Philip Miller, The Gardeners Dictionary (1754; repr. New York: Verlag Von J. Cramer, 1969), view on Zotero.
  17. Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language: In Which the Words Are Deduced from the Originals and Illustrated in the Different Significations by Examples from the Best Writers, 2 vols. (London: W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton, 1755), view on Zotero.
  18. Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, The Complete Farmer, or A General Dictionary of Husbandry, 2nd ed. (London: R. Baldwin et al., 1769), view on Zotero.
  19. Thomas Whately, Observations on Modern Gardening, 3rd ed. (1782; repr., London: Garland, 1982), view on Zotero.
  20. Charles Marshall, An Introduction to the Knowledge and Practice of Gardening, 1st American ed., 2 vols. (Boston: Samuel Etheridge, 1799), view on Zotero.
  21. Humphry Repton, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (London: Printed by T. Bensley for J. Taylor, 1803), view on Zotero.
  22. John Gardiner and David Hepburn, The American Gardener, Expanded ed. of 1804 original (Georgetown, D.C.: Joseph Milligan, 1818), view on Zotero.
  23. Bernard M’Mahon, The American Gardener’s Calendar: Adapted to the Climates and Seasons of the United States. Containing a Complete Account of All the Work Necessary to Be Done . . . for Every Month of the Year . . . (Philadelphia: Printed by B. Graves for the author, 1806), view on Zotero.
  24. Walter Nicol, The Planter’s Kalendar (Edinburgh: D. Willison for A. Constable, 1812), view on Zotero.
  25. George Gregory, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, 1st American ed., 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Isaac Peirce, 1816), view on Zotero.
  26. John Abercrombie, Abercrombie’s Practical Gardener Or, Improved System of Modern Horticulture (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1817), view on Zotero.
  27. J. C. (John Claudius) Loudon, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening; Comprising the Theory and Practice of Horticulture, Floriculture, Arboriculture, and Landscape-Gardening, 4th ed. (London: Longman et al, 1826), view on Zotero.
  28. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vols. (New York: S. Converse, 1828), view on Zotero.
  29. Michael Floy, “A Description of Trees and Shrubs, Producing a Succession of Flowers from Spring to Autumn,” New England Farmer, and Horticultural Journal 9, nos. 10–11 (September 24 and October 1, 1830): 74, 84, 92, view on Zotero.
  30. Anonymous, “On Planting a Flower Garden,” New England Farmer, and Horticultural Journal 11, no. 21 (December 5, 1833): 164, view on Zotero.
  31. J. C. (John Claudius) Loudon, An Encyclopaedia of Gardening; Comprising the Theory and Practice of Horticulture, Floriculture, Arboriculture, and Landscape-Gardening, new ed. (London: Longman et al., 1834), view on Zotero.
  32. A. J. Downing, “Remarks on the Fitness of the different Styles of Architecture for the Construction of Country Residences, and on the Employment of Vases in Garden Scenery,” The American Gardeners’ Magazine, and Register of Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Horticulture and Rural Affairs 2, no. 8 (August 1836): 281–86, view on Zotero.
  33. A. J. [Andrew Jackson] Downing, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America, 4th ed. (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1991), view on Zotero.

Retrieved from "https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Clump&oldid=34149"

History of Early American Landscape Design contributors, "Clump," History of Early American Landscape Design, , https://heald.nga.gov/mediawiki/index.php?title=Clump&oldid=34149 (accessed November 29, 2023).

A Project of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts

National Gallery of Art, Washington