[So named from the resemblance of its odor to that of the drug Benzoin]
Benzoin odoriferum. - This was formerly called'Laurus Benzoin, by botanists, and is popularly known as Fever Bush. It is a graceful shrub, from four to ten feet high, with large and handsome leaves. In April or early in May, clusters of from three to six flowers, of a greenish yellow color appear in the axils of last year's leaves. The fruit is berry-like, of an oval shape, and dark-red or purple. All parts of the plant have a strong aromatic odor which, to some persons, is disagreeable. Common in damp woods, where it grows most vigorously, but does not flower and fruit as freely there as in more exposed situations.
[Derived from the Arabic name for this plant]
This shrub is too common about Boston; but where it is not found growing in such profusion, it will most assuredly be considered a valuable acquisition to the shrubbery.* It has often been said, and generally believed, that Barberry bushes were prejudicial to rye, causing it to blast; but this is not our experience, having grown heavy crops of this grain with Barberry bushes on all sides of the field. Loudon says:- "B. vulgaris is at once an ornamental shrub, a fruit tree, a hedge plant, a dye, a drug, and a reputed enemy to the corn farmer. When covered with flowers in the spring, or with fruit in autumn, it is a fine object. Every one, who is an observer of nature, must have been struck, in May or June, with the beauty of the upper arching shoots of the Barberry, springing from a mass of rich green, and sustaining numerous pendant racemes of splendid yellow flowers. It is hardly less at. tractive when its blossoms have been succeeded by the cluster of scarlet fruit in autumn." The leaves are of a blueish-green, and gratefully acid to the taste. The smell of the flower is offensive when near:, but pleasant at a certain distance. The berries are so very acid, that birds seldom touch them. They are sometimes pickled and used for garnishing dishes, or when boiled with sugar, form a most agreeable jelly. The roots boiled in lye, yield a yellow color. There is a variety or species with purple foliage, which is desirable in large collections.
B. dulcis, - Sweet-fruited Barberry, is more dwarf in habit, the foliage more delicate, and almost evergreen; the flowers dark orange, scattered along the branches, among the foliage. It is a pretty plant, but I have found that it is not perfectly hardy here; but in England, it makes a handsome fancy hedge. The species are all easily propagated from suckers.
This is an elegant evergreen shrab, three or four feet high, with clusters of yellow flowers, in May or June, succeeded by bunches of blue berries. The leaves are compound, with somewhat prickly points, very glossy green, inclining to purplish-brown, and, in those that are young, various shades of crimson and purple, giving the plant a very rich appearance. • The foliage remains in perfection during the winter, where screened from the sun by trees, or covered with snow or straw. In autumn the foliage is very gay, as on the same plant there will be bright-green, purple, brown and crimson leaves.
[The ancient Greek name.]
Buxus semperrvirens. - Garden Box. - This is a delicate shrub, which may be pruned to any shape to please the fancy. It is an evergreen, and easily propagated by cuttings. It is in general use, and the best material for forming edgings to beds, walks, and grown singly, will make large shrubs in some locations. It is necessary to plant Box for shrubs in a shady place, and they will generally require to be matted in the winter. There are varieties with yellow and white striped leaves, called the gold and silver striped. There are a number of species, among which are the Dwarf and Tree Box. The last kind is suitable for the shrubbery, as it will grow and thrive well under the drip of trees. The Box is a native of most parts of Europe. It is one of the most useful of evergreen shrubs, not only for its beauty and adaptability in the garden for edgings, but the Tree Box is valuable for various mechanical purposes.
A singular fashion prevailed many years since, to cut and clip Box trees into the shape of beasts, birds and various fantastical forms. "This preposterous taste in gardening was at last reformed by the pure and classic taste of Bacon, who, though no enemy to sculpture, did not approve of this absurd species of it, at once disfiguring art and nature." The Tew and other trees, were also tortured in this strange fanciful way. I noticed in an old garden, a few miles from Boston, a small parterre, which was laid out in the year 1794; the beds, were all edged with box, which had, for more than 60 years, been regularly trimmed. The edging was about six inches thick, and at least four feet high. The sides were smooth and the top even, without any break in the foliage from the, ground to the top. Great attention had been given it by the old lady who was in possession, that it might remain as it was at the time of her husband's decease, many years before. The beds of various shapes were small, so that no plants could flourish, and the only thing of interest about this strange arrangement was, as a relic of olden time. If Box is used for edging, it should, in all cases, be kept low, by regular trimming every year, and kept down to the height of not more than four or five inches; and when it becomes too thick, should be taken up and re-set.