This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Monthly has so extensive a circulation, and its editor is such high authority, on all matters pertaining to Forestry, that I fear a wrong impression ma}' be made by his answer, in the August number, to an inquiry as to the relative merits of the early and late blooming Catalpa. While it is true that there is but one species of Catalpa native to North America, it is equally true that there are two distinct varieties, having clearly marked and well defined characteristics. There is a difference only, of from one to six days, in time of blooming of trees of each variety, in the same locality, dependent on soil and exposure, yet, there is fully three weeks difference in average time of blooming of the two varieties.
This year, the early was in full bloom in Dayton, Ohio, June 4th, the late blooming June 25th to July 1st. In Columbus, Ohio, and Terre Haute, Indiana, on the same line of latitude as Dayton, each variety was in bloom at the same time and with the same difference in time. In Ullin, Pulaski County, Illinois, twelve miles north of Cairo, the early blooming May 15th, the late blooming June 5th. Both varieties are native Forest trees there. Arthur Bryant, of Princeton, Illinois, has the early variety, grown from seed gathered at New Madrid on Mississippi river in 1839, - trees now two and a half feet in diameter, - that blooms fully three weeks earlier than the common variety in same vicinity. Suel Foster, of Muscatine, Iowa, has trees of both varieties blooming fully three weeks apart. Dr. John A. Warder, of North Bend, Ohio, has both varieties, that are three weeks apart in time of blooming. John C. Teas, of Carthage, Missouri, and Robert Douglas & Sons, of Waukegan, Illinois, have trees of both varieties, blooming three weeks apart. This list might be increased to hundreds.
Dr. Job Haines introduced the early variety into this vicinity, from seed gathered from two remarkably fine trees he found growing two miles south of Dayton. Soon its merits began to be known and appreciated, and its marked difference from the common variety pointed out Dr. John A. Warder and John C. Teas, from its. superior beauty, named the early variety, Speciosa. Subsequently, Suel Foster discovered that it would resist severe frosts, much more than the common variety; up to and even beyond 42° north latitude, its minutest twigs, remained uninjured, at a temperature fatal to the common variety. We therefore named it the Hardy.
When quite young, the Speciosa has light colored bark, as it grows older, the bark gradually darkens, the outer coat thickens, becoming seamed, furrowed, rough, and dark colored, resembling somewhat Elm or Black Locust of the same age. When planted singly for shade or ornament, it generally grows tall, straight. with a compact top, and is altogether a shapely, handsome tree; the flowers whiter and larger than the common; the seed pods, fewer but-longer and larger.
The later blooming or common variety, and the only one described in the books so far as I know, when quite young, is dark colored, has a light bloom on the bark, that readily rubs off. As the tree grows older, the bark becomes, lighter colored. The outer coat is thin, comparatively smooth, and in small scales or flakes. When planted singly, the common variety is often leaning, crooked, scragly, scarred in some places, and rotten in others, unsightly, unthrifty, and misshapen. Yet there are some very handsome trees of this variety on our streets and in our yards. Young trees of this variety, even in latitude 40°, are liable to be killed down by very cold weather. The severe Winters of 1876-7, killed 2000 young trees of the common variety in this vicinity. They were cut down to the ground in the Spring, and transplanted. They shot up a straight stalk, and grew finely last season. They are growing vigorously this season, and will probably resist the cold Winters of this latitude hereafter. When planted further north, the outer limbs of old trees are liable to be killed by the frosts.
When planted in groves, four feet apart each way, the common Catalpa seems to grow erect, tall, and well shaped. There is, seven miles south of Dayton, a handsome grove of Catalpa of the common variety, twelve years from the seed, that are over thirty feet high, and four to eight inches in diameter two feet from the ground. The trees are erect, thrifty and handsome.
The remarks of the editor, in the article referred to, in regard to cutting down young Catalpa trees to the ground, after two or even three years growth, are very important, and should be carefully noted by all wishing to grow tine trees of either variety.
For shade or ornament, I would certainly plant Speciosa. For groves north of 40°, I would plant Speciosa. South of that I am not certain; but hope to gather such information, within the next four months, as will enable me to determine. In the meantime, I shall be under very great obligation to any one, having any facts or information, pertaining to the Catalpa, if they will communicate them to me at Dayton, Ohio.
[The bark of the two forms are very different; we are much obliged to Mr. B. for the opportunity of seeing the specimens. There is no doubt about there being two distinct varieties.
The point of our former remarks was in relation to a prevailing impression that the smooth barked form was not hardy. It is really one of the hardiest of the indigenous trees of Pennsylvania. It is quite possible, as Mr. B. points out, that the rough barked variety has some special merit; but this is a matter for actual testing, and cannot be improved by urging that its neighbor, which we have all of us known to be so good, is all at once worthless. If we are not mistaken, the writer of this recently saw some noble Catalpa trees of the smooth barked variety, at Rochester, New York, and surely a tree which does well in that climate, deserves to be called " Hardy, " as well as its rougher barked neighbor. It is possible there may be some situations better adapted to one form than the other; all this is a matter for experiment; but that a tree which has for hundreds of years been a hardy denizen of our Northern forests, should all at once be thought too tender for a timber tree " is absurd. Mr. Barney's paper gives the exact facts, and is just to the point.- - Ed. G. M].