This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Retinosporas are a class of evergreens well deserving of more attention, and of much more general distribution than they have yet received.
Most of the varieties mentioned in this article were introduced from Japan, and have been in circulation among the nurserymen in this country from ten to twenty years. It is surprising, so-long after introduction, that many persons who are tolerably well acquainted with ornamental trees, know very little of the habits and merits of the Retinosporas, or entertain very incorrect ideas about them. An erroneous opinion seems to have gained credence among many gardeners and nurserymen, as well as with others, that they are not entirely hardy, and will not stand without protection through the winter. This is a very mistaken prejudice, which should be corrected.
Every one of the varieties herein described, is entirely hardy in the latitude of Philadelphia, and we believe would be, as far North as Boston, or further. Perhaps some of our friends from that section, can tell us of their experience with them.
We have had most of them standing on our grounds, unprotected, for the past ten or twelve years, but in all that time, have never seen one of them injured in the least by heat or cold, except in the case of obtusa nana aurea, as noticed below. They appear to be as hardy as Hemlock or Norway Spruce, or any others of the old and popular evergreens, and are of equally easy culture. They thrive in any good soil or situation where other evergreens will, and may be confidently recommended, and planted almost anywhere.
We would especially recommend Retinospora plumosa, plumosa aurea, obtusa nana, and squarrosa, for planting in small yards and cemetery lots. They are all moderate in habit of growth, and will endure shearing well, consequently can be kept within reasonable size. Plumosa, and plumosa aurea, are pyramidal in habit, attaining a height of six or eight feet in as many years. They are quite similar in nearly all points except color. Their foliage is fine and soft, giving the tree the appearance of a heavy plume, as the name implies.
The color of plumosa is light green. Plumo-sa aurea, is one of the most beautiful of the golden evergreens at all seasons of the year, but especially in Summer. When the tree starts to grow in the Spring, the young shoots are a rich shade of golden yellow, and it calls' forth almost universal admiration. This golden appearance is retained with but slight diminution in freshness and beauty throughout the year. It is a most valuable acquisition to the list of Golden Conifers.
Retinospora squarrosa is of a glaucous color, bearing slight resemblance to some of the Junipers, but the foliage is much softer and finer. It is a good grower, and when once established in good ground, has a tendency to loose its true character.
Retinospora obtusa, is one of the most rapid-growing evergreens. It attains a height of twenty or thirty feet in a very few years. The branches are long and spreading, in the style of Norway Spruce, making it a large and stately tree, which may be very properly contrasted with the Norway, or substituted for it. It is of a yellowish green color, and does not change during the Winter When growing rank in rich soil, it gets open and straggling like the Hemlock, and needs trimming occasionally for the first few years, to make it bushy and compact.
Retinospora obtusa nana, is a dwarf variety of the pre-ceeding. It is a very singular and beautiful tree, of a dark green color which is retained with remarkable brightness all Winter. With the assistance of an occasional shearing, it makes a singularly neat, compact and handsome specimen. This, and plumosa aurea, are the gems of the whole collection.
None of the varieties previously mentioned appear to their best advantage, when growing very rapidly, as they get too tall and straggling. They need occasional trimming to keep them compact and in good shape.
Retinospora pisifera and pisifera aurea, are quite similar in nearly all points except color. They are more dwarf and dense in habit than any of the preceeding. Pisifera, forms a low rounded head of greenness, while aurea differs from it in being varigated with delicate yellow tips. They are both neat and unique little specimens, well deserving of a place in every collection.
Retinospora obtusa nana aurea, is another dwarf golden variety. It is a feeble grower, and should be grafted on some of the stronger varieties, and needs careful nursing for the first few years, until it gets a start in the world. It is then as hardy as any of them, and if grown into a good specimen, will well repay for the pains taken with it.
Retinospora lycopodioides, is well named, as it bears a striking resemblance to the tree Lycopodiums, and looks more like a hothouse plant, than a hardy tree. The branches are covered all over with the thick, dark green, plicate foliage. It is a very singular and beautiful evergreen which must be seen to be fully appreciated. Every admirer of curious trees should have it. There are several other varieties of Retinosporas cultivated and offered by nurserymen, all of which are good and desirable trees, and without which, no good collection will be complete. We have only attempted to call attention to a few of the best, which are most desirable for general planting.
Mr. 8. C. Moon, of Morrisville, Pa., has given valuable and accurate information regarding the beautiful family of Retinosporas, and the readers of the Monthly would no doubt desire more from such an able pen.
Will the editor permit the addition of a few more words. The Retinosporas propagate readily by laying the lower branches with the usual cut half through. In this way a stock can easily be procured and rapidly.
Permit a reader to add that the January number of the Monthly is perhaps the best ever issued. Go on, and perfection will be attained.