This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
About a month ago, during a trip to Pittsburg over the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, I noticed that the company was fertilizing, in a very liberal way, the inclined banks by the sides of its tracks, which had previously been sodded. Everywhere along the road there is a care exhibited in these matters of mere appearance, that is very commendable. That it is politic in a pecuniary sense, there can be no doubt whatever; for of two roads running between the same points, that one which is able to offer the greatest number of attractions to the eye, other things being equal, would certainly secure the greatest amount of passenger traffic.
The above road, I further observed, was also, in some places, planting shrubbery or creepers at the foot of steeply inclined gravelly banks, apparently as an experiment or as a temporary measure, the same to be superseded, probably, by sodding at some future time.
Just before noticing this fact, it had occurred to me that it would be an excellent idea to substitute shrubbery or trees, kept down by trimming, in place of the grass now used, as a complete cover for these sloping banks.
The rhododendron and other wild shrubs, the hemlock, poplar, beech, birch, hornbeam, catalpa, ailanthus, and some other trees, would be suitable for this purpose. A commencement might be made with poplar and catalpa, or ailanthus, as quick growers, and these could be followed, and the interspaces filled in, with any other or others desirable, all to be trimmed down to one uniform height, and the effect to be had from the shape and colors of the leaves. Still better effects would probably be found in an irregular surface, brought about by allowing of greater growth in some trees than in others, but still all to be kept low.
Another plan thought of was to cover the inclined bank with a screen of galvanized iron, held parallel to, and two or three inches from the ground surface, by deeply driven wooden pegs. These wooden pegs or stakes could at the same time support boards running lengthwise with the bank, the intention of which would be to prevent the formation of deep gullies in the loose earth.
The wire screen at the upper edges of the bank could be turned up so as to form a fence for the protection of the sloping portion below. At the foot of the screen creepers and climbers would be planted, such as the wistaria, woodbine, am-pelopsis, etc., which would in time make a beautiful cover for the rough earth beneath the screen.
Still another suggestion is this: That the proposed wire screen should lay directly on the ground; that it should be pinned down by long pegs driven well into the earth, and the meshes of the screen filled in with stones projecting from 3 to 6 inches (each mesh or opening holding a single stone), the whole to be covered with the English ivy, the wistaria, trumpet creeper, matrimony vine, etc.
The top of the bank could have a thorn hedge for the protection of the screen, and to give the whole a finished appearance.