This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
(Prize Essay for Massachusetts Horticultural Society).
(Concluded from page 359).
Among the lindens, our attention is attracted by a curious variegated linden, which shows leaves spotted and streaked with yellowish-white, often to the total exclusion of green. And we must not forget to notice, down near the stream, a fine specimen of the purple-leaved birch. It is one of the best among new acquisitions of lawn planting material. The general habit is that of a somewhat dwarf-growing birch, but the color is brownish red, copper color, or more truly a deep rich purple. Good purple-leaved varieties of any tree are not common. Indeed, we may not hope soon to gain anything of equal value with the purple beech, but the birch is in itself so fine that it is a great thing to discover a purple-leaved variety of that tree. I feel that I have only touched on the many new and valuable deciduous trees on the lawn, but have accorded them more space than the evergreens, because I believe deciduous trees are, in the main, best suited to our lawns in America. Intense though short-lived heat and sudden changes do not favor the growth of evergreens in the same degree as the more equable climate of Europe. We find, however, on this lawn, a very choice collection of new evergreens.
Among the spruces we noted several, and chief among those the large-leaved hemlock (Abies Canadensis macrophylla), the weeping hemlock (Abies Canadensis pendula Sargentii), and the blue spruce of the Rocky Mountains (Abies pun-gens). The hemlocks of this trio are peculiarly suited to small places, but the last named spruce is of larger size. Breadth and depth of masses and color, statuesque form and curious yew-like habit characterize the broad-leaved hemlock. It has little of the ordinary appearance of the hemlock about it, and is more hardy under the peculiar conditions that sometimes affect the common hemlock. It was a seedling discovered in Flushing a few years since, yet it has already achieved favorable recognition from the best judges of lawn planting material. If the broad-leaved hemlock is somewhat stern and masculine in its outline, the weeping hemlock is essentially feminine in its graceful curves and fountain-like sprays of green. Many ordinary hemlocks take on this weeping form in early youth, but it soon passes away with increasing years. With Sargent's weeping hemlock, however, this beautiful habit is absolutely permanent on all specimens grown from grafts of that tree.
Mr. H. W. Sargent discovered this weeping hemlock about twenty years ago, near his place, at Fishkill on the Hudson, and moved by his enthusiasm and appreciation of choice ornamental trees, entrusted it for propagation to the distinguished expert J. E. Trumpy. Turning from this queenly tree, we note the rich grandeur of the third member of our trio of distinguished evergreens. Abies pungens is said to be very grand in its natural home of the Rocky Mountains, but its young and more carefully cultured growth on the lawn is without question more beautiful and charming. It is, moreover, the bluest of evergreens, and extremely hardy and vigorous growing withal.
I should, perhaps, note in passing a fine large Abies excelsa elata, a very singular variety of Norway spruce originating in Flushing. It grows strongly and throws out long branches of grotesque form. One might fancy it, by a little stretch of the imagination, a fit substitute for Araucaria imbricata, which many wish to grow on their lawns in America, but cannot.
The next group of evergreens we notice is Japanese, and clustered variously in the same section of the lawn. Abies polita, the tiger-tail spruce, is one of the finest and most valuable of the Japanese conifers. It is rich and very characteristic in form. The yellow-barked branches extend out stiff and straight, and the glossy bright green stiff-pointed leaves are as sharp and not unlike the spines of a hedgehog. The curious appearance of the ends of the young growth or half bursting leaf buds doubtless suggested the name tiger-tail spruce. Abies polita grows slowly, and therefore belongs to the class of evergreens specially fitted for small places. But this little cluster of evergreens close by is even better fitted for such work. They are Japanese junipers, and very hardy. Their elegant forms, and rich tints would indeed render them distinguished anywhere. One is silvery, at least on a portion of its leaves ; another is almost solid gold, and another, Juniperus aurea variegata. has its leaves simply tipped with gold in the daintiest fashion imaginable.
Let us look at these two Japanese pines that show so richly even at a little distance. One is Pinus densiflora, with bright green leaves, long and very effective. This tree grows very rapidly, soon requiring the application of the pruning knife. In coloring and general habit it is, perhaps, the best of Japanese pines, except Pinus Massoniana, which only surpasses it in a yellowish tint that generally pervades the leaves. But the Pinus Massoniana par excellence is the golden-leaved form of that species. It is bright gold, that seems to gain a touch of deeper gold as you pause to look at it. This peculiar effect is greatly enhanced by the fact that Pinus Massoniana has two leaves only in a sheath, and these leaves are so clustered on the end of the branches as to spread in every direction. It was this peculiarity that gave rise to the name sun ray pine. But the noteworthy habit of this pine is its late variegation. In June, while in full growth, it is rather greenish golden than golden, but all through the summer its yellow grows brighter, until in September, it makes a very striking object amid the fading leaves of fall. It makes, in fact, a worthy companion for the golden oak, Quercus Concordia, which you will remember has the same peculiarity.
It should be also noted that the brightness of the sun ray pine remains uninjured during winter, and never burns in summer, a quality that other so-called golden pines have sadly needed. The bright yellow of the sun ray pine is confined in a peculiar manner to about two-thirds of the leaf. Beginning at the base, first comes gold, then an equal amount of green, and then again as much gold at the tip. The dividing lines between these colors are marked out with singular distinctness, thus giving the utmost delicacy and finish to the variegation. Pinus Massoniana variegata is on the lawn in question, but it is nevertheless very rare and hardly to be obtained anywhere.
We come now to the Retinosporas, Japan cypresses, choicest, I was about to say, of all evergreens ; certainly the choicest, as a class, of all recently introduced evergreens. To Robert Fortune, the great English collector of plants in Japan, we owe probably the real introduction of the leading species of Retinosporas, namely : R. plumosa aurea, R. pisifera and R. obtusa, and a greater benefit could hardly have been done the lawn planter than the introduction of these evergreens. They are hardy, of slow growth, and of most varied beauty in individual specimens, the latter being a quality greatly wanting among some evergreens commonly used throughout the country, arborvitses for instance. And apropos of arborvitaes, let me say that the retinosporas bear a much more close relation to that species than they do to cypresses, notwithstanding the latter has been adopted as the English name. The retinosporas graft readily on the thujas or arborvitae, and bear a certain resemblance to them, but the resemblance only that can exist between a beautiful plant and one much less attractive. Let us look at a group of the new and rare retinosporas, although unfortunately all retinosporas are comparatively rare on our lawns.
In asking you to look first at filicoides, I am selecting one of the very choicest and most curious green species or varieties. If it were not for a peculiarly thick, curled border along the leaf of this retinospora, it might be readily taken while young-for an evergreen fern. It is a spreading plant, of slow growth and great hardiness. Indeed, I might say once for all, that the retinosporas are of unexcelled hardiness, both winter and summer, and that their variegations are all permanent. Can a higher character be given to any other evergreen ?
There are two distinct kinds of weeping retinosporas, namely, a beautiful fern-like pendulous form of R. obtusa, originating in Flushing, and an extravagant attenuated form imported recently from Japan through Mr. Thos. Hogg. The long thread-like leaves of this variety fall directly down and curve about the stem in swaying meagre masses, which suggest that in this plant the extreme of the weeping form among evergreens has been reached. Almost as curious as this is another introduction of Mr. Thos. Hogg - R. filifera aurea. "We have known R. filifera for some time as a rare tree, with tesselated, shaggy masses of green thread-like foliage, but Mr. Hogg's new variety offers the same strange mass of foliage, only in this case it is turned into gold - broad, solid, permanent gold. While I am pointing out the golden retinosporas, which are veritable sunbeams amid other evergreens, let me call your attention to R. obtusa aurea, one of the best and most distinct of all variegated forms. It is free-growing, with a beautiful combination of gold color inter mixed with glossy, rich green all over the plant.
Although not exactly a new plant, I am constrained to call your passing attention to R. obtusa nana, one of the Very best of dwarf evergreens, a dense, flat tuft of glossy deep green spray, a cushion or ball of evergreen foliage that will hardly grow two feet in ten years. The golden form of R. obtusa nana is charming. Its yellow is a rich bronze, and I do not know anything of the kind more attractive. R. pisifera nana variegata is also very beautiful, a dense miniature bush of a general bluish-gray aspect, except a portion of the lesser branchlets and leaves, which are pale yellow. But do not think I have begun to exhaust the curious forms of these retinosporas. I have only given the most noteworthy to be found on a superior lawn. Any large group of R. obtusa will give you a dozen beautiful diverse forms of weeping, pyramidal and dwarf or spreading evergreens. All, or practically all, kinds of retinosporas now used, came from Japan, where they are common but highly valued in the beautiful gardens of that country. Mr. Hogg has not only introduced several of these new retinosporas, but has given us possibly more new Japanese plants than any collector since the time of Robt. Fortune's famous horticultural explorations.
I must not leave these retinosporas without calling attention again to their excellent adaptation to small places. If we restrict the planting on a small lawn to Japanese maples, retinosporas and two or three shrubs like Spirea crispifolia, we may almost defy, with a little skill, the power of time to compass, by means of trees, the destruction of our grass plots. I must add, however, one other conifer to this seemingly short but really varied list of new, hardy plants suited to miniature lawn planting.
I refer to Sciadopitys verticillata, the parasol pine, one of the most extraordinary evergreens known. The plant we see on this lawn is scarcely two feet high, and yet it is more than ten years old. Travelers in Japan tell us of specimens in Japanese gardens fifty and one hundred feet high, but certainly in youth the plant is wonderfully dwarf. Its strange habit is produced by the curious long, broad, dark-green needles, or narrow strap-shaped leaves that cluster in parasol-like tufts at the end of each succeeding year's growth. The color is as dark as that of the yew, and the growth as compact. It is, moreover, very hardy, and thus presents a combination of choice qualities of the most strange, attractive and valuable character. The plant is so entirely original in its forms, that it seems some lone type, the correlations of which are lost or yet to be found. As we look upon it we commence to realize how thoroughly most plants of the same genus, all over the globe, are related to each other, just because we can think of nothing else that resembles the parasol pine.
A Japanese yew near by, of rich and spreading habit, exemplifies this resemblance between various members of a genus situated in various parts of the earth. This Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata is, however, very noteworthy for great hardiness, a character that can be scarcely ac corded to any other yew in this climate. Thui-opsis Standishii is another Japanese plant on this lawn of comparatively recent introduction. I want to call your attention to it, situated near the retinosporas, not only because it is a beautiful evergreen, somewhat like the Arborvitae in general appearance, but because it does better here, apparently, than in England. This is a peculiarity remarkable in an evergreen, for the moist climate of England seems to make for them a very home.
I should like to speak of other plants on this lawn, but they are either too difficult of attainment, like the Cercidiphyllum, a promising tree, or like the dwarf pines and spruces, hardly new enough to come within the scope of this essay.
Before leaving the spot entirely, however, let us stand a moment and take a. last look at the unity of effect accomplished on this lawn. Streams, borders of foliage, statuesque small trees and larger specimens, all flow, as it were, together in natural lines. Indeed, harmony of color, and lines combined with contrasts distinct enough to give variety, characterize the entire scene. The position of each plant is so related to the other, for purposes of beauty and perfect development, that one delights in the fair proportion and entire unity of the design. It is a picture and yet something more than a picture ; a combination of foliage and grass constructed, not in servile imitation of nature, but on the principles employed by nature in her most pleasing work. The copse or glade is suggested, and yet the treatment of each plant of our lawn is very different from that of the wildwood, and indeed more honorable to that plant's highly cultured nature. Perfect maintenance, exquisite keeping are evident everywhere, from the skillfully-pruned shrub to the velvet turf that catches athwart its beautiful surface the level rays of the setting sun.
Unfortunately such lawns are extremely rare in America. We are learning to appreciate them, and in time will have them, though the progress in that direction is slow; and I feel certain that nothing is more likely to aid in the development of a true knowledge of the resources of lawn planting than the consideration of new hardy ornamental trees and shrubs, and their tasteful and effective arrangement.
The garden of Mr. H. H. Hunnewell, at Wellesley, needs no introduction to American horticulturists ; it ranks pre-eminent among private gardens. Wellesley is a town on the Boston and Albany Railroad, and some forty-five minutes ride from Boston. Mr. Hunnewell's garden is fifteen to twenty minutes walk from the depot. Some visitors like to walk there, others to ride from the station - the latter may find good and reasonable accommodation at a stable near the depot.
The garden comprises some forty acres, and is beautifully situated with the Waban lake on its north side, Wellesley College and its park-like grounds, and a wooded hilly country beyond the lake, and an uneven timbered country broken up with handsome and well-tilled farm lands all around. Before the south front of the mansion is a many-acred open lawn that in unbroken sweep reaches to the turnpike limit. Deciduous trees and evergreens are set as isolated specimens, groups, groves and avenues, towards the side out-edges of the lawn until they reach and form a part of the pinetum or rather arboretum. The terrace garden lies between the mansion and the Waban lake, as also the rockery and wild garden. There are some flower-beds near the mansion, but the main flower garden is a short distance off, somewhat of an oblong square in form; on two sides bounded by hedges, and on the others by a curving belt of trees and shrubs and a mixed border. The beds are cut out on grass, and the patterns in the beds portrayed by the plants used to fill them. There is a Rhododendron garden, an Azalea garden, a kitchen garden, and a village of greenhouses in which are grown handsome plants and lovely flowers and tender fruits.
Mr. Harris/who is the gardener, is a man of fine professional talent, cordial disposition and gentlemanly bearing.
I cannot well refer in detail to so large a garden, but will confine myself to a few of its prominent features.
Greenhouse plants - include leading decorative sorts, and some of the choicest and rarest of exotics. Dracaenas are a specially, and besides the elite of such kinds as may be seen elsewhere there is a house well-nigh filled with Wellesley seedling plants, at once remarkable for their exceptional beauty, substance and vigorous constitution. A bold, sturdy nature seems to pervade the whole race, and their coloring is deep and well defined. Some are named Mrs. Hunnewell, Waban, Bella and Harrisi. and others deserve countenance. When Phyllotaenium Lindeni and Alocasia crystallina were sent from Wellesley to the Boston exhibition they were declared the finest examples of cultural skill that had been seen anywhere, and now Mr. Harris points out to me Alocasia Thibautiana, a young plant with leaves 16 to 20 inches long, deep crimson on the back, and broadly marked with silver on the front, and tells me this is the coming king. Aralia spinulosa is another novelty. Bertolonias glitter inside cases ; Hibiscus schizopetalus is in bloom, so are Dipladenias fastened to the rafters, and many other seasonable plants.
But for a winter show of blossoms what can be brighter or better than Zonal pelargoniums? Wonderful, New Life and C. H. Wagner are among the many in a greenhouse here; the others have too hard names in French for my remembrance.
There is no finer show in any other garden in the country than that afforded by the Rhododendrons at Wellesley in early May. There are hundreds upon hundreds of half-hardy plants, vast bushes and little ones, tastefully arranged in beds upon the grass, under the skeleton framework of a mammoth tent. While the shrubs are in blossom, the canvas is spread over the frame, but as soon as the flowering time is over the canvas is removed and the shrubs allowed to make and ripen their new growth unshaded. Old flowers and seed vessels are picked off and lots of water given in protracted drouths. In November these half-hardy Rhododendrons, with as good balls of roots and earth as can be taken with them, are transplanted, or "heeled-in" rather, in earth beds, in large cellars and other more favorable quarters, specially constructed for them. Here they remain cool and uninfluenced by variations of temperature till April, when they are again transferred to their outdoor places, as before. Besides the spacious accommodations formerly provided for wintering half hardy rhododendrons in, Mr. Hunnewell has just had completed a substantial structure of masonry, with an inside measurement of 66 feet long, 18½ feet wide, and 12 feet high; light and ventilation are ad mitted by windows on the roof and ends.
This building is among the trees on a northern (I think) slope, and is provided with large doors and a good cartway leading to them, so that very large plants may be conveniently handled. An older but somewhat similar cellar-building is fitted up with double sashes and shutters as proof against severe weather, and in it is a fireplace and flue to be used in case of dampness.
In the summer time palms and other suitable plants are associated with the rhododendrons under the tent frame, the pillars and timbers of which are clad and draped in Clematises, Wistarias and other permanent vines. And surrounding this are deep banks of hardy Rhododendrons, backed for effect and shelter's sake with other shrubs and trees, and on one side with hedges. Lilies and other bulbous plants grow up among the bushes and prolong the flowering time. But outside of this particular spot, rhododendrons, old and large, are massed in groups, banks, and beds, and in great numbers too. In the case of the hardy rhododendrons, the beds containing them were deeply and well made, to begin with, and now they are heavily mulched with tree leaves every fall. These leaves are a partial protection against frost in winter, and are allowed to remain during summer, partly for nourishment, and partly as a relief against drought. But Mr. Harris says he • should prefer to have the rough leaves removed in spring, and a dressing of rotted leaf soil applied instead, as he would thereby not only be feeding the plants, but bringing their roots within the influence of every passing shower, in spring and summer, whereas, when the heavy mulching of undecomposed leaves remains upon the beds in spring, many a light but beneficial shower is spent upon the mulching without reaching the roots.
The following hardy and half-hardy kinds of rhododendrons are recommended by Mr. Harris : Hardy, - Album elegans, blush, changing to white; Alexander Dancer, bright rose with pale centre; Archimedes, rosy crimson; Caractacus, rich purplish crimson; Charles Dickens, dark scarlet; Delicatissimum, pale blush; Everestianum, rosy lilac; H. H. Hunnewell, dark rich crimson ; H. W. Sargent, crimson; Lord John Russell, pale rose (apt to get a little winter hurt); Mrs. John Clutton, white, very fine ; Mrs. Milner, rich crimson and Purpureum elegans, fine purple. Half-hardy, - Alarm, white, edged with crimson ; Auguste Van Geert, rosy purple; Brayanum, rosy scarlet; Cynthia, rosy crimson; Elfrida, rose, much spotted ; Fleur de Marie, rosy crimson; James Macintosh, rosy scarlet; J. Marshall Brooks, rich scarlet; John Waterer, dark crimson; Joseph Whitworth, dark lake; Lady Armstrong, pale rose, and Lady Eleanor Cathcart, pale rose. Indian Azaleas are largely represented, and in addition to forming with the hardy varieties and the Rhododendrons a special show in the spring, they are in blossom in succession from Christmas till June. As they finish blooming they are introduced to warm, moist quarters, and encouraged in growth.
They are then gradually inured to cooler treatment, and in the summer time plunged out of doors, in a well-sheltered yard, there to remain till the end of September or first of October, when they are removed to cool greenhouses or pits. They remain in these pits till December when a majority of the latest of them are moved into the cellars with the Rhododendrons, to stay till spring. When any of them grow out in a straggling, misshapen manner, Mr. Harris has no hesitation in pruning them hard into the old wood; this he does early in the season, and introduces them at once into heat, moisture and shade. Buds break out all over the old wood, and although an idea prevails that this first year's wood will not yield flowers, Mr. Harris tells me he succeeds in getting some blossoms from it. Among the more recent additions, Mr. Harris recommends Empress of India, Charmer, Madam Jean Wolkoff, Oswald de Kerchove, Jean Vervain, Paul de Deschry-mer, Countess of Beaufort, Princess Louise, Argus, Imbricata, Madam Marie Van Houtte, and Segismund Rucker. And he speaks highly of Prime Minister, Lady Musgrave, and one or two other varieties of Amoena, and which are an improvement on the typical form ; they must become popular, as they are so easily forced.
Deciduous or hardy Azaleas are the chief furniture of a garden, by themselves, where they are grown in beds like roses. They comprise what are generally known as Ghent Azaleas, also the Japanese mollis, and its many varieties. The azalea garden is surrounded by trees and shrubs, and it is instructive to note how the azaleas turn their backs to their shade-bearing shelter, and stretch forth their branches to the light. They are not mulched with leaves, as the Rhododendrons are, but instead are top-dressed with compost. The brilliance and variety of these beautiful shrubs, when in bloom, are great, and they are so hardy too that they appeal to every amateur. Although there are many named varieties, Mr. Harris is of the opinion that mixed varieties are good enough for any purpose. Speaking of azaleas reminds me of a remark by Professor Sargent, and made to me in his garden a year or two ago: "If I were confined to one shrub, I should choose the hardy azalea".
The Italian Garden, of which an excellent illustration appeared in Harper's Monthly, p. 517, March, 1881, lies between the mansion and the Waban lake, and consists of a series of terraces, whereon are growing many trees clipped into curious and abnormal forms. It is the most extensive and pertinent garden of the kind in America. The clipped trees consist of White pine, Norway spruce, Hemlock spruce, Arbor-vitae, Retinosporas as squarrosa, obtusa and pisifera, American beeches and European larches. And here and there upon the banks are spread thick mats of such Junipers as tamariei-folia and squamata. Mr. Harris tells me that, although these Junipers do so well on this northern exposure, in other portions of the garden facing south, they do not thrive.
The Arboretum is well stocked with many rare and handsome trees, particularly evergreens, as pines and spruces, junipers and retinosporas. The pinetum is on mostly sloping ground, and includes fifteen to twenty years' old specimens of many subjects that are yet novelties in our gardens. There are some exceptionally fine specimens of Abies Nordmanniana, Engelmanni, alcoquiana, orientalis, pichta, grandis, excelsa inverta, Douglassi, nobilis, and others. The golden variegated form of the white spruce is a pretty tree, and one of the finest specimens and bluest varieties of the Colorado blue spruce, is conspicuous on the slope. But the trees and shrubs are too many for detail. There is an extensive collection of Japanese maples. Preparatory to planting trees, holes some eleven feet in diameter are dug out and filled in with good soil, and in after years dressings of manure are freely given to petted plants. For trees, Mr. Harris strongly recommends good soil to start in, when they are up a little they will take care of themselves, and plenty of manure for evergreens.
And, considering the condition of these trees, and the dry gravelly soil of the land, his treatment deserves recognition.
Fruit growing under glass is an important feature here; but at the time of my visit, in November, beyond some grapes still clinging to the vines, and figs swelling and ripening on the bushes, all was cool and leafless, and inactive. For general purposes, Mr. Harris considers the Black Hamburg and Muscat of Alexandria as the best of grapes. His favorite peaches are Early Rivers, Early Beatrice, Hale's Early, Foster's Seedling, George the Fourth, and late Admirable; nectarines, Lord Napier and Stanwick; apricots, Moorpark, Brussels, St. Ambroise. Breda and Peach; plums, Angelina Burdett, Jefferson and Standard of England; and Brown Turkey as a fig. The Castle Kennedy and some other figs grow too much.