We place the white pine, therefore, among the first in the regards of the ornamental planter.
Perhaps the most popular foreign evergreen in this country is the Norway spruce. In fact it is so useful and valuable a tree that it is destined to become much more popular still. So hardy that it is used as a nurse plant to break off the wind in exposed sites and shelter more tender trees in young plantations; so readily adapting itself to any site that it thrives upon all soils, from light sand or dry gravel, to deep moist loam or clay; so accommodating in its habits that it will grow under the shade of other trees or in the most exposed positions; there is no planter of new places or improver of old ones who will not find it necessary to call it in to his assistance. Then again the variety of purposes for which this tree may be used is so indefinite. Certainly there are few trees more strikingly picturesque than a fine Norway spruce, 40 or 50 years old, towering up from a base of thick branches which droop and fall to the very lawn, and hang off in those depending curves which make it such a favorite with artists.
Any one who wishes ocular demonstration of the truth of this, will do well to daguerreotype in his mind (for certainly, once seen, he can never forget them) the fine specimens on the lawn at the seat of Col. Perkins, near Boston; or two or three, still larger, and almost equally well developed, in the old Linnsean Garden of Mr. Winter, at Flushing, Long Island.
* Meaning the Canadian line.
The Norway spruce, abroad, is thought to grow rapidly only on soils somewhat damp. But this is not the case in America. We saw lately a young plantation of them of 10 or 12 years growth in the ground of Capt. Forbes, of Milton Hill, near Boston, on very high and dry gravelly soil, many of which made leading shoots last season of three or four feet. Their growth may be greatly promoted, as indeed may that of all evergreens, by a liberal top-dressing of ashes, applied early every spring or autumn.*
Little seems to be known in the United States, as yet, of the great value of the Norway spruce, for hedges. We have no doubt whatever that it will soon become the favorite plant for evergreen hedges, as the buckthorn and Osage orange are already for deciduous hedges in this country. So hardy as to grow everywhere, so strong, and bearing the shears so well, as to form an almost impenetrable wall of foliage, it is precisely adapted to thousands of situations in the northern half of the Union, where an unfailing shelter, screen, and barrier, are wanted at all seasons.
The balsam fir is a neat, dark green evergreen tree, perhaps more generally employed for small grounds and plantations than any other by our gardeners. In truth it is better adapted to small gardens, yards, or narrow lawns, than for landscape gardening on a large scale, as its beauty is of a formal kind; and though the tree often grows to thirty or forty feet, its appearance is never more pleasing than when it is from ten to fifteen or twenty feet high. The dark green hue of its foliage, which is pretty constant at all seasons, and the comparative ease with which it is transr planted, will always commend it to the ornamental improver. But as a full grown tree, it is not to be compared for a moment, to any one of the three species of evergreens that we have already noticed; since it becomes stiff and formal as it grows old, instead of graceful or picturesque, like the hemlock, white pine, or Norway spruce. Its chief value is for shrubberies, small gardens, or courtyards, in a formal or regular style.
The facility of obtaining it, added to the excellent color of its foliage, and the great hardiness of the plant, induce us to give it a place among the four evergreens worthy of the universal attention of our ornamental planters.
* Unfortunately the Norway spruce is short-lived. After reaching the age of 40 to 50 years it deteriorates rapidly. In the states of the middle west and south it can hardly be grown at all. - F. A. W.
The Arbor Vitae, so useful for hedges and screens, is, we find, so rapidly becoming popular among our planters that it needs little further commendation.
For a rapid growing, bold, and picturesque evergreen, the Austrian pine is well deserving of attention. We find it remarkably hardy, adapting itself to all soils (though said to grow naturally in Austria on the lightest sands). A specimen here grew nearly three feet last season; and its bold, stiff foliage, is sufficiently marked to arrest the attention among all other evergreens.*
The Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) we find also perfectly hardy in this latitude. This tree produces an eatable kernel, and though of comparatively slow growth, is certainly one of the most interesting of the pine family. The Italian stone pine, and the pinaster, are also beautiful trees for the climate of Philadelphia. The grand and lofty pines of California, the largest and loftiest evergreen trees in the world, are not yet to be found, except as small specimens here and there in the gardens of curious collectors in the United States. But we hope, with our continually increasing intercourse with western America, fresh seeds will be procured by our nurserymen, and grown abundantly for sale. The great Californian silver fir (Abies grandis) grows 200 feet high, with cones 6 inches long, and fine silvery foliage; and the noble silver fir (A. nobilis) is scarcely less striking. "I spent three weeks," says Douglass, the botanical traveller, "in a forest composed of this tree, and, day by day, could not cease to admire it." Both these fine fir trees grow in northern California, where they cover vast tracts of land, and, along with other species of pine, form grand and majestic features in the landscape of that country.
The English have been before us in introducing these natives of our western shores; for we find them, though at high prices, now offered for sale in most of the large nurseries in Great Britain.
* The Austrian pine has proved to be one of the hardiest and most successful evergreens in the plains states. - F. A. W.
The most beautiful evergreen tree in America, and, perhaps - when foliage, flowers, and perfume are considered, - in the world, is the Magnolia grandiflora of our southern States. There where it grows in the deep alluvial soil of some river valley to the height of 70 or 80 feet, clothed with its large, thick, deep green, glossy leaves, like those of a gigantic laurel, covered in the season of its bloom with large, pure white blossoms that perfume the whole woods about it with their delicious odor; certainly, it presents a spectacle of unrivalled sylvan beauty. Much to be deplored is it, that north of New York it will not bear the rigor of the winters, and that we are denied the pleasure of seeing it grow freely in the open air. At Philadelphia it is quite hardy; and in the Bartram Garden, at Landreth's, and in various private grounds near that city, there are fine specimens 20 or 30 feet high growing without protection and blooming every year.
Wherever the climate will permit the culture of this superb evergreen, the ornamental planter would be unpardonable, in our eyes, not to possess it in considerable abundance.