And while in the vein, we would include in the same category another less fashionable, but still much petted foreigner, that has settled among us with a good letter of credit, but who deserves not his success. We mean the abele or silver poplar. There is a pleasant flutter in his silver-lined leaves, but when the timber is a foot thick you shall find the air unpleasantly filled every spring with the fine white down which flies from the blossom, while the suckers which are thrown up from the roots of the mature trees are a pest to all grounds and gardens, even worse than those of the ailanthus. Down with the abeles!
Oh! that our tree-planters, and they are an army of hundreds of thousands in this country, ever increasing with the growth of good taste - oh! that they knew and could understand the surpassing beauty of our native shade trees. More than forty species of oak are there in North America (Great Britain has only two species - France only five), and we are richer in maples, elms, and ashes, than any country in the old world. Tulip trees and magnolias from America are the exotic glories of the princely grounds of Europe. But (saving always the praiseworthy partiality in New England' for our elms and maples), who plants an American tree - in America? And who, on the contrary, that has planted shade trees at all in the United States for the last fifteen years has not planted either ailanthuses or abele poplars? We should like to see that discreet, sagacious individual, who has escaped the national ecstasy for foreign suckers. If he can be found, he is more deserving a gold medal from our horticultural societies, than the grower of the most mammoth pumpkin or elephantine beet that will garnish the cornucopia of Pomona for 1852.
In this confession of our sins of commission in planting filthy suckers, and omission in not planting clean natives, we must lay part of the burden at the door of the nurserymen.* (It has been found a convenient practice - this shifting the responsibility - ever since the first trouble about trees in the Garden of Eden.)
"Well! then, if the nurserymen will raise ailanthuses and abeles by the thousands," reply the planting community"and telling us nothing about pestilential odors and suckers, tell us a great deal about 'rapid growth, immediate effect - beauty of foliage - rare foreign trees,' and the like, it is not surprising that we plant what turn out, after twenty years' trial, to be nuisances instead of embellishments. It is the business of the nurserymen to supply planters with the best trees. If they supply us with the worst, who sins the most, the buyer or the seller of such stuff?",
* It need not be forgotten that Mr. Downing was himself a nurseryman. - F. A. W.
Softly, good friends. It is the business of the nurserymen to make a profit by raising trees. If you will pay just as much for a poor tree, that can be raised in two years from a sucker as for a valuable tree that requires four or five years, do you wonder that the nurserymen will raise and sell you ailanthuses instead of oaks? It is the business (duty, at least) of the planter to know what he is about to plant; and though there are many honest traders, it is a good maxim that the Turks have - "Ask no one in the bazaar to praise his own goods." To the eyes of the nurserymen a crop of ailanthuses and abeles is "a pasture in the valley of sweet waters." But go to an old homestead where they have become naturalized and you will find that there is a bitter aftertaste about the experience of the unfortunate possessor of these sylvan treasures of a far-off country.*
The planting intelligence must therefore increase if we would fill our grounds and shade our streets with really valuable ornamental trees. The nurserymen will naturally raise what is in demand, and if but ten customers offer in five years for the overcup oak, while fifty come of a day for the ailanthus, the latter will be cultivated as a matter of course.
The question immediately arises, what shall we use instead of the condemned trees? What, especially, shall we use in the streets of cities? Many - nay, the majority of shade trees - clean and beautiful in the country - are so infested with worms and insects in towns as to be worse than useless. The sycamore has failed, the linden is devoured, the elm is preyed upon by insects. We have rushed into the arms of the Tartar, partly out of fright, to escape the armies of caterpillars and cankerworms that have taken possession of better trees!
* We may as well add for the benefit of the novice, the advice to shun all trees that are universally propagated by suckers. It is a worse inheritance for a tree than drunkenness for a child, and more difficult to eradicate. Even ailanthuses and poplars from seed have tolerably respectable habits as regards radical things. - A. J. D.
Take refuge, friends, in the American maples. Clean, sweet, cool, and umbrageous, are the maples; and, much vaunted as ailanthuses and poplars are, for their lightning growth, take our word for it, that it is only a good go-off at the start. A maple at twenty years, or even at ten, if the soil is favorable, will be much the finer and larger tree. No tree transplants more readily, none adapts itself more easily to the soil, than the maple. For light soils and the milder parts of the Union, say the Middle and Western States, the silver maple, with drooping branches, is at once the best and most graceful of street trees. For the North and East, the soft maple and the sugar maple.* If any one wishes to know the glory and beauty of the sugar maple as a street tree, let him make a pilgrimage to Stockbridge, in Massachusetts ! If he desires to study the silver maple there is no better school than Burlington, New Jersey. These are two towns almost wholly planted with these American trees, of the sylvan adornings of which any "native" may well be proud. The inhabitants neither have to abandon their front rooms from the smell nor lose the use of their back yards by the suckers.