And whoever plants either of these three maples may feel sure that he is earning the thanks instead of the reproaches of posterity.
The most beautiful and stately of all trees for an avenue - and especially for an avenue street in town - is an American tree that one rarely sees planted in America * - never, that we remember, in any public street. We mean the tulip tree, or liriodendron. What can be more beautiful than its trunk, finely proportioned, and smooth as a Grecian column? What more artistic than its leaf, cut like an arabesque in a Moorish palace? What more clean and lustrous than its tufts of foliage, dark green and rich as deepest emerald? What more lily-like and specious than its blossoms, golden and bronze shaded? and what fairer and more queenly than its whole figure, stately and regal as that if Zenobia? For a park tree, to spread on every side, it is unrivalled, growing a hundred and thirty feet high, and spreading into the finest symmetry of outline.* For a street tree, its columnar stem, beautiful either with or without branches - with a low head or a high head - foliage over the second story or under it - is precisely what is most needed. A very spreading tree, like the elm, is always somewhat out of place in town, because its natural habit is to extend itself laterally.
A tree with the habit of the tulip, lifts itself into the finest pyramids of foliage, exactly suited to the usual width of town streets, and thus embellishes and shades without darkening and incumbering them. Besides this, the foliage of the tulip tree is as clean and fresh at all times as the bonnet of a fair young quakeress, and no insect mars the purity of its rich foliage.
* By the soft maple is probably meant the red maple. - F. A. W. * Though there are grand avenues of it in the royal parks of Germany - raised from American seed. - A. J. D.
We know very well that the tulip tree is considered difficult to transplant. It is, the gardeners will tell you, much easier to plant ailanthuses, or, if you prefer, maples. Exactly, so it is easier to walk than to dance; but as all people who wish to be graceful in their gait learn to dance (if they can get an opportunity), so all planters who wish a peculiarly elegant tree will learn how to plant the liriodendron. In the first place the soil must be light and rich - better than is at all necessary for the maples - and if it cannot be made light and rich, then the planter must confine himself to maples. Next, the tree must be transplanted just about the time of commencing its growth in the spring, and the roots must be cut as little as possible, and not suffered to get dry till replanted.
* At Wakefield, the fine country-seat of the Fisher family, near Philadelphia, are several tulip-trees on the lawn, over one hundred feet high, and three to Six feet in diameter. - A. J. D.
There is one point which, if attended to as it is in nurseries abroad, would render the tulip tree as easily transplanted as a maple or a poplar. We mean the practice of cutting round the tree every year in the nursery till it is removed. This develops a ball of fibres, and so prepares the tree for the removal that it feels no shock at all.* Nurserymen could well afford to grow tulip trees to the size suitable for street planting and have them twice cut or removed beforehand, so as to enable them to warrant their growth in any good soil, for a dollar apiece. (And we believe the average price at which the thousands of noisome ailanthuses that now infest our streets have been sold, is above a dollar.) No buyer pays so much and so willingly, as the citizen who has only one lot front, and five dollars each has been no uncommon price in New York for "trees of heaven".
After our nurserymen have practised awhile this preparation of the tulip trees for the streets by previous removals, they will gradually find a demand for the finer oaks, beeches, and other trees now considered difficult to transplant for the same cause, and about which there is no difficulty at all if this precaution is taken. Any body can catch suckers in a still pond, but a trout must be tickled with dainty bait. Yet true sportsmen do not for this reason, prefer angling with worms about the margin of stagnant pools when they can whip the gold-spangled beauties out of swift streams with a little skill and preparation, and we trust that in future no true lover of trees will plant suckers to torment his future days and sight, when he may, with a little more pains, have the satisfaction of enjoying the shade of the freshest and comeliest of American forest trees, *
* In many continental nurseries, this annual preparation in the nursery, takes place until fruit trees of bearing size can be removed without the slightest injury to the crop of the same year. - A. J. D. The same method is now extensively practiced with shade trees in American nurseries. - F. A. W.
* It seems unkind to criticise Mr. Downing's choice of trees, but modern experience does not fully bear him out. The tulip tree, which he praises so highly, has not proved at all satisfactory for street planting. Neither has the white pine and some of the other trees which he favored. At the same time it appears that the despised ailanthus still holds those crowded city streets where, for reeking coal smoke and other untoward conditions, no other tree will grow. - F. A. W.