This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The genus Tilia is composed of a limited number of umbrageous, deciduous trees, of stately growth, indigenous to the temperate and colder regions of Europe and North America. They are all very hardy, and of free growth in most districts of Britain; and though seldom if ever planted merely for their timber, they have long been extensively introduced into our parks and other ornamental plantations, where, whether standing singly, grouped, or associated with other trees, they impart a richness and beauty to the landscape peculiarly their own. They are, moreover, invaluable for town gardens and street avenues, where, notwithstanding the dust and smoke, they succeed better than most other large-growing trees.
The wood of the Lime-trees, though lacking the strength and durability necessary for general purposes, is nevertheless utilised in the countries where it abounds for fancy-work, such as cabinet-making and carving, as it stands well when not exposed to the weather, is easily wrought, and is susceptible of a fine polish. The inner bark of all the species is strong and much used in the manufacture of mats, baskets, and other useful articles.
This, the best known of the species, is found naturally in several of the countries of the Continent, and if not also indigenous to Britain, has been so long in cultivation that it would be difficult to assign a date for its introduction. It is a broad, thickly-branched tree of from 80 to 100 feet in height. The leaves, with which the branches are amply clothed, are of a cordate form, sharp-pointed, serrated, smooth, and of a pleasing light-green colour, assuming as they decay a yellowish-brown tint, a feature very much admired in autumn.
The flowers, which expand in July and August, are produced in cymes or umbels they are individually small, light-yellow, and form no very important feature of the plant. So far as regards appearance, they are, however, deliciously fragrant, specially "at dewy eve, distilling odours" and as they abound in honey they supply admirable pasturage for bees. The wood of this tree is soft, light, but close-grained, not liable to be attacked by insects, nor, when properly seasoned, to warp. It is much used by turners and carvers, and by manufacturers of toys. Its charcoal is of the finest quality for making gunpowder. From the inner bark is obtained the material for making bast-mats, of so much value to gardeners for packing, covering, and tying up plants, and which are annually imported in great numbers from St Petersburg, Archangel, and Riga. The trees from which this is obtained are from 10 to 20 years old, cut down and stripped in summer when full of sap.
Of this grand and very familiar ornamental tree, it is unnecessary to say more by way of recommendation than that it should never be omitted in the laying out of parks and other pleasure-grounds in the neighbourhood of country mansions. It grows freely in almost every variety of soil, preferring, however, such as are rich and deep; and though very hardy, and capable of enduring any amount of frost it is likely to be subjected to in this country, the finest specimens are always found where they are in situations sheltered from the full force of the blast.
From a number of distinct and handsome species, we select the following as most worthy of notice:-
Var. Platyphylla, sometimes called grandifolia, is a distinct and very desirable variety, with larger leaves than the species; they are slightly downy on the under surface.
This form has its leaves curiously cut and twisted; it is of slow growth, and is usually grown as a standard grafted on the species. It makes a neat lawn tree.
A form differing from the species in its drooping habit; grafted on a stem of the common sort it forms a fine weeping specimen well adapted for prominent sites on the lawn or large shrubbery border.
Some writers have doubted the propriety of ranking this tree as a distinct species regarding it as a variety only of Europaea. It is, however, so distinct and constant, that we think it best to adhere to the original and still most popular arrangement. It is indigenous to Hungary, where it is said to occur somewhat sparingly, and from whence it was introduced to this country in 1767. It forms a broad, bushy tree of from 30 to 50 feet in height, the branches well furnished with cordate leaves, unequal at the base, sharply serrated, smooth green above, and downy beneath, dying off light-brown. The flowers, which appear in July, are yellowish - white, small, and very fragrant. In its native country the timber and bark of this species are used for similar purposes to that of the common Lime. It is here much esteemed by planters of decorative trees not only for its hardiness, its free growth, and symmetrical outline, but for the beauty of its leaves, which, when stirred by the breeze, reveal their silvery under surfaces, producing the happiest effect.
This sort differs only from the species in its drooping branches'; grafted on 6-feet stems of the Common Lime, it makes an admirable specimen for a lawn.
This species has a wide distribution in Canada and the United States, where it attains heights of from 70 to 80 feet. It was first sent to this country in 1752. The leaves are cordate, sharply serrated, larger than the European species, and of a smooth, shiny, bright-green colour, changing as they decay to a light brown. The flowers are similar in form and colour to those of the other sorts, appearing in July, and very fragrant. Though similar in general appearance to the Common Lime, it is easily distinguished by its bark, which, instead of being either green or red, is dark-brown. It is a very hardy, handsome tree, of a symmetrical habit of growth, and well worthy of a place as a single specimen in a park. It should be planted in deep rich soil, and in a moderately sheltered situation.