This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Among the multitude of trees which are suitable for the embellishment of lawns, the Magnolias are justly entitled to the highest rank. In Europe, whether we look in the little plot of the cottage or the broad parks and pleasure grounds of the nobility, we find them among the rarest, most costly, and most cherished ornaments. Even where the climate will not allow their culture on the lawn, they are still indispensable, and are grown under glass, as we grow camellias. Fortunately the finest of them are natives of our own soil, and several species and varieties, making in all a handsome collection, are so hardy as to flourish in almost every part of the United States. The nurseries of this country, and especially those of Flushing, have for many years propagated and sold vast numbers of the more hardy species, and yet the specimens that we find around the country are few and far between. One great reason is they are exceedingly difficult to transplant. We think we are safe in saying that for every one hundred that have been planted, not more than ten are in existence. They are difficult to propagate, also. Seeds are always scarce and dear, and it takes several years to make a respectable sized tree.
Planters are in the habit of committing a great error in regard to this, as well as many other trees. They are not satisfied to plant young specimens that would involve little risk; they must have them large - large enough to figure at once on the lawn with other trees - and therefore they fail with their magnolias much more frequently than they succeed; and that, too, after they have paid the nurseryman a good round price. We must say candidly, to those who wish to plant successfully, that they must come to this. They must either take small plants, say one or two year transplanted seedlings, of such as are raised from seed, or pay the nurserymen for raising good specimens in pots. From what experience we have, this would be our course. The spirit of impatience must abate before we really set on the right course in regard to planting. The cry has been to a great extent, and is so at present, "we want large trees - trees that will grow up rapidly and produce an immediate effect!" This spirit has filled the country with the coarsest and most unsuitable trees that could possibly be selected for the purpose of embellishment It has scattered broad-cast abeles and ailantus, and whatever else promised the greatest amount of shade in the shortest given time.
The mistake begins to be felt, and thousands of vain regrets are daily uttered. All manner of hard things are said about the rapid growing trees, and they are threatened with nothing less than extermination. It should be remembered that they have been merely misapplied. There are situations and circumstances in which the judicious planter may use such trees to advantage. There are bleak exposed situations, where the very first object of the planter is to provide shelter, because this is no less indispensable to that comfort which every wise man seeks in his residence, than to the success of his cultivation. In such cases the most rapid growing trees are needed, and it would only be absurd to plant others. But such a plantation would be made on the outskirts of the grounds, and on the principle of utility, - not on the lawn or in the door yard, or wherever it may be desirable and necessary to display taste and beauty.
Among our hardy American deciduous species of magnolia, the acuminata (cucumber tree,) is much the largest; specimens from sixty to eighty feet in height may yet be found in the scattering remains of the forests of New York, and especially southward towards the Alleganies. Michaux says:* "It abounds along the whole mountainous tract of the Alleganies to their termination in Georgia, over a distance of nine hundred miles. The situations particularly adapted to its growth are the declivities of mountains, narrow vallies, and the banks of torrents, where the air is constantly moist, and the soil deep and fertile." When this tree is transplanted at an early age to the lawn, where it has abundant space on all sides to assume its natural habits of growth, it throws out side branches near the ground, takes a pyramidal form, and tapers upwards with striking regularity and symmetry. In this way only is its real magnificence developed. Its leaves are large, - and especially where the trees are young and growing in a rich, deep soil, - varying from six to ten inches long and four to six wide. The flowers, which appear in May or June, are three to four inches in diameter, of a bluish purple color on a dull white ground. This tree is usually propagated from seed.
The nurserymen who propagate it extensively, sow the seeds in beds of light mellow soil in the open ground. Those who propagate it on a less extensive scale will find it quite as convenient to sow the seed in a shallow box of light earth. At one year's growth the seedlings may be transplanted into nursery rows. They re-root slowly, and it is not until two years' growth after transplanting that they make a rapid, vigorous growth.
* North American Syiva.
12 3/4 feet high, 3 1/2 inches In diameter.
MAGNOLIA TRIPETALA. Tho three-petaled-flowered deciduous Magnolia.
The Magnolia tripetela, (three-petaled magnolia, or umbrella tree,) is much smaller than the preceding, and better adapted to planting on a small lawn or limited grounds. Miohaux regards it as a "connecting link between the larger shrubs and trees of the third order, rarely attaining thirty or thirty-five feet in height, and five or six inches in diameter. The leaves are very large - twelve to twenty inches long, and six to eight broad. The flowers are produced on the points of the branches- very large, some six to eight inches in diameter, and composed of three large, loose petals. The chief beauty of this species consists in its magnificent foliage, the most tropical like, excepting the M. macrophylla, of all our hardy trees. There is also a certain beauty in its large flowers, and in the fruit, which is in the form of a pine cone - five or six inches long, and two or three in diameter. The tree, however, in its form has little elegance, often inclining to one side and throwing up a succession of vigorous shoots from the lower part. A specimen nine or ten years planted, in our grounds, has divided near the ground into three main branches. These divide again further up. The main branches are about three to four inches in diameter, and the whole ten feet high.
It has blossomed for several years. It blossoms young, seeds freely, and is usually propagated and managed as described for the acuminata.
The Magnolia macrophylla, or broad-leaved, is a very striking and beautiful tree, and the rarest of all the deciduous American species. It is distinguished at once from the preceding by its large leaves - which are light green above and glaucous beneath, - its light grayish bark, and silky buds. It is propagated as the two preceding, from seeds; but they are difficult to get.
The cordata, or heart-leaved, is also a fine species from Carolina or Georgia, with flowers of a yellowish tinge, produced twice during the season. Hardy in the Middle States.
The auriculata, or long-leaved, resembles the acuminata ; but it does not attain so large a size, and is distinguished by the leaves being distinctly lobed at the base. The flowers are white.
The conspicua, or chandelier magnolia, is a beautiful Chinese species, quite hardy in the Middle States, and regarded as one of the most charming of small sized lawn trees. It branches low, and forms a symmetrical half shrub half tree, covered in spring before the leaves, with milk white flowers. One of the finest specimens we have seen in this country, is that on the grounds of the late Mr. Downing, alluded to in the description of his grounds in the January number. It is propagated from seeds, but more generally by layers which require two years to root; or by grafting or inarching on some plentiful sort.
* See plate copled from LOUDON's " Arboretum Britanlcum".
The obovata, or purpurea, another Chinese species, is necessarily classed among shrubs, as it seldom attains over ten feet in height, and not often that. It bears its flowers, which are purple on a light ground, before the leaves in the spring, and is at that season highly attractive. It is easier propagated from layers than the and is therefore usually more plentiful and cheaper in the nurseries.
The soulangeana, is a variety produced by crossing the two preceding. It resembles the conspicua, but differs in having the flowers tinged with purple. It is a hardy, profuse blooming, beautiful small tree. Propagated generally by grafting or inarching.
The gracilis is a slender, erect growing shrub, resembling the purpurea, differing particularly in the branches being more erect and slender.
The glauca, or swamp laurel, which abounds in New Jersey, and in low, swampy grounds further south, is a very pretty small tree, with glaucous leaves and white, sweet scented flowers. It does not succeed so well in dry exposed places as those previously mentioned, but its great beauty entitles it to some extra care in the way of soil, shade and shelter.
There are many varieties which have sprung up accidentally from seeds, both of the American and Chinese species, but they differ only in some minor points from those described.
The Country Gentleman (Eng.) in discussing lawn trees, says that in small places of two acres or less, growers should avoid all trees that litter leaves, nuts, flowers and other cast-off garments which become scattered over lawns and flower beds to the disgust of the owner of a well-kept garden. Of course, it depends somewhat upon the kinds of trees adjacent to the garden, as some, like the Chestnut, are constantly contributing something in the way of litter during the entire summer. First, the long catkins, like huge yellow worms, are scattered over walks, out-buildings, and lawns, followed by more or less early ripening leaves in July and August; then September brings down the prickly husks, which tumble about to the discomfort of feet incased in thin shoes, or the "sit-down" of the lounger in the shade.
A deciduous tree that will drop its leaves all at one time, is far preferable to one that keeps up a continual scattering through the season. There are several species of Oaks which belong to the latter class, and for this reason are well worthy the attention of all villa gardeners.