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.
This family varies much in form, color, and habit; some being compact, upright and pyramidal, others open and spreading; some a dark grass-green, others, again, tinged with blue. It becomes rusty in winter, and is wont to lose its lower branches, and to become shabby on the sides exposed to severe winds. Give it a partially sheltered aspect, set it in a sandy loam, and it will often make a handsome tree.
The Junipers deserve more attention than they have heretofore received. They are quite distinct from all other trees, and being of medium size, are well suited to small grounds, cemeteries, and other such situations.
The species are all aromatic evergreens, with narrow leaves, either spreading and sharp-pointed, or intricated, minute, and obtuse. The fruit is globular or oval, of a bluish cast, or brown with a glaucus efflorescence. The stimulating and diuretic powers of the berries are well known, and are proverbial for the flavor they give to gin.
The common Junipers are hardy as far North as Albany, and are common on Staten Island, Long Island, and on the banks of the Hudson River. Planted in rows near together, they form an excellent protection in exposed situations, and bear transplanting even when well grown.
The Dwarf Juniper is a variety, and, as its name implies, more humble in its growth. Some are low and straggling in their growth, but as a general rule they assume an upright, compact, tapering, conical shape, resembling somewhat a miniature Lombardy Poplar. Standing scattered about in a field, when viewed at a distance they look like sentinels on duty. They can be trained to almost any shape, and be made quite ornamental. An occasional tying in of the branches, and a little clipping of the extremities, improves their appearance. It grows wild in several parts of the State, and travellers on the Hudson River Railroad could not foil to notice this little upright Juniper growing in great perfection on the hill-sides near the Highlands, and also on the banks of the river near Coxsaokie and Albany.
The Red Cedar is usually a ragged-looking tree; it is distinguished from the White and the Arbor Vitas, the only tree which it resembles, by bearing its fruit in the form of a berry, and its leaves exhibiting but slightly a tendency to form themselves in a plane. The trunk is straight, rapidly decreasing, and full of branches. It is often deformed by holes produced by the loss of branches, and by knots left in the attempt to make it a shapely tree by pruning.
Though usually of but little beauty, it may be made a handsome low or middle-sized tree by careful pruning when young. If this is attempted too late, the tree is deformed by numerous knots. When growing in a dry, but rich soil, in sheltered situations, it is sometimes a handsome tree.
The wood is light, close-grained, smooth and compact, and possessed of great durability. The agreeable permanent aromatic odor recommends it for certain uses, as that of making pencils and the bottoms of small boxes and drawers, the aroma making it a safeguard against insects. The berries are bluish, and are employed in medicine as a diuretic, and to give their peculiar flavor to gin.
This genus furnishes us some very desirable dwarf species and varieties.
The common Savin (Juniperus sabina) and the variegated-leaved variety are two of the best for small gardens, as they are low, compact growing shrubs, with fine, handsome foliage. The Trailing or Creeping Juniper (J. squamata) and Tamarack-leaved (J. sab inoides) should always be planted at the extreme outer edge of a group, as they creep over the ground or form a very dense, low bush. They are very hardy, handsome, and desirable.
Taxus, or Yews - Few plants have been more praised in prose and poetry than the Yew and it deserves all that it has received. It is scarce in the gardens of this country, owing perhaps to its conservative character, there being none of the rapid-growing "spread-eagle" habit about the Yews which is so "taking" among our people. But it is to be hoped, in the good time coming when we think as well as act in all matters pertaining to homes and their surroundings, the Yew, which is the personification of fixedness of purpose and steady habits, will become as popular in this country as it ever was and is in Europe, and we shall be able to say of men and their gardens: "Well do I know thee by thy trusty Yew."
I will not try to discriminate between the, dozen species and varieties cultivated by our nurserymen, because one can scarcely go amiss in selecting one or more, as all are suitable for small gardens, none growing very large during a lifetime; and, should a specimen pass beyond prescribed limits, the pruning knife or shears may be freely used in bringing it back. There are golden and variegated-leaved varieties, in strong contrast with the dark green foliage of the parent species. Our native Yew (T. Canadensis) should never be omitted from the list of dwarf evergreens. Its deep green foliage and bright red berries in autumn are merits which place it high in the estimation of all lovers of beautiful plants.