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 plant has some very good qualities for the purpose, but it requires great attention - more, it has often been found, than the generality of busy farmers can afford to give to it; if neglected, it runs wild, loses its lower branches, which at the best must be interlaced after the first cuttings, or they will admit the smaller animals. Another disadvantage is that it is "a greedy feeder," extends its roots far and wide, and exhausts the crop of its proper food to some distance in the field; the roots are also of an extraordinary size, frequently as large and thick as the wood above ground. It is, however, hardy, and if it loses the tips of the young shoots in a severe winter, it soon fills up with proper cutting. This plant is seldom liable to the complaint of sending up suckers. Where there is a determination to have it as a hedge, and to give it the proper yearly attention, it may do very well; but it is open to some objections, and it is late in coming forward in the spring and early in shedding its leaves. Our own opinion is, that in a vast portion of cases the Osage Orange, without great attention, will prove a disappointment; we express this with regret, for it has been extensively introduced.
The experience of our friends at the west may be different.
The Buckthorn (Rhamnus Catharticus) is a strong, quick-growing plant, and makes a good, close hedge; it is very hardy, and when properly out looks extremely well. Botanists agree that it is a native of America, even as far north as Massachusetts, as well as of the north of Europe and Asia. Its bark and leaf are offensive to insects, and the borer, which has ruined nearly all the thorn hedges in this country, will not touch it. It will grow in the shade, and in almost every description of soil. It is easily grown and transplanted, of long life, has a thicket-like habit, has few diseases, and bears shearing into any shape. Its berries, the pulp mashed in a box with a light wooden pounder, sifted in water two or three times and then dried, are ready for planting. Dig good garden soil, and give it a dressing of manure, and plant them as you do peas or beans, placing the seeds two or three inches apart. They should be covered about an inch and a half deep, and if the rows are three feet apart the horse-cultivator may be used to keep the ground in order. One year's growth in strong land, or two in inferior, will make a growth that will give you plants fit for transplanting into hedge rows.
Two seasons of shearing will develope its thorns, and commence to reward your labors.
The Buckthorn has been pronounced by those who have tried it, of very great utility and beauty, and it certainly comes as near to our wants as any plant which has yet been introduced. In the Essex (Mass.) Agricultural Society's Transactions of 1842, a correspondent says : "I do not hesitate to pronounce the Buckthorn the most suitable plant for hedges I have ever met with. It vegetates early in the spring, and retains its verdure late in autumn. Being a native plant it is never injured by the most intense cold, and its vitality is so great that the young plants may be kept out of the ground, or transported to a great distance without injury. It never sends up any suckers, nor is disfigured by any dead wood, needs no interlacing, and is never cankered by unskilful clipping." The desideratum for a good defensive and, at the same time, highly ornamental hedge, would seem to be solved in the Buckthorn and the Honey Locust. The seeds are collected and sold by the Shakers, and could probably be procured through the agency of any seedsman. Its bark and berries are powerful cathartics.
Mixed with alum the sap of the berries makes the color known to painters as sap-green, and the bark yields a fine yellow dye.