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.
The question has been asked me, "what twelve evergreen trees would you recommend as best adapted to general purposes?" It is rather a difficult question to answer satisfactorily, as, under some circumstances, one particular kind would be preferable to another. Where there is plenty of room, a strong grower would be better than one of humbler aspirations, and one might look wonderfully well on a hill-top, that would look very indifferent, or out of place on a level piece of ground.
But, taking all things together, for "general purposes" I would place as:
It is a peculiarly useful tree, its character adapting it to highly artistic scenery, and, at the same time, to wild and rugged situations, in either of which it has a very grand effect. In places where it is not an object that the general effect should be of the first order in an artistic point of view, the Norway Spruce is very valuable. Nothing can excel it as a fast growing evergreen for a screen to shut off disagreeable views, or afford shelter from cold winds. It will also bear the shears tolerably well, and make a very fair ornamental hedge, though, in that respect, not equal to:
This, I believe, all landscape gardeners concede to be the handsomest of evergreen trees. The Hemlock looks well anywhere. It does not do well, however, in stiff, heavy soils. As a single object on a lawn, there is nothing to go ahead of it, unless, perhaps:
It is still a question with many arboriculturists, whether this ought to be considered a perfectly hardy tree. So far as my own experience goes, I should decidedly say that it is. The season of 1854-5 is an extreme case. That in some few and unfavorable locations it was killed, proves nothing against its general hardiness. My own specimens, entirely unprotected, and in soil which many would call wet, were quite uninjured, while, not a hundred yards from them, some Balm of Gileads, probably twenty years old, lost many of their smaller side branches; yet, who would pronounce the Balm of Gilead a tender tree? The Deodar is a very rapid grower, more so than the Hemlock, though not equalling the Norway. Its gray color gives an interest to it, which ornamental planters seek to take great advantage of, and thus, though thousands are annually imported, it still continues scarce.
There will, I am sure, be many who will be inclined to dispute the propriety of placing this fourth on my list. It is, however, a first-rate tree for small gardens, where soil is deep and rich. In poor soils, it becomes a poor, pitiful object, and it is when seen in such situations that it receives such a general condemnation. It seldom grows more than forty or fifty feet high in this latitude, and is a very useful tree to plant by straight walks in confined situations, with which it harmonizes extremely well.
Though this is one of the most beautiful of our stiff-growing, formal-looking evergreens, I am not quite satisfied in placing it before the next, for "general purposes." It is a tree to be looked at only. It will not associate well with other trees, nor do they make a good group of themselves together. As single specimens on lawns of some extent, and contiguous to large mansion-houses, or elegant buildings of any kind, it cannot be surpassed.
While Pine, is a very valuable tree, though, like the Balm of Gilead, it is liable to get a bad character when grown on poor or improper soils. It is a kind that loves manure. In a moist, rich loam, it grows very rapidly, and forms a beautiful object as it grows. When growing in partial shade, it soon becomes unsightly. It glories only in the light; where this can be commanded, and plenty of space afforded, plant the White Pine - under other circumstances, it is not so desirable.
A very rapid grower, and one that looks well in even poor soils. It has too coarse an appearance when in confined situations or small places, but where there is anything like room, it is in good keeping. It is being very extensively planted in country-seats.
Very valuable in poor, rocky, or sandy soils, where few other evergreens will look well; though it also will show its gratitude for a few barrowfuls of good leaf soil, thrown into the hole prepared for it.
Though not many years since introduced from the Himalayas, is becoming a general favorite. It resembles the white pine, but has longer leaves, and of a silvery whiteness, and is adapted to pretty much the same localities and conditions.
As a small tree for small gardens, this is very desirable; it will do better in poorer soil than the succeeding. It also makes very handsome, ornamental hedges.
Does well only when growing in a deep, rich loam. Then it makes a very handsome, small tree, having, for its only fault, a tendency to become brown in winter. In poor soils, it is a poor looking tree, indeed. When it gets to this condition, if the branches be pruned within a few inches of the trunk, and the soil around the roots dug up and manured, it makes a very handsome object, indeed. On the grounds of G. W. Carpenter, German-town, Penna., where the soil seems congenial to it, it forms some of the handsomest small trees that are to be seen within many miles.
The American Holly, which I am sorry to put last on my list for "general purposes;" I am, nevertheless, bound to say, is not inferior in beauty to any of the others. Indeed, I do not know of anything which, in its season, is more beautiful than an American Holly in prime health, and covered with its fine, scarlet berries. It thrives either in sun or shade, and especially in a moist, sandy loam. Though very hardy, it is much benefited by having its roots protected in winter. A few inches of long manure, or leaves, is all that is required. It makes a very beautiful evergreen hedge, and to raise seed for this purpose, they must be kept constantly moist from the time of sowing. If once allowed to get dry, the outer shell hardens, and they will often lie several years in the ground before growing, if the mice, which are very fond of them, leave them untouched for that period.
These twelve evergreens that I have recommended for general purposes, are amongst some of the commonest, I admit. Many of the rarer ones will doubtless compete favorably on more extended trials; but these have yet to be made; and it has therefore fallen to my lot to describe what is now rather than what will be.
[Mr. Meehan has experience, but we must differ from him in placing the Balm of Gilead so near the top of his list - if, indeed, it should be placed there at all. Under highly favorable circumstances, it has a period of great beauty; it is but brief, however, in this vicinity, and, after twenty years, it becomes a "shabby fellow," whose bad clothing a well-trained dog would bark at as belonging to a beggar. With this exception, the list is a good one; and we would substitute for the Balm, Cedar of Lebanon, or Pinus excelsa. - Ed].