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.
Right opposite the window by which I am writing, are four trees, two of the elm, and two of the red oak, averaging twenty-five inches in circumference, and thirty feet in height, which have taken their present position within the last fortnight. They really, even in winter, relieve the rawness of a new place so much as to surprise the initiated.
Your advice to your New-Haven correspondent, to expend his first labor in moving a few large trees, rather than in shrubbery and walks, would be followed by any man who has once seen the experiment tried. Moving large trees is like buying stocks with the dividends on; you get your return forthwith.
You and your Philadelphia correspondent estimate the expense of transplanting a tree of much larger size than mine, at five dollars. My trees were moved an average distance of about half a miie, and reckoning the labor of a man at one dollar per day, and that of a yoke of oxen the same, they were dug up, moved, and completely planted, for three dollar* each. As my method of moving them seems comparatively cheap, I will give it to you in a few words.
Selecting a tree near the highway, we removed the snow and found the ground very little frozen. We then dug a trench entirely round the tree, two feet deep, and under it, so as to leave a ball of unbroken earth, from six to eight feet across the top, and rounded on the bottom to the shape of the inside of a common washbowl, and then tuft it, still upright, about three days, until the bait was frozen. We then attached a rope to the tree, about fifteen feet from the ground, having first wound it with matting, to prevent galling. Four men, with double blocks and pulleys, were sufficient to bring its top to the ground, when a common ox-sled, covered with strong plank, was backed under, and chained so as not to slip. Then shifting our ropes, we pulled the tree upright upon the sled, at the same time slipping it by means of chains, round the mass of earth, with the oxen, into the required position.
Eight oxen were used to start the sled with the tree, out of the hole, and when fairly on the road each tree made a comfortable load for two yoke, being, as the teamsters expressed it, about as much ft/I as a cord of green hickory. We unloaded by supporting the top by means of the pullies, and slipping the bottom upon sticks of limber, directly from the sled into the hole previously prepared, at one pull with the oxen. Having carefully filled the space about the ball with the soil, protected by a covering of straw from freezing, and placed three strong props against the tree, to maintain its uprightness through the next season, I pronounce the work done, postponing the matter of pruning until spring. Our soil is a sandy loam, free from stones, and our teamsters and their oxen understand their business thoroughly, or we could not so readily perform our opcraI should not have thought it worth while to trouble you with a repetition of a process so familiar with many of your readers, but half the world who do read, seem to have an idea, that those modern improvements are confined entirely to ink and paper, and arc as much surprised to see them really practiced, as though they never had heard of them.
A friend of mine came in his sleigh to see my trees in their triumphal entry into the village, and after satisfying himself with seeing, inquired in a somewhat confidential tone, "Now do yon really expect these trees are going to live!" And, by the way, how very common, and how very pernicious is the idea, that if you can make a tree live, the whole object is attained. When will it be understood that even for a tree; that to be entitled to any respect, the tree, as well as the planter, must occupy some position, either useful or ornamental. It must not only live, but grow and flourish, and look cheerful, and happy, and contented, in its new situation, and not as if it had experienced some recent bereavement, and were looking back with regret to its former estate, and half changed, like Lot's wife, into a pillar of salt, or something else as unlovely.
"It is not all of life to life."
It is a very small part of the art of transplanting to make a tree live. I set some oak fence posts last spring, and they livid, and threw out shoots half a foot long,
A tree may live, though set so deeply that it will scarcely grow an inch for years. It may live, if its roots be badly mutilated, and the top left entire and unsupported; but if he who planted it lives also, long enough to watch the progress, he will see, perhaps, about half the limbs die the first year, and the tree looking decidedly doom street! The second and third year be will see a few half fledged branches, and possibly some new shoots from the trunk, and by the next year he will conclude to cut the top off, as should have been done at first, or get discouraged and leave landscape gardening to those who have better luck. A tree, tall and slender, taken from the thick forest may live, but it will expend its energies for years, in streghtening its trunk and roots, before its top will expand; for nature spreads no more sail to the breeze than she can safely carry. I do expect forest trees, properly selected, properly transplanted, and properly protected, not only to live, but to be immediately ornamental.
In December, 1848,I moved three elms, of about the same size as those above named, in a similar manner, and they have prospered finely. Last winter I moved a rock maple of about five inches diameter, which, without the loss of a single twig, went through the summer apparently without the least suspicion of having been disturbed during its winter sleep. That tree, however, had been something of a traveller in its youth. It was pulled up in the forest and planted in the garden by a sister, who gave it to me on her leaving the homestead, about fifteen years ago. In 1844,I brought it seventeen miles, and placed it by my house, where it grew six seasons, when I removed it with my other household gods, to my present residence. I saw in the summer of 1849, at Lexington, Mass., an elm a foot and a half in diameter, moved the previous winter, which succeeded admirably. On the whole, I am convinced that there is no method so sure and satisfactory, of moving large trees at the north, as with frozen balls of earth in winter.
"A Constant Reader," in your January number, who speaks of recently moving elms, maples, and white pines, says he shortened them in all over the tips of the branches. I very much doubt the expediency of thus treating the pine. Having at least .five hundred now growing, which I have transplanted within three years, I have carefully observed the habits of the tree. Each branch has a leading shoot, surrounded at its base by about five other shoots. If the terminal bud or buds, (for there are in winter about half a dozen together,) of the leading shoot be removed, the whole shoot, I think, always perishes to its base. The surrounding shoots, it is true, will soon go into an election of a leader, and the successful candidate will finally bend-in, and take what the Irishman called the middle extreme, and the tree will go on and grow; but so far as I have observed, always with more or less deformity at the point of the mutilation.
My first experiment in setting white pines, was in June, after the trees had made most of their growth for the year. They lived, but the new wood all died, which had much the same effect as shortening-in. They were set in 1844, and still exhibit the ill effects of their trimming, having an ungraceful crook at every point where the terminal shoot was destroyed. I should prefer upon evergreen trees, to cut away whole branches, if necessary, although by removing trees of only five or six feet height, I have found it very easy to take earth enough with them to preserve the top entire.
Since my first experiment, I have moved the pine in early spring. I have found no tree so easy to manage successfully, as the pine, both white and yellow; and having originally planted them for mutual protection, much closer than they can properly grow, I have since moved them from place to place, in spring, with almost as much facility as a lady rearranges her parlor furniture.
I intended to say something, in this letter, on the subject of pruning fruit trees, but have already exceeded all reasonable bounds, and will not venture upon a new subject.
With much respect, Henry F. French.
Exeter, N. H., Jan. 14,1851.
[A most excellent article, which we commend to all owners of sites where the "genius of the bare and the bald," hold sway. Ed.]