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.
ON my first visit to the prairies, in 1841, this was adopted as a golden text in material things for residents : Screens from bleak winds, the great need of The Prairies.
A residence here since then has served to increase my faith in this gospel, and, according to my ability, has manifested itself in works. First planting was ten acres black locust, which, for many years gave promise of being very valuable, though the rapid growth at first is soon checked by its profuse crops of seed, and but few varieties of the scores tested do not attain as large size in twenty years. Some ten years since the locust borer appeared in gerat numbers, and all trees of that variety not cut down were killed outright or rendered worthless. By cutting last of winter, when first attacked by borers, they are valuable for stakes or posts, superior for fuel, and sprout again freely from the root; in my opinion, where land is well stocked with them, they pay, as they grow four or five years vigorously before the borers injure them. I would not advise planting locust, even if Dr. J. A. Warder has recently sold the timber at Cincinnati for Nicholson pavement at $1,000 per acre.
White willow, set a cutting in 1845, on bank of a sod fence, never received any cultivation, is now over three feet in diameter; when seasoned and kept up from the ground, is durable for fencing; for posts or stakes in the ground, is fully up to second rate. Fences are now being made of it, using stakes five and a half feet long, two to three inches in diameter. These are pointed, set early in spring, with crowbar and maul, in well prepared ground, or heavily mulched, a foot apart, from centre to centre, eighteen inches in the ground. Six inches from the top an inch strip, three inches wide, is secured with tenpenny nails annealed and clinched. If wanted for immediate use, a few Osage orange bush hanging on the stakes ward off cattle and horses. Silver leaved, Balm of Gilead and Lombardy Poplar are nearly worthless as timber trees. Silver-leaved maple is attacked by borers to such an extent as to discourage experienced planters here from extending its culture. Sugar maple grows very slowly, and suffers to some extent from borers.
Cottonwood is planted in many localities for ease of propagation by cuttings and its rapid growth ; lumber is used for inside finishing of houses, where no better can be had, and, as fuel for steam, it is valuable. Red elm is a good grower, valuable durable timber. Black walnut, butternut, burr and white oak, red and white ash, hickory and chestnut, in clay soils here, are desirable. The tulip tree and magnolia acuminata are among our finest deciduous ornamental trees, and succeed finely.
All hardy evergreens and larches make themselves perfectly at home, as we ought to have known in advance of a trial, for on much of our region of country a large part of the primitive vegetation was the Indian's compass, and other plants having resinous sap. White pine has here made a growth of over four and a half feet, and European larch averaged, for a dozen years, three and a half feet annually, though standing most of the time with tough sod of blue grass over its roots.
The number of our people who are realizing the imperative duty of beginning forest culture in earnest is increasing, as evinced at the recent meetings of State and Northern Illinois Horticultural Societies, where this important interest was the leading topic for discussion. A bill is now before our Legislature to grant State aid to this branch of industry, and among thinking men the question now is, how to best accomplish the work.
A plan, meeting with general approval by those who have had most experience, is to set the white or Scotch pine twelve feet apart; European larch, for balance of plantation, rows three feet each way or three by four feet; cultivate both ways with horse, two or three years. Long experience in Europe has demonstrated the necessity of close planting to induce rapid, upright growth, and to effect pruning by nature's own method - shading.
Lumber from a single black walnut tree was recently sold in this county for $100, and a neighbor refused $60 for a standing oak. What prices may be estimated for those now being planted, when matured, with the lumber famine which seems certain to overtake us ere the world realizes fully our duty to live, not to ourselves only, but to honor God and bless humanity ?
The Evergreens, La Motile, Ill.