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.
Thxrk are few things on which the owners of property look with moro respect than old trees. Like old friends, they cannot well be discarded without a just and urgent reason: and even then the act of condemnation is often attended by such misgivings, that it is not until the object has been fully attained for which the old tree was taken down, that regrets for its absence give place to a feeling of rejoicing at the beneficial change effected. This very justifiable attachment to old trees may, however, be carried to excess. Many important improvements are effectually checked by "a tree in the way," which it would be. almost treason to destroy; while, at the same time, should any uncontrollable agent, as a high wind or stroke of lightning, do the act of destruction, the greatest friend of the unfortunate tree will hardly express a regret that it is gone.
Now, there is something certainly wrong in this; and the veneration in which the tree is held is certainly much beyond its merits when it obstructs some particular view, shades some important border or building, or prevents the effectual accomplishment of some interesting alteration. Many windows are deprived of half their usefulness by large trees growing too close to them: and it is also a certain fact that many chimneys are made to smoke the rooms in a like case It would be wrong to condemn that feeling which venerates old or fine trees; but when such stand in the way of an acknowledged improvement, the proper question to ask is this, If the tree in question were not there, would yon wish to have it in that place?
If the answer be in the negative, then cut it down immediately, for it cannot be wanted. But it is not my purpose here to find fault with the propensity we mostly all have of clinging to something or other, but to complain of the practice of growing large fruit trees in kitchen gardens; as Apple, Pear, and Cherry-trees are often found high enough to require a thirty or forty-round ladder against them to gather the fruit These towering objects are much more hurtful in the kitchen garden than is generally allowed; as their roots, in the good cultivated mould of a kitchen garden, run a great distance, and the crops underneath are very indifferent in quality. As most gardens are more or less frequented by the family and their visitors, good useful crops are certainly much more interesting than poor ones, with an indifferent crop, perhaps, of Apples or Pears on the trees which overhang them. Besides which, it so seldom happens that there is a good crop on trees planted so very widely apart, that it is much better to have all such trees growing in one place, and only so near each other as to occupy the ground without crowding. The ground on which such trees are growing might either be in tillage or in grass.
If the former, some small crops, as Currants or Gooseberries, may be grown at distances of six feet apart; but the digging among these must be very shallow. There are hundreds of acres of orchards of this kind; and the same may, with equal advantage, be grown elsewhere. The object here advised is to relieve the kitchen garden of those high and over-shadowing trees which injure and disfigure so many plots of vegetable ground.
Now, in addition to the evil done by trees inside a garden, those outside it are often much too near it. High trees on the south side of a garden overshadow it very much in winter; and fruit trees against walls so deprived of the sun in winter never do well. Trees are also liable to send their roots long distances foraging; and the more robust kinds quickly devour the fat of the land. I have seen a root upwards of fifty feet long, and nearly as thick at one end as the other, where it had got into a line of good material, and speedily found its way to the furthest end of it. Trees on lawns will also search out flower-beds, and occupy their enriched contents, with astonishing rapidity, to the detriment of the proper tenants there: while peat or bog-earth, of prepared plant-borders, is especially liable to invasion. It is, therefore, advisable in all these cases to keep a watchful eye on the intruder; and when the offending tree cannot be taken away, cut back its roots within its own territory. Supposing it to have usurped a flower-bed in the lawn, merely cutting its roots at the sides of the bed and renovating the soil would only be to invite it to another feast, which, if in the growing season, it would swallow up in a very short time.
But cut back its roots by making a ditch about two feet or so from the edges of the bed, and fill that ditch with something distasteful to it. Chalk rammed in hard answers pretty well; or, if it must be earth, let it be of the poorest kind. Some run to the expense of a brick wall; but I do not advocate that, as it is not always an effectual barrier. I once knew an excellent garden wall, with Peach and other trees on the south side, and on the other side timber trees of various kinds were growing close up to it: and whether the latter smelled the better material their more delicate brethren had to grow in on the south side, or by the poverty of their own side felt themselves justified in the invasion, certain it is that in two years the whole of the twelve-feet-wide border on which the Peach and other trees were growing was filled with Ash, Elm, and Chestnut roots. It is needless to say the Peach-trees suffered sadly, the evil not being discovered until much mischief had been done. It is, therefore, advisable for all who have timber trees growing in the neighborhood of their cultivated grounds to look well to them, that they do not usurp more than their share of space.
It is also advisable for all who plant fruit trees in gardens to consider whether they are likely to become standards or not, and, if any danger of the latter, try and plant them somewhere else; for it not unfrequent-ly happens, that a small tree is put in under the plea that "it can do no harm," which, growing up into, perhaps, a fine one, is then too good to cut down; and damage to the crops and irregularity in appearance are the results.
In condemning large standard trees in gardens, I by no means find fault with the trellis-trained ones which form so important a feature in some gardens. On the contrary, where the roots of'a tree can be made to occupy the bottom of a walk, or other piece of ground not under cultivation, and its top likewise not being detrimental to anything near it, the tree then is not only excusable, but highly recommendable. Tunnel-shaped trellises have become fashionable of late; but where a largo quantity of fruit has to be grown with the least possible trouble, be assured that large, full-grown trees are the best to produce this. Training in fantastic forms may please the eye; but the larger fruits, as Apples, Pears, Plums, Cherries, and the like, bear the most plentiful crops when not too much cut. This, however, is foreign to the subject in hand, excepting so far as to give additional reasons for not having too many fruit trees (trained or otherwise) in the kitchen garden; and be sure to keep the more voracious timber trees at a safe distance.
Shelter from cold winds is doubtless often urged as a reason for having them so near; and when the belt in the rear of these is narrow and thin it is not prudent to cut much away without due consideration: but where there is plenty to work upon let the axe and mattock be freely used, and it will be found that trees at fifty yards' distance from a wall shelter it nearly as much as when only at fifteen yards, while their shade is less hurtful. The same may be said of buildings and other towering objects. - J. Robson, in Cottage Gardener.