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.
It has been suggested that in the efforts that have been made to ornament the more costly country seats of the United States, the landscape gardener has lost sight of the largest class of planters; that a thousand country gardeners cannot afford costly evergreens or rare foreign plants, and in fact could not get them if they wished to do so. Again, it is urged with a show of truth, that very many occupy so contracted a space of ground that to get the full advantage from it, their trees most yield something more than ornament. Can we, then, plant our rural homes with useful and at the same time ornamental trees 7 Shall we compromise a little, and not have it for a principle that nobody of taste shall admit a productive tree on his lawn?
The severe rules of the true artist, may, we think, allow of such use in very numerous cases, and we like the suggestions of a valued correspondent, Col. D. S. Dewey, whose communication we insert below. At the moment of writing, the following trees come to memory, and we may add that the enjoyments of a rustic home may be greatly enhanced by considering the utile with the dulce in this matter.
In a lawn not many miles from the city of New York, where we are sure there has been as much enjoyment and as much true happiness as in the most lordly mansion of this earth, there stand two Siberian Crab Apple-trees, one in front of the parlor, and one before the dining-room window. The first sight of these trees in spring, clothed all over, as they universally are, with fragrant blossoms and the promise of useful fruit, may give as much gratification, and does so, as the lordly owner of a forty-acre lawn receives from his Magnolia conspicua, which though a handsome tree in all its stages, yields nothing for sustenance. The flowering is followed almost always by a most bountiful crop of beautiful fruit - coral in color, and affording a useful conserve. The lady who presides over the homestead, supplies her own closets with abundance of winter sweets, and sends to her neighbors and tenants bushels of the beautiful fruit. All may not be fond of this preserve, but many are so, and if the fruit were to be thrown to the swine, its beauty during months of growth is sufficient to recommend it. We are sure these trees are more valuable than many an evergreen struggling through its winter difficulties.
No disparagement, however, to ornamental trees, exclusively so-called, is designed; they will maintain their position.
We have in the present number made a few hasty observations on avenues, a subject deserving attention. The Hickory-nut is there suggested. As an ornamental and productive tree, what could be better? Its shape, foliage, and curious bark, its stately American character, and its produce, surely recommend it. Slowness of growth should be no obstacle, for if oar ancestors had never planted, where would have been their posterity?
Some of our friends have adopted the only tropical-looking fruit we possess; the Papaw, Anona triloba, is one of the most beautiful small trees we have in the Middle States. Its flower, quite unique and beautiful, is succeeded by a fruit of rare merit more resembling the coveted Banana, perhaps, than any other. At Bartram's garden, near Philadelphia, bushels are produced. The leaf is singularly handsome, and the stem of the tree has few rivals for beauty.
The native Walnut, and the Chestnut, must not be forgotten. Who that has gathered their fruits in youth but delights to reproduce the pleasures of childhood, and go to work at "pulling " and "opening " with renewed gusto!
The farm, where most of our own tastes were fostered, was situated within the moderate distance of seventeen miles from Philadelphia. It had been the residence of a colonial governor, whose house still stands, with its gable end bearing the marks, in colored bricks, 1695. The governor took such fruit-trees as he could then procure, and began with a double avenue, near the house, of native Walnut-trees, which in our time annually-supplied wagon loads of fine nuts, and also afforded shade and play-ground to successive generations of happy children, who doubtless thanked the planter.
But the great feature was a continuation of this avenue for quite half a mile planted with a double row of Black Heart and Honey cherries, that attained a great age and commensurate size. For an entire century these celebrated cherry-trees were the resort of a large neighborhood, and were the source also of a stolen supply to the Philadelphia markets. It is true that the hucksters, no less than some otherwise good neighbors, considered them too much in the light of public property, and often "made a day of it" under their huge shadows, or in their forked branches, not unfrequently turning their horses into the adjoining clover-fields - a trespass winked at by the liberal proprietor, whose delight was to see others enjoy themselves, and make a penny from the enormous superfluity. One after another of the double row of trees fell a victim to great age, and not one is now among the living. The farm is no longer distin-guished for anything. Walnuts, and dried cherries cured so carefully in milk-pans set out in the sun, no longer cheer the winter evenings, for no more fruit-bearing trees have been planted on old "Green Hill".
Now, it may be annoying to have one's clover-field taxed for other peoples horses, but with modern habits there is no difficulty, where there is abundance, in disposing of the right to pick certain trees, and we know of an instance where from two to four hundred dollars is the annual income of a gentleman, from his cherry-trees alone, that were planted by his father. Is this nothing? Is an avenue of cherry-trees that will pay for an education for two or more children, unworthy of our regard? Think of it - planters of high and low degree.
In Cuba, where the coffee plantations require shade, a great feature is the avenues of fruit-bearing trees, and no part of the beautiful island is more attractive than these long stretching arms of cocoa-nuts, oranges, lemons, grape-fruit, shaddocks, or nut-trees.
But to our correspondent, to whose ideas we give a welcome, and shall bo glad of suggestions from others:
"And now, with regard to that temporary hobby of mine, viz.: fruit trees for shade and for decoration. It is a matter which, I think, should be in the hands of amateurs only, for the present. The subject needs no argument; - it is certainly one of growing importance; - and many a tree-planter would, doubtless be thankful for such information as would enable him to combine utility with beauty in the adornment of his homestead. "Those aristocratical beauties called'ornamental trees and shrubs' are well enough, - in fact, are indispensable, - in their way; but there are thousands of places, and thousands of circumstances where well-ordered fruit-bearing. trees might with propriety usurp their places, without a sacrifice of taste.
* Where we had a favorite seat thirty feet up a Shellbark tree that bore bountifully of nuts; and was also enshrouded to the very top with a productive grape-vine.
"The Black Tartarian cherry, the Belle de Choisy, and the Coe's Transparent, are all handsome-growing; each in its own way of natural habit. The Early Strawberry apple, the Northern Spy, and the Bed Astrachan, always grow in good shape, so far as I have observed; and the same may be said of the Tyson, the Onondaga, and the Pinneo pear, (as standards); and the Duchess, and one or two others, as dwarfs, - (when and where dwarfs can be made to flourish).
"If amateurs will respond to suggestions on this topic, I think that by the time of spring-planting, a respectable list of ornamental fruit trees might be made, which, with further observation with particular reference to this point, may eventually be so extended as to form a distinct class in our nurserymen's catalogues.
"Fortunately, many of our best kinds of fruit-trees, - including the nut-bearing varieties, - are among the handsomest in form, foliage, flower, and fruit. Yours, etc., D. S. D".