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 year 1860 opens a new decade in the history of human progress and improvement; and, if we may judge from the results of its early dawnings, we come to the agreeable conclusion, that more advancement will be made in improving the rural aspect of the country in the ten years next before us, than has been the result of the past sixty of the nineteenth century. This may seem a bold calculation to some indifferent, faithless ones, but the careful observer, we are sure, will join with us in the prediction, and heartily .cooperate to accomplish its fulfilment.
"Thirty years ago," and how few thought of planting out shade or fruit-trees ! At that day there was a mania for "cutting down" orchards instead of improving them, and the folly of it has been fully realized in the scarcity of fruit that followed, in some districts at least. How far the trees that were sacrificed could have been improved and made more valuable is of little consequence now. Their legitimate owners looked upon them as so many cumberers of the ground, and, without giving a thought to the practicability of digging about and dunging their roots, scraping and cleaning their bodies, and grafting their tops with varieties of whose fruit the market can not be supplied for a long time to come, "behold, the axe was laid at their root," the air made desolate of fragrant blossoms, and successive autumns bereft of great lapfnls of beautiful and delicious fruits, bringing comfort and health to the consumers. Then, however, good fruits were not appreciated as they now are. In one particular instance we recollect bearing a farmer exult, that his Greenings, Spitzenburgs, and Seek-no-furthers, the popular apples of the day, had brought him twelve and a half cents a bushel, taken a mile to market In several instances since, the same varieties of fruit, from the same trees, have brought from fifty cents to a dollar a bushel in the orchard.
"Thirty years ago," a few "foolish fellows " had begun to plant shade trees by their dwellings and along the wayside. In the more refined villages, their streets were being lined with those beautiful appendages of health and comfort; but in the rural districts the person who ventured on the experiment was, by almost common consent, called a fool. "Why waste time and strength for setting out trees? They won't half of them live. If they do, they won't amount to anything in your day. Let posterity plant its own trees; I 'vc enough to do without that." How often have men and women, who used the above or similar language, and spent as much time in ridiculing the planter as he did in setting his trees, looked upon the beautiful, stately, and luxuriant growths of his creation with admiration, and wished, though it may for very shame have been a suppressed wish, that they had planted trees too. If they had done so, how many rough and wrinkled spots on the face of nature would now have been dimpled with beauty I What long and stately rows of trees would have marked the meandering courses of our thoroughfares; and how many a dwelling, now desolate of trees, exposed to the full glare of the sun, the merciless pel tings of the storm, and the rough blasts of angry winds, would have had a mitigating shield of beauty and verdure thrown around them 1 Then look at it through the great American magnifier, the "almighty dollar;" how many more sticks of timber, worth so much a foot, and how many more cords of wood, all handy to get, and worth just so much a cord, standing, would every farmer, every land-holder, have had now, in a marketable condition, growing upon his premises.
From every consideration that can be brought to bear on this subject, it is a matter of cheering encouragement that there has been so general a waking up in this matter. Though now and then a solitary Rip Van Winkle, or in some instances a whole community of them, may be found still asleep, with the rusty musket of the old ways by their side, such cases are rare. From the observations made in our limited travels this season, and the information that comes to us from abroad, we have come to the conclu- sion, (and we trust it is a safe one,) that more ornamental trees have been planted in the spring of 1860, than in any two years that ever preceded it. Small villages boast of the accession of two or three hundred trees, and in larger ones, not before provided, an increased number is shown.
Individual labor has ceased to have the monopoly of these improvements. Associations, under the names of "Farmer's Clubs' "Ornamental Tree Associations/' etc, are becoming " fixed institutions "all over the land; and it is to their united and concentrated effort the country is beginning to smile under the new order of things. May the number of these associations increase until it embraces the whole population of our country.
"Thirty years ago" the taste of tree-planters in general looked at only one variety, the maple, to satisfy their aspirations. A few had learned to appreciate the pride of our forests, the elm, and fewer still sought beauty in variety. But in canvassing the trees that were set out thirty years ago, we find the maples so far in the majority as hardly to give a position to other trees. Then, but few evergreens were planted out. "It was so difficult to make them live. They looked so gloomy, and the wind howled through them so, they were really melancholy." With many, the maple still maintains supreme ascendancy, and no one can deny that it is a beautiful tree, developing itself with much symmetry and gracefulness. And what tree of our American forests, planted in a favorable locality, will not develop the charming, eye-feasting, pleasure-inspiring qualities? We have planted many trees, have visited forests to see their denizens flourish in the soils where nature planted them, and where age had given them full maturity; and we have never yet met with a sylvan deformity, unless where inflicted by torture of man, and have never seen a species or variety that did not possess enough of the forms of beauty and charms of elegance, and of peculiarities strikingly its own, to warrant it a place in any niche where observation may lead her votaries, or refined and cultivated taste may seek a recess or a banquet in retirement, to feast upon the charms of the natural creation.
Where such untiring variety exists as we find in our forest trees, why do we confine ourselves to the few we have done in planting out our grounds or adorning the wayside? The maple is fine, and will give agreeable contrast to the larch or the ash, if planted by its side; the poplar, that comes into leaf early, should have a place by the chestnut or the oak, and so on, making changes and giving contrasts until every variety of tree has its proper position.
We have alluded to evergreens, and the funereal character that was Once attached to them by some - not all, however, by a pretty large number. It has been found that those sighs of the wintry wind that warble in their branches are only its death dirge, making melody to the power that breaks its violence, and tempers it to meet the circumstances of all living things it might otherwise molest In the desolations of winter, they stand beautiful memorials of the departed glory of summer days gone by, and give us assurance that spring shall again drape the earth with its mantle of verdure. No grounds can be protected from the inclemencies of climate without their protecting agency. No border of trees along the wayside can claim beauty or attraction, unless they are freely scattered through its ranks. In summer they will give beauty to variety, and in winter they will greet us with the ardor of friendships that survive the storm, and live unchilled by the frosts of time.