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.
IMPORTANT to the landscape, for shelter, and for winter and summer beauty, as evergreen trees and shrubs are, we never lose an opportunity of speaking a good word in their behalf, though we run the risk of repeating what has been said before. Their cultivation, in England, is a perfect passion, carried sometimes to a degree that appears almost unpardonable in a country where the land would seem to be required for food. The English climate is, undoubtedly, much better adapted for a prine-tum, or collection of pines, than our own. Dropmore, not many miles from Windsor Castle, presents as fine examples of Evergreens as it is well possible to conceive. Its proprietor, Lord Grenville, had a love for the subject, and procured the newer evergreens as soon as they were imported; his trees (and those at Elvaston Castle) present as large specimens of the new kinds as are to be found in cultivation ; happily, his widow takes pride and pleasure in keeping them in condition. Most of them have space to develop their beauty, and a system of feeding the trees was early employed, that has been attended with most happy results. The operation is a very simple one, and may be practised by every body.
Trenches are dug in radii that approach the body of the tree ; beginning at a distance of forty or more feet from the body of a large specimen, a gutter, twelve to twenty-four inches in depth, is excavated, and the soil carted away; when the young rootlets at the extremities of the roots are reached, they are gently raised and imbedded in a composition of decayed leaves and virgin mould, that has been thoroughly prepared and mixed; or, if any particular description of food is known to be better adapted to a given kind of tree, it is of course employed. In these numerous radiated trenches the trees find their nourishment, and acquire a vigor and beauty that is a perfect regale to the eye.
Carrying out the idea at home, the following experiment was tried on a Norway fir, which is still the graduated thermometer to tell of the advantages of feeding roots. It had the appearance of being quite healthy, but had been planted two years before in a clay soil, in a hole about three feet wide. We had trenches dug to its rootlets, beginning at a distance of seven feet and a half only from the tree. The rootlets were found making a vain effort to penetrate the clay which they reached the previous autumn. Additional nourishment gave continued impetus to the plant, which grew far beyond its contemporary neighbors, rarely increasing)
Spruce, unquestionably our most valuable conifers, the White Pine, and numerous others that have been tried, and which, on reference to the former pages of this work, will be found to have proved hardy as far north as Northern New York and Canada, would soon make up a list of sufficient variety to give the character of a pinetum, where the winter winds wonld only penetrate to utter those harp-like sounds that are so musical to the attuned ear. Shelter and beauty can thus be combined in any climate of our Union; at the South, by a greater variety; at the North and West, by greater numbers of the same kinds. But do not let us hear, as we did the other day, that "the planting of evergreens is a humbug," because one or two specimens that much was expected from had partially failed; they were planted in a most exposed situation, and, probably, without proper care; to have a good collection of evergreens, you must give attention to the wants of the plant in many ways; two of these are, shelter while they are young, suitable soil, and plenty of it.
It is a question not often mooted, whether evergreens do or do not require the same cutting back as deciduous trees, when removed. Our own experience indicates that a slight trimming is useful. The mode of operation on the Norway fir, for instance, is this: Gut back the limbs of last year's growth, using the dissolved shell-lac on cuts, and leaving the leader untouched. The effect is the same as that on deciduous trees, with this additional advantage: the plant throws out at least two - probably more - leading limbs, and the result is that of thickening the growth, and improving the appearance. For the sake of experiment, we carried this system to as great an extent, with a single specimen, as possible; ere many years elapsed, the limbs became so heavy with numerous branches, that they broke with their own weight. Others, cut back once in every three years, have attained rare beauty and a close habit.
One of the peculiarities attending a place newly planted, we have never seen noticed by any writer. A tree recently set out always looks as if it were not at home; it is not in keeping with its new position, or, rather, it has not yet appropriated the position to itself; hence, for the first few years of a new place, the planting has an unnatural look that is often the source of disappointment. In time, however, the trees put on a life-like garb, that appropriates the space as their own, and they seem to fit into their niches so naturally, that they are scarcely noticed by the careless observer; they are now at home, and part and parcel of the scenery. If the ground has been thoroughly trenched, you need not wait many years for good results.
The first year or two of the suburban residence, where all the trees are new, are thus not without their discouragements, and hence it is a good plan to procure a few specimens of greater size, even though they are not of the most valuable kinds, and to displace them one by one as better grow up. A few varieties bear removal with more success than others; the Horsechestnut is patient even under ill-treatment; the Silver Maple may be taken up without material injury; the Willow, if planted in made ground, or ground that is loose and moist, will rapidly attain importance. Evergreens should be at once set out, as a year's delay is a year lost; the Austrian Pine, and the Pinaster, are among the most rapid growers, while the Cembran pine is extremely slow. Such information is obtainable from books, and no young planter should neglect their study.
It is a favorite plan with us, to intermingle the utile with the dulce in planting a new place. We can see no reason why many of our shade trees should be neglected because they also produce fruit. There is scarcely a more ornamental tree than the Spanish chestnut, and it yields a very profitable crop of excellent nuts; why not plant this instead of the commonest maples? A few fine cherry-trees of the most select kinds, scire the purposes of shade nearly as well as the most fashionable foreign deciduous trees, and they are an annual source of gratification, not only to the old and young, but they bring round the house the favorite robbin, and other singing birds. Reflect, while the latter enjoy themselves, that you planted the cherry to share its fruits with your friends. The Shell-bark hickory is one of the most beautiful American trees we possess; procure the true kind, and give a little space to what will long delight your successors. The Walnut is an extremely productive tree, and its timber is worth more than most others. The English walnut, or Madeira-nut, is also ornamental and useful.
The Peach, the Apricot, and the Crab-Apple, interspersed in your grounds in suitable situations, are as picturesque as shrubbery, and, like the Filbert, yield valuable products; another argument for the use of these, is to be found in the fact, that when they are placed within Bight of the mansion, they are more under the eye of the resident, and, consequently are less liable to depredations.
No country in the world is expending, on new rural improvements, more money than our own; it is of great importance that it should be laid out judiciously. Whatever may be the natural taste of the beginner who is capable of enjoying the happy efforts of others, he should be impressed with the fact, that many tasteful persons fail when they employ their energies in a new field of operations, precisely as they might do if they attempted a musical instrument without a master; they should consult some one whose business it is to lay out their grounds, whose experience has been exhibited by some example, and who can give correct information in such important points as what trees attain a great or a rapid height, and which must be waited for in patience. Accomplished individuals, in this department, are extremely rare; landscape gardening is a fine art, and, in all the fine arts, great masters are the exceptions.
One of the worst errors committed by citizens, when removing to "the country," is their congregating too near together in villages where the land is dear, the "lots" small and shallow, and where, as a taste for rural art increases, there is no space to expand. The citizen, accustomed to his small plot of 20 by 100 feet in town, conceives that 100 by 200 is a magnificent allowance. Many purchase even much less, and their country experiences end in disappointment; whereas, if they had gone but a little further from village streets, they would have possessed, at the same cost, ground for a good orchard and a cow pasture. Our own neighborhood is an example of this. Germantown has been cut up, by interested speculators, into very small inclosures, where a few evergreens soon bid defiance to variety of shade and scenery; while the more thoughtful purchaser in the outskirts, has all that can make his residence desirable, but has, also, a building-lot or two to spare to a friend, at the cost of his whole original expenditure.* These remarks will apply to thousands who have left our great cities for purer air, and who have great reason to regret their want of foresight; the hint will not be lost, we trust, on future improvers.
On the other hand, do not undertake too much. Country, or even suburban life, is not less expensive than that of the city; to keep a set of assistants whom you must always overlook, and perhaps two sets, one to go to town, is onerous and costly. It is more difficult to be "content with simplicity," and those habits which do not engender expense, than most people imagine; and "living in the country," be assured, does not necessarily decrease the difficulty. The really happy country people are those who have graduated, as all sensible people should do, their expenses within their income; who have a fondness for country pursuits, a garden, fruit, shrubbery, and who can find congenial employment when alone.