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.
We took occasion so often, while our universally lamented friend Downing was at the head of the Horticulturist, to discourse on evergreens and their culture - their value in giving warmth and shelter to tillage land, their use in adding an air of comfort and elegance to the wintry landscape, and the peculiar beauty of our native trees, - that, to some of our readers, we may have grown wearisome, and seem already to have exhausted the subject So peculiarly beautiful, however, and at the same time so little known is the tree whose name makes part of the heading of this article, that, at the risk of being regarded as tedious, we can not but feel it a duty to urge a few words in its praise, for the sake of calling the attention of planters to its particular characteristics - its beauty and its value.
But few of the denizens of our brick-and-mortar cities, and our busy, crowded towns, are aware of the wealth of beauty that our native American forests, and the very woods about them, contain, to adorn the lawns, the shrubbery, and the hedges of our home landscape, - the rich and luxuriant vines and plants and shrubs and trees, with their various foliage and blossom, and especially the variety, grace, and elegance, of our own native evergreens. When a boy, with what a thrill of delight did we hail the sight of the princely blooming Rhododendron, as, through vistas of mossy Cedars, the oriental magnificence of its perfumed blossoms burst upon our vision, as we fearlessly trusted ourselves to the quaking bog of the solitary swamps* where they unfolded their regal glories. With what eager enthusiasm, down in the deep, dark dells, or on the airy mountain steeps, did we follow, on and on, gathering, with a never satiated passion for beauty, the superb native boquets of Mountain Laurel, - now seeming like masses of drifted snow hidden away in the cool woods, as they paled in the deeper shadows - now blushing in the broad light of day into richer loveliness - or growing rosy and scarlet, as, higher up, they became flushed with the more exhilarating air and brighter radiance of the mountain cliffs.
Search the world over, and where will you find more magnificent and splendid evergreen shrubs than these brilliantly blooming Kalmias and Rhododendrons of our chill and homely New England forests? And what sight more rich and enchanting, than a mass of these charming flowering shrubs half-concealed, half-revealed, beneath the groups of trees that shade our dwellings, or resting their glossy leaves and queenly flowers on the green and shadiest portions of our lawns! Dear to us, too, is the bright Prinos glaber, or Ink-berry bush, humble though it be and unknown to fame, with its crown of dark, shining foliage, whose depth of rich brilliant green the severest frosts of winter never deaden, and the polished gloss of whose varnish neither the roughest storms nor the most freezing wintry winds can tarnish: but, in sunshine and in storm, in winter's cold as in summer's heat, there it is, always so bright, so deeply, radiently green, reflecting the light and glory of the heavens; and, when these are shrouded, seeming like a living smile beaming up out of the earth. No foreign, costly Box tree, with all its wide renown, can compare with this simple, rustic beauty, of our plain old colony lands.
Then edge your groups and borders, and mingle your shrubbery with this humble native New England evergreen. There, too, is the feathery Hemlock; and the dark, dense fringe of the Black Spruce, that, in cultivated grounds, equals if not excels in beauty of foliage its more distinguished and aristocratic Norwegian brother; and the Yellow Spruce, with its bright sunshiny hue, making the darkest day look gladsome, that in rich deep soils is often mistaken for the Norway. The Fir, too, despite its formal stiffness, as it sends its stately spires up among the ancient Elms and Ash trees that surround the antique parsonage, or that embower the hospitable mansion of the good old country gentleman, telling of the culture and refinement of other days, and the wealth and worth of the good old times that have gone, is never to be wholly spurned. And, oh! the glory and the grandeur of the giant White Pines, with their great mossy trunks, rising up from the brown-carpeted and solemn aisles, like pillars in a mighty cathedral - the pillars of God's first temple - with their leaves like a myriad harp-strings tuned to worship, or prophesying, in the harmonious murmurs of their unending song, of their future home amid the ceaseless roaring of the waves, whose crests they shall nod over as tall spiry masts, or breast as stout timbers of some gallant vessel, in years to come.
Oh, plant a grove of Pines, good friend, on yonder bare and desolate-looking ridge, or over that barren, sandy hill-side, for your children and your children's children to rejoice and glory in. Were we the king of this fair land, it would be one of the earliest proclamations of our benevolence, that evergreens should be planted, among other shade trees, on all the roads and avenues of the kingdom, on the northern exposures of the dwellings of the people, and on all the breezy summits of the hills, to give defence and shelter, warmth and beauty to the landscape.
* Bigklow and others are mistaken in supposing them to be found in only one swamp, near Boston; we have.
But we are forgetting our friend the Holly tree, in our thought for the rest of the evergreen brotherhood. Of all our beautiful native evergreens, there is none more peculiar and striking in its beauty than the Hex opaca; and I am charmed now, as I gaze out through the frosty air of the bitter winter day, on the rich, dark, glossy green of its broad and quaintly-cut spinose foliage among the shrubbery. Late in the autumn, in our rambles in the interminable woods of the "Old Colony," - for though the first settled portion of the country, it is now the most of a wilderness of any, with miles on miles of uninhabited forest, where still the light-footed deer has his covert, - in an open pasture ground we came suddenly upon several splendid specimens of the American Holly, each standing isolated, and glowing in the late autumnal sunshine; and, truly, no sight of the kind was ever more charming to the eye of a lover of beautiful nature. Though not more than six or seven feet high, and extremely thick-set, they were perfect in shape, and loaded with their coral fruit; and the contrast of the deep glossy foliage with the brilliant scarlet berries with which the branches were so thickly studded, presented a coup d'oeil that excited our most enthusiastic admiration.