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.
A new Enemy! - A valued correspondent writes, on the 28th of June: " Do you know that, with consternation, this morning I discovered that my large Norway firs (seventeen years old) are curiously affected? They have only grown, in patches and spots, some of the terminal shoots, but the inner ones not started; the old foliage looks dirty and diseased, and, on examination, I find them more or less injured by red spider! My theory is, that what with cold winter, and a cold, rainy spring, and the great shade to the ground from the large masses of lower limbs laying on it, the ground and roots have not got warm enough, even yet, to start anything except the extreme tips, which are full of younger life and exuberance. In the mean time, this growth having stopped, what is to become of the rest? Will it grow out of season later, or hold over for another year!.
It is a little remarkable that no more attention is given, in our country, to the planting of evergreens. In England, where the winters are shorter and less severe, this work is pursued with great enthusiasm. Only six or eight species are indigenous there; yet zealous planters have traversed the globe in quest of new varieties, and have now acclimated in that little island upwards of seventy. Our own country has more native Conifers than any other, and our climate favors the introduction of many from foreign lands; yet these treasures are comparatively unappreciated by us; so that, what has been said, in general, of our indigenous trees and shrubs (that "one must travel to Europe to see the best collections of them"), is unquestionably true of our evergreens. Perhaps their very commonness has something to do with our indifference for them. Perhaps the national character has not yet outlived the wood-chopping era, and still looks upon forest-trees, and evergreens, in particular, as signs of primitive desolation and barbarism.
To some eyes, evergreens have a melancholy aspect, especially so in winter. The harping of the winds through their leaves is to them a sound of wailing. Their branches ermined with snow, are painful reminders of departed summer; the trees seem to have been caught and overpowered by winter, and to struggle pitifully against surrounding horrors and gloom, wholly unable to dissipate them. This feeling, of course, is very much a matter of taste, which reasoning can do little to change. But it may properly be questioned whether the prevailing sadness of the wintry season has not been transferred unconsciously, but ungenerously, to the trees themselves, which tend to give that season a look of cheerfulness. Alas! for us, if that which was designed to be a beautiful compensation for an admitted evil, is made a sad suggester of the evil itself! We also surmise that this prejudice has arisen chiefly from the sight of the sickly, one-sided specimens of Balsam Fir with which our front yards and our door-yards have so long and so exclusively been planted. One who has seen the rich variety of evergreens now being introduced into cultivated grounds, here and there, can hardly complain of their monotony.
The waving plumes of the lordly pines, the aspiring cones of the stately spruces, the dense, browsy masses of the symmetrical arbor-vitae, the feathery and pendulous branches of the ever-verdant hemlock, the neat, tapering shafts of the silvery juniper - surely, there is no lack of beauty and variety here.
It will be found true, we think, that those who have no liking for evergreens, are generally the young and frivolous. Deciduous trees are more to their taste, being expressive of lightness and gayety. Thoughtful men, and those of advanced years, prefer the soberer tints and the steadfast verdure of evergreens; yet the foliage of those trees is not so steadfast as to be unvarying. Who has not observed the air of freshness it assumes on the opening of spring? And then, in early summer, the new growth vies in beauty with the foliage of other trees; the pines and spruces sending out soft, yellow tufts - the one shooting upward, the other hanging down, and enlivened with the delicate pink cones of the tree; the firs, with bluish-gray tufts and ascending cones; and the hemlocks, fairest of all, " every finger-tip of their outspread palms thimbled with gold, and every tree looking as if all the sunsets that had ever been steeped into its top, were oozing out of it in drops." And besides, who has not observed the pleasing effect which evergreens give to the pale green leaves of deciduous trees in spring? also, the depth of tone which their peculiar forms, colors, and foliage, impart to groups of trees, even in midsummer - an effect which can be gained by no possible combination of deciduous trees; also, the fine background they furnish to flowering shrubs and plants; the richness they add to the kaleidoscope of autumn, and the heightened beauty they give to trees and shrubs which retain their scarlet and crimson berries throughout the winter?
In the view of the writer, one of the strongest arguments for a liberal planting of conifers about a country residence, is the cheerful air they lend to a home daring the spring and autumn. There is a month or six weeks in spring, after the snow has disappeared, before deciduous trees pot forth leaves. The grass is green upon the lawn; the early bulbs, and a few other plants, are in blossom; the birds are singing; bees are hamming; while yet, the trees are as naked as in winter. Introduce, now, a variety of evergreens on all sides of that lawn, and you give the place a summery look at once. So in the autumn. After deciduous trees have shed their leaves, there is often a period of six weeks or two months when a country place, otherwise desolate, needs only a good supply of evergreens to prolong the season of verdure. Plant the grounds liberally with such trees, keep the grass and walks in good order, and in the hazy light of a warm day in November, we could find perhaps as much enjoyment there as amid all the leafy pomp of summer. We could not, indeed, plant our grounds wholly, nor even chiefly, with evergreens.