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 observations of the Editor of the Horticulturist and of his correspondent in the August number, deserve the consideration of every resident of the country. It is there remarked that some persons consider fruit trees are inadmissible in pleasure grounds, and that the severe rules of Landscape Gardening will not allow any such compromise as a useful fruit-bearing tree on a lawn. I am not aware of any such rule, and it would be extremely difficult to define a set of rules that would be universally applicable in matters of taste 5 there must, however, be a point where the lawn terminates and the orchard begins, and that point will inmost instances be determined by local circumstances, and need not interfere with any laws of landscape gardening or necessarily infringe upon good taste.
The scenic effects of trees, of whatever kinds, depend very greatly upon their grouping and arrangement. Nothing would present a more commonplace or monotonous appearance than an acre or two of ground planted with sugar maples, horse-chestnuts, or any of the finest ornamental trees, at regular distances of 30 or 40 feet apart. We are so accustomed to this arrangement with pear, apple, plum, cherry and other fruit trees, that our ideas of them are much more associated with the arrangement, than with individual beauty, either of form or foliage. Many of our most productive and valuable fruit trees possess great symmetry and regularity of growth, while all may be formed into effective groups if planted with that object in view. One of the most interesting features that I have seen was a group of pear trees on the lawn of Matthew Howland, Esq., New Bedford, Mass. These trees had been "heeled in" while the grounds were in course of improving, and having taken root and grown finely were allowed to remain.
They were all planted within a few feet of each other, and the irregular growth of the branches in consequence of their proximity, bending with fruitfulness and health, the whole closely surrounded with the smooth green lawn, formed one of the most pleasing illustrations of the useful combined with the ornamental, that could be wished.
Utility as an element of beauty, has not received that attention which it claims. I am convinced that it influences, to a very great extent, those faculties of the mind which enable us to establish a mental standard of beauty, and that frequently without our recognizing at the moment, the! causes that influence our decision. I do not here use the term utility in the limited sense that would merely imply the gratification of those wants necessary to our existence, but in its wider application of enabling us to discover beauties through educated intellect, rather than through the mere organic sense of vision.
It is not to be understood that I would recommend the planting of fruit trees for ornament in preference to others, but only endeavor to show that they need not necessarily be excluded; and that a single specimen-tree on a lawn, appropriately situated, such as a Vicar of Winkfield, or a Glout-Morceau, or a Seckle pear tree would certainly be as beautiful an object, considered merely as a tree, as many of those so-called lawn trees. And even those that are not individually sufficiently meritorious for conspicuous positions, may be arranged into effective masses; any person may collect a variety of paints, but only an artist can with them "lay the landscape on the snowy sheet." He may, even out of apparently simple and rough materials produce a "thing of beauty." So the landscape gardener may form a pleasing and varied composition with objects that may not possess much individual beauty, but which judiciously combined, are capable of developing impressive and characteristic scenery.
Any tree or plant therefore, that can be appropriately introduced into the landscape need not be excluded; and if we can arrange fruit trees so as to develope pleasing outlines of composition there is no apparent reason why it may not be done. On the contrary, there are occasions where such an arrangement may be introduced with the greatest propriety, and instead of conflicting with good taste, harmonize perfectly with surrounding improvements. Suppose the case of a farmer who wished to surround his dwelling with 10 or 12 acres of lawn thus profitably planted. Shelter would first be secured by planting evergreens on the most exposed sides; immediately around the house and for some distance beyond, the planting may be of a purely ornamental character; receding from these, introduce isolated specimens of the finer-growing cherry trees, following with a well defined group of the same, connecting in its general curvature, with the planting nearer the dwelling. A bold projecting group of pear trees may in a similar manner be introduced, and joined to the cherry plantation by select specimens of each. Apple and other fruit trees may be similarly connected and located; the crab apples will form single specimen trees of much beauty.
These groups must be carefully arranged so that a pleasing sky outline will be secured. Fortunately, both apple and pear trees are so diversified in their growth, that forms may be selected as varied in character as the Lombardy poplar and the weeping willow. As the lawn extends, the groups may become more detached, and more definite in general form, by planting masses of one kind of tree, with well defined and ample sized glades of unobstructed lawn between.
The great secret of producing effect principally consists in properly defining the outlines of groups by placing low growths in front, that the lower branches may meet the ground and present an upward sloping bank of foliage. Dwarf trees of the respective kinds of fruits may be used, although any tree may be kept dwarf by due attention to heading down, and if dwarf trees are used they should be of kinds that will present a healthy appearance, if not a luxuriant growth. Any attempt to dispose of the plants in these groups at regular distances, especially in the more prominent masses, will completely destroy the desired effect; indeed the whole arrangement mast proceed from a careful and intelligent study of the subject.
In the course of my practice I have frequently taken occasion to advise the propriety of planting fruit orchards so as to secure more variety of outline than they usually present, and to a certain extent carry into the orchard some of the more characteristic features of ornamental planting. There are many situations where a fine effect can be produced by planting the orchard so that it will appear as a further extension of the lawn, somewhat in the manner that I have here attempted to sketch.
It may be argued that very little fruit would be produced by this method of planting, the trees being placed so closely as to prevent thorough cultivation. This objection is not so formidable as might at first Sight appear. The soil around the trees in all the larger groups can be cultivated the same as in any other well kept shrubbery plantation; and I am not convinced that the European method of planting apple and pear trees at 40 feet apart, is the best adapted to this climate. Closer planting, so as to procure a more thorough shading of the ground by foliage, and the shelter thus afforded from the drying winds of spring and summer, arresting to some extent the rapid evaporation of moisture from the soil, are considerations worthy of attention.
An ample variety of really ornamental, and at the same time useful fruit trees may be selected, and it would be no difficult matter to plant a lawn almost exclusively with such, and still produce a great variety of landscape effect. The American and Spanish chestnuts are lofty trees bearing useful fruits; so are the shell bark and peccan hickory nuts. The black walnut may also be introduced; the English walnut, of which there are dozens of fine old specimens in this vicinity yielding annually many bushels of fruit, is also available. The butternut forms a fine group; its foliage at a distance resembles the ailanthus. The persimmon, when in vigorous growth, has glossy foliage of great beauty, and like the butternut, is well adapted for planting in groups. The mulberry family, although in some respects rather objectionable, would form a distinct feature; the red fruiting forms a tree of considerable size and is rather distinct in foliage. The black European is also a desirable plant. The pawpaw is certainly one of our finest foliagcd plants, forming a beautiful group in close planting. In rich soils it will grow into a beautiful small tree, with foliage equal to a magnolia, and fruit but little inferior to the banana.
The wild cherry, and the English bird cherry are both ornamental trees, especially the first; and the mahaleb cherry is very desirable on account of its fragrant blossoms; in this respect it resembles the English hawthorn and is a capital substitute for that delicately fragrant plant so much planted for its beauty.
For shrubbery and undergrowth we have the chinquapin chestnut, which will even grow into a good sized tree under favorable conditions, but may easily be kept as a low spreading bush, for which it is admirably adapted. The species of berberry afford much variety, both in habit and foliage. The cornelian cherry (cornus mas,) is a plant seldom equalled in beauty when covered with its brilliantly colored cherry like fruit, of which some people arc fond. The species of hazel nuts form admirable bushes; the purple leaved variety being particularly attractive in early spring, and is of very rapid growth. The cut leaved and variegated leaved elder berry are frequently cultivated in shrubberies; and the wild plum, quince, high bush cranberry, and even the huckleberry need not be excluded when they can be properly disposed.
The whole subject is of much interest, and, as Col. Dewey remarks, in the August Horticulturist, "It is of growing importance".
[Mr. Saunders sustains our original position, which is true as regards the farmer and the suburban resident with small grounds. Will some of our correspondents now help us to their ideas of handsome fruit growing trees. - Ed. H].