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.
Where oaks were grown expressly for timber, there was observed an admirable usage of planting beech trees among the oaks. The oaks were first planted out eight by twelve feet apart. In a few years thereafter, when the young oak trees had got well started, the intervening space was planted rather thickly with beech trees, whose rapid growth force the oak trees ever upward, and by the crowding process served to prune off all lateral limbs. He had observed that the oak forests of England, planted alone, required a great deal of pruning.
Forests in Europe belonged mostly to the governments. Some, however, belonged to the dukes, some to church institutions, and some to the "burgs," or communities. But the State passes laws regulating forests, whether belonging to itself or others. For instance, when the trees are removed from any forest lands, the law is that the same ground shall be replanted to trees within five years. In reality, however, this replanting is usually done much sooner.
In the management of forests, two different practices in regard to cutting prevail. One is to remove all the growing trees, and to start fresh again. The other is to remove only such trees as have arrived up to their maximum value, thus cutting down some trees annually, and replanting the places made vacant by other trees.
Much has been said in this country of the importance of thorough cultivation of the soil preparatory to planting. But he found that the European plan did not embrace any such thorough cultivation. As much of the forests are on steep hills, when the timber is removed, the low stumps, thickly occupying the ground, prevent carrying out much systematic cultivation. And so far from thinking these stumps to be in the way, their presence is regarded as very important, as they prevent the washing away of the soil.
No one could look upon a well-managed planted forest without being struck with its great superiority over natural forests. We sometimes see the latter, and from noticing the quantity of fine timber trees, we think it is almost perfection itself. But when one has seen a cultivated European forest, and then comes back to look upon his perfect native forest, he is at once struck with the fewness of valuable trees in the latter, compared with what the ground is capable of growing. Where a planted oak forest shows fine timber trees, planted in rows, say eight by twelve feet apart, the great value of its trees over that of a natural forest impresses itself very forcibly upon the mind.
In European forest planting one thing was remarkable, viz., the small number of varieties growing. Of the large number of oaks, only four varieties were generally planted; six pines and three firs. Of the elms, ash, only one or two varieties each.
Of American trees, while they were numerous as curiosities in parks, private and public, they have not been planted to any great extent as forest trees for profit. Railroads have planted locusts to some extent, but managers of forests have a prejudice against it on account of the brittleness of its wood, rendering it liable to be injured by snows and winds. But probably the greatest obstacle consists in the obstinacy of the people holding on to things of the past, and disliking new things.