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.
In planting the ornamental grounds about our home in the country, let us remember that we are seeking variety in unity. Contrasts, then, are admissible, and often desirable, but incongruity is to be avoided. We wish to collect about us as much and as various forms of beauty as possible, and to arrange them harmoniously, so that they will form a beautiful whole. Each object must be so introduced that it will not only present to good advantage its own beauty, but also will not detract from, but, on the contrary, enhance the beauty of surrounding objects..
It will be convenient to present a few hints on this subject, in detached paragraphs, as they occur to me, without any careful attempt to arrange them in the order of their importance.
1. Avoid dotting your grounds all over with trees set at about equal distances one from the other. The effect of such planting is tame and pointless; there is no variety to it.
2. Plant mostly in groups and masses. By a group I mean a small number of trees planted near together, at irregular distances, so that they may be said to form one object, although each tree still preserves, to some extent, its own individuality. A mass is a larger number of trees, planted yet more closely, so that the individuality of each tree is lost. It is evident that there is room for endless variety in the construction of groups. They may vary in the number and position, as well as description of their trees.
3. Do not generally plant many kinds of trees or shrubs in a single group, and when two or three kinds are so planted, be careful that they are such as will harmonize; such as are not too opposite in their general characteristics. If you have five groups, each containing one each of five particular kinds of trees, your groups are in this just alike, and so lack variety.
4. Avoid regularity, such as planting in squares, circles, or other set figures; or so that the trees are equally distant one from another.
5. So arrange your groups and masses as not to intercept interesting views of the surrounding landscape; also, so as to hide objects which are not attractive. One of the first things to be done, then, in planning your planting, is, to determine which views you wish to preserve, and which to exclude.
6. Do not plant too near together. Remember, that "Tall oaks from little acorns grow," and that the diminutive plants you are arranging are to become large trees. True, you might cut down a portion as they become too large, but it is hard work to order the removal of a thrifty tree, the growth of which you have been watching for years; and so, when planted too closely, trees are often permitted to grow until very much crowded and •_ •__a.
8. In arranging a group, let the tallest growing trees or shrubs be generally (not always) towards the centre of the group, and the smaller ones on the outside.
9. You will save yourself some disappointment and vexation if you are careful to plant only hardy trees and shrubs, remembering that not all which are so classed in the catalogues are really hardy. It is vexatious to see some of your most prized trees cut down by the winter. As to protecting them with straw, screens, barrels, Ac, this is not always effectual; and it is like the fashion which young ladies have of putting their hair in curlpapers, thus making frights of themselves for half the day, that they may have a little more fancied beauty for the other half I
10. Too many trees in immediate proximity to the house are to be avoided on the score of health. It is not healthy to live too much in the shade.
11. Evergreens may be planted so as to serve a useful purpose in sheltering from the cold winds, which, with us, come from the north and north-west. They are also the best to use as screens to hide disagreeable objects, because they are effectual at all seasons of the year.
12. The free use of shrubs, of which the variety is now great, and of smaller trees, will tend to increase the apparent extent of your grounds. We unconsciously judge such things by comparisons.
A word on that trite subject, " How to transplant a tree;" and as, in order to determine how to do a thing it is well to know just what the thing to be done is, let us put it in words, that the object is, to remove the tree from one place to another, keeping it as nearly in its present condition as possible. If, therefore, it be practicable to take up the tree with so large a ball of earth that its roots will be entirely uninjured, all that is necessary is, to deposit it in its new place, and it will experience no check in its growth. This is not commonly practicable, however, but we must come as near to it as possible. Dig up the tree carefully, take it up tenderly; do not break or bruise the roots, or suffer them to dry, for this is death to them. Put the roots into their new place as nearly as possible in their natural position - that is, in the position they were in before. This is the whole secret. It is only necessary to remember, that the roots of a tree are very delicate things. They will live a little longer out of the ground, or some substitute, than a fish will out of water, but not much. As to their texture, some of them are scarcely coarser or stronger than cobwebs.
Consequently, with all our care, we cannot avoid injuring them considerably, and therefore it is necessary to remove a portion of their branches, for the top is supported by the roots, and if the latter are diminished the former must be also.
Reflect, then, upon what is the present position of the roots of the tree you are about to move; their frailty; how they are spread out and separated, one scarcely ever touching another; how the earth lies closely around them; - remember these things, and you will not need to be told how to go to work to move a tree.
In deciding upon the location and arrangement of groups, a number of poles, of different lengths, will be of assistance. By setting them up in the places where you design to put the trees, you will be assisted in imagining what will be the appearance of the group when completed.
By planting large-growing trees on the top of a hill you will increase its boldness as a feature in the landscape. If, on the contrary, the valley be planted and the hill be left bare, the contrary effect is produced.
It is not my purpose to enumerate the kinds of trees to be employed, and the adaptations of each, but 1 would like to say a word for fruit-trees, which, it seems to me, may be successfully employed in ornamental planting more extensively than they are. It is curious to observe, by the way, how prone we are to regard everything which is useful as not adapted to ornament, and even to discard it in its ornamental capacity when we discover that it is useful. Thus, tomatoes were considered highly ornamental, and were cultivated in flower-gardens for their beauty until somebody discovered that they were eatable, when they were turned out of the parlor into the kitchen at once, and one would almost as soon expect to see a bed of onions in the flower-garden now as tomatoes. Pear-trees, Cherries, Peaches, Apples, are well worth cultivation for their beauty alone. Indeed, we have few flowering trees that will compare with them. They are so useful, however, that few are willing to admit them into their strictly ornamental grounds; perhaps they are considered as working-trees, which produce something, and therefore occupy a lower grade in the social scale than the aristocratic trees which do nothing but dress themselves in fine clothes ! Seriously, I suppose the objection to them is, that they are often stiff and ungraceful.
This is not always so, and may be avoided by grouping and massing them with other suitable trees. Nature has used this plan with admirable effect in one case which comes under my immediate observation. Every spring I have renewed occasion to admire the superlative beauty of a thicket of Apples, Chestnuts, Hickories, Cherries, Oaks, with an under-growth of Lauras benzoin and other shrubs.