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.
Probably one of the greatest attractions of English gardens is the art displayed in combining together shrubs and trees, which give such bold relief to their noble grounds. This system, termed "grouping," generally effects two objects - grandeur in its general outline, and screens or divisions where found requisite. The classes of plants used for the purpose in England are generally evergreens, the beautiful habit of which, combined with their large and glossy foliage, adapts them admirably for this purpose. How much we miss them here in our Northern States, to add luster to our beautiful landscape 1 The reader, we think, is mentally asking what plants we refer to; well, we have reference to the old and charming Portugal laurel, the common laurel, the laurestina, and several others of this class. Masses of these plants are grouped together with gravel-walks which lead us away, often through not more than an acre of ground, till we begin to think there is no end to the extent of it. Such walks are " lovers' walks," for they are beloved by old and young.
The gardener, too, loves them, for they yield protection to his tender plants and choice fruits, that would oftentimes be blasted by the icy winds and chilly frosts of the long spring-time of merry England. How often do we hear the moans of our fruit-culturists, in the moments of their despondency, occasioned by the blast of some petted "Duchess," or a fungoid rupture in the renowned "Delaware!" Such delicate and tender botanical organisms were never destined by Pomona to expose themselves to the hurricane blast that drives headlong and furiously across this mighty continent No, never. We have often seen some pet of the canine species wrapped in warm clothes to ward off this inauspicious gale; but, alas, for our would be profitable fruit-trees, they may die and rot if they can not take care of themselves The fine feature given to grounds in England by "grouping," we would like to see in the form of the beautiful and practical here. The beautiful, by the introduction of more evergreens to the grounds of our wealthy men, and grouped so that a majority of those unsightly out-buildings be shut out of view; and shelter given to the dwelling.
In the practical form, by surrounding our fruit and vegetable grounds, and also intersecting the same by a selection of evergreens that will be at once useful and ornamental. What is there that so much refreshes a winter scenery as the beautiful evergreens? What gives more encouragement to the little warblers of the forest to persevere in the destruction of the vast horde of tormenting insects we have to contend with, than the warm, thickly-set leaves and branches of the evergreens? "But," says the reader, uthose evergreens that grow and flourish so beautifully in England will not stand the winters of our Northern States." This is very true; but why not let us use our own? What is there more beautiful in the known world in the way of an evergreen, when properly grown, than Abies Canadensis? They may tell us of the beauties of "Deo-dara," but our first love is the Hemlock. As a single specimen, nothing that we know of can excel it. We wish to impress on the mind of the reader, that if our winters will not admit the planting of those varieties of evergreen shrubs so common in use in English grouping, we can produce a similar effect here with evergreens that we know are perfectly hardy.
The Norway Spruce in clumpa are really majestic, and so are the Austrian Pines. Then when we come to require groups smaller, according to the planned order of the ground-work, we can group the common arborvitae. A hundred of them together, and planted thickly, in a few years' time assume the appearance of one solid body of evergreens, looking, in fact, more like one massive plant.
Evergreens planted in this style always retain perfect their outside line of beauty, their external invariably appearing perfect. The Norway Spruce treated in this way is a desirable acquisition to the grounds. No one need fear the plant growing away out of bounds, for whatever size or height is desired, "topping" the plants will insure it. The Norway is equally good for a hedge, as is also the Abies Canadensis, and will bear the pruning-hook just as well as does the Honey Locust or Osage Orange. In speaking of this system of grouping the evergreens in newly-worked grounds, if practiced, it will be the means of adding more solidity to the general appearance of the whole, the means of cutting off unsightly objects, protection from winds, a general enliveliment to the desolation of winter, and add much warmth to those situations which are naturally open and bleak. Then, again, there is another good reason why we should plant the evergreens more extensively, and this is because of their human health-producing properties. The exhalations from the pines, spruce, cedars, etc., are so powerful, that many persons in debilitated conditions are sent by their physicians to specified localities in Europe to inhale their aroma, and then return home with new constitutions.
In reference to our gardens for fruit-trees and vegetables, etc., European gardens have their walls and cross walls; these are not only for the training of fruit-trees, but they are for shelter and protection. Many of us here consider any plowed-up piece of ground, and it planted with vegetables, a garden, where the weeds oftentimes are the greater crop; but such a term is only a perversion of the English language. A garden means a place of beauty and loveliness, neatness and order - a place of serene, calm grandeur, and its proprietor part and particle of the same. We think this is as it should be, for God and man first conversed in such a place. Then can we not add to the grandeur of our gardens, not by surrounding them with walls and iron work, Italian architecture in the form of solid masonry, whose incongruity becomes doubly so when contrasted with its externals and surroundings, but by the tasteful introduction of beltings of evergreens, so harmoniously arranged that they shall be both useful and ornamental \ Arrange for shelter, screen the winds from our vineyards and pear orchards, spend a little more money in this and less in something else, then we shall have the grapes to ripen earlier, the pears will not shout aloud in their blossoms and keep dumb silence in their fruit time.
Then shall gardeners and amateurs reap better rewards for labors, and our fruit-bearing plants and trees be credited with better dispositions and greater charity in their natures.
In advocating shelter by means of masses and belts of Evergreens, all will agree with the writer, that its benefits are as yet but little understood or appreciated by our fruit-growing people. .We need shelter, especially to our small and high-flavored fruits, and so also to many varieties of pears and cherries; while whoever grows peaches knows full well the benefit of just a little protection from harsh, cold winds. In advising the Norway Spruce and Hemlock for main belts, doubtless the writer is correct, but among the smaller Evergreens for the protection of our strawberries, raspberries, etc., we have the Savin and many varieties of the Juniper, and last, not least, our hardy Kal-mias and Rhododendrons, which are just as easily grown as any other class of shrubs. I saw, a few days since, a little piece of hedge made with Irish Juniper, that for neatness and effect can not be surpassed.