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.
VAST sums of money are annually spent in this country on trees; it would be impossible to make a close estimate of the amount, but we can not be very far out of the way in putting it at a million of dollars. We believe we could show by figures that this is not, as it may appear to many, an immoderate estimate; for more than one quarter of that amount may be set down to Rochester alone. This gives us some idea of the extent and importance of our arboriculture interest, yet it attracts little attention. The men engaged in rearing and planting trees are not those who make much noise in the world. We have no arboricultural societies to collect information or incite to experiments and observation - no public gardens or arboretums to test theories and modes of culture - the whole matter thus far has been left to individual effort and enterprize; and as both growers and purchasers of trees usually proceed upon the principles of economy, no great improvement has been made upon old methods; - at least, this business has certainly not advanced in the same ratio as some other branches of the useful arts and sciences.
How many of those engaged in the planting and culture of trees, have taken pains to acquire the slightest possible degree of knowledge concerning their structure, the functions of the different parts, and their relative connection and influence upon each other? Not one in five hundred. A man spending a hundred dollars for trees does not consider it worth his while to consult the best books that have been written on the subject - he does not consider that a dollar spent in that way might save him fifty in the management ot his plantation. A few words of oral instruction from some one perhaps as ill-informed as himself, or a few hints which he finds on the cover of a nurseryman's catalogue, supply all the needed information. We are happy to admit exceptions - numerous too. Books and papers are read and studied; but the few who read and seek information from such sources are, when compared with the number of persons who plant trees, but a drop in the bucket Frauds of all kinds are perpetrated upon people thus exposed by ignorance; for there is no pursuit under the sun exempt from dishonest and tricky persons. It is not surprising that we hear, every year, people complain bitterly of their trees.
Some they lose totally the first season; others linger along for years without making any considerable growth, while the cause remains a complete mystery. "They were nice trees, well planted, and every way well cared for." Now there are many reasons for these failures ; and if people were as well informed as they should be on this subject - if they possessed a correct knowledge of the essential properties of a tree fit for safe and successful removal, and understood properly what good planting and good treatment consist in - they could readily account for their losses.
We propose, now, to offer a few suggestions on these topics - first, in regard to the qualities of trees, and how these are to be secured; and secondly, on planting and subsequent treatment We may as well say at the outset, that we are not about to offer either a new theory or practice, but simply to point out certain principles and details of culture and management, well understood and universally approved by experienced practical tree-growers.
In the first place, a very large number of the trees sent out from the nurseries are not fit to be planted. We must not be understood now as alluding to any nurseries in particular. The fact of our being a nurseryman will not prevent us from expressing our convictions freely; and when we charge malpractice on the trade, we are prepared to shoulder our share of the blame. We intend our remarks to be applied in a general way, however; and we believe all candid nurserymen will admit the truth of what we are about to say.
It will be generally admitted that hardiness is one of the most important qualities of a tree, to fit it for safe removal. How is this to be attained? It is very well known that nearly all purchasers of trees prefer such as are tall and straight, with a smooth glossy bark, indicating what is called "thriftiness." Height is the greatest requisite - in fact, the sine qua non - with by far the greater number of purchasers. Now, nurserymen must consult the tastes of their customers, and they are compelled to adopt a system of culture that will produce such trees as they find most saleable. They must either do this or abandon the trade. To produce these tall, smooth-barked trees, they must manure their ground highly, and plant closely. In these dense nursery plantations the light is pretty effectually excluded from all parts of the tree save the top; and as, according to an unalterable law of nature, trees and plants grow toward the light, the tops push upward, and few or no side branches are formed. Those who have not seen this exemplified in the nursery, may have seen it in the forest.
If a number of Elms or Maples, for instance, are planted closely in a group, and others separately, on the same sort of soil, we find that those planted close together shoot upward rapidly, forming tall, smooth, naked trunks, with a few branches only at the top; while those standing apart in the open space grow in height slowly, but throw out numerous side branches, the trunk is thick, the bark furrowed, and the trees are so different from the others as to have scarcely a characteristic in common, save the foliage. These tall trees, with few branches, grown in the shade and shelter, have few roots. In a natural state the roots always bear a due proportion to the branches. We find that a tree standing in an open field, and having a wide-spread head, will have roots extending three or four times the distance that those of much more lofty trees do, growing in a thick grove or forest. It is on this account that trees left standing when the forests are cut down, seldom survive the shock of the first gale; they are broken or torn up by the roots. Nature beautifully adapts everything to its situation and circumstances. The tree in the depth of the forest is sheltered on all sides, and requires but few roots to resist the force of the wind, or branches to protect its trunk.