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 history of trees in the United States, has been too much after the following fashion; much of the land had the reputation, if it had not the reality, of abounding in chills and fevers, or fevers alone; whether the trees by causing dampness, or the unwonted exposure of the settler caused disease, the native forests were considered in fault. To some extent this was true, for till the country in many places, was cleared, and the sun, that vivifier and sweetener, was let in, miasmatic influences were more or less rife. Tree followed tree, and when they were all down, and the house built, the settler had what he believed he wanted - a clearing; he too often did not reflect that a belt at the north of his dwelling would keep the wintry blasts from roaming down his chimney, or protect his sheep and poultry. His wife wanted sun to dry the clothes, never thinking of thermometers at 90°, and a clearing both parties had. The settler, however, either moved further to swing his indiscriminating axe in the same manner, or, as many a sad history would tell, if it had a Laurie Todd to commemorate it, he and his wife fell victims to over exertion and exposure.
The next owner is probably a man of more means; a little cultivated himself, he would like to see cultivation around him; he looks about for trees to fill the gaps so ruthlessly made, but sees or hears of none for sale in the vicinity, except it may be very small ones; so he either moves a few from the remaining " woods," without knowing what precautions to use, or adopts the small ones from the distant nursery. In either case, two owners must live under the influence of cold winter winds, and hot summer suns. What is to be done in the matter?
It is somewhat difficult to find an answer that will at once remedy the evil, but we will quote Cicero on the subject, as our best refuge for a reply. " If," says he, " a man would build, he should reflect a great while, and perhaps not build at all; but if to plant is the question, he should not reflect, but plant immediately." Wise Cicebo! no better advice could be given by the best modern editor.
What shall we plant, inquires the new owner of the clearing. We answer, take a little pains to plant trees for shade, that will produce something either in the shape of timber or fruit. What more ornamental trees than our true shell bark hickory, or the white oak; we have one of the latter now in our eye, not fifty years old, which is a model of strength and beauty; very sure, we are, that the owner, who planted it himself, would decline five hundred dollars for it; and certainly, in the estimation of every person of taste, it adds more than that sum to the sale value of his estate.
It is a curious circumstance which we have often remarked, that the generality of persons, whose attention has not been particularly drawn to the cultivation of trees, etc, are not aware what it is that produces their pleasure, when suddenly introduced into a properly planted and cultivated pleasure garden; they are surrounded by beauties, but they do not define, because they do not know the plants before them; yet something teaches them that they are in the presence of beauty and novelty; the whole effect is good, and they involuntarily exclaim, " how delightful! how we should like to live here!" Here is the intuitive love of nature. Let the same individual learn to know each particular plant, its history, origin, home, what length of time it has been introduced into gardens, its rarity, its uses, the height it attains, whether of rapid or slow growth, to say nothing of its botanical distinctions, and the enjoyment is increased a thousand fold; every plant so studied is an old friend, recognised and greeted wherever we go.
There is no real knowledge acquired, that is not valuable and agreeable; botany, geology, astronomy, are continual sources of pleasure, whatever country we visit; let a person but thoroughly know the varieties of the rose by name and peculiarities of habit, and ever after a garden is visited with vastly increased delight; suppose that amount of knowledge multiplied by reading, observation, practice, and study, till we know in addition moat of the new trees and plants, as well as those of older introduction; with what gusto and vivacity one searches for and sees a novelty of which he has only read. But we are straying from our clearing, for whose adornment this periodical has already given, and will continue to give, lists of the most valuable and easily procured trees, for shade and product.
After the planter has made up his mind what to plant for immediate effect, and what for posterity - for we hold the axiom, so often in the mouths of the unreflecting, that because posterity has done nothing for us we will do nothing for posterity, in utter abhor-ance - he will ask his life companion, - she is entitled to be consulted in all such cases, - what fruits she most values; he will be glad to learn that by planting the Spanish Chestnut he can have a companion tree to his white oak, which, like it, will throw out its lateral branches, and spread over the lawn, producing in a very few years not only fine shade, but bushels of its large and delicious nuts to astonish and gratify himself and his visitors. So far he has cultivated himself, and bids fair to become an amateur; the clearing in his minds eye has assumed a new shape and value, and he takes to studying during the winter evenings, some further particulars; these acquire intense interest as he proceeds; books are consulted, but unfortunately books do not tell him all that he wants to know, for he has yet to learn his a, b, c, in horticulture. One great object of periodicals, like this, is to inform him.
He does not know, perhaps, that yearling fruit trees can be had at Rochester, Flushing, Philadelphia, and other places, for a very small sum; that yearling pears, cherries, apples, plums, apricots, and so forth, of the finest sorts, grafted so as to dwarf them, are to be purchased for the price of two or three shillings each, while apples, etc., are even cheaper. Where is he to get a catalogue? Let him look at the advertisements attached to this periodical, and selecting his nurseryman, commence his correspondence without delay, for every year's advance brings him nearer to the goal of his wishes. Let him at once read Barry's Fruit Garden, to learn the simple and best practical methods of trimming, and when his first year's purchases are in the clearing - our word for it, he has a source of pleasure in store, and baskets full of fruit in prospect, which will prove a never failing source of occupation, mental and physical, as long as he occupies his improving premises. These pets will be society to him in his otherwise lonesome hours; if he will at once take up the subject of a kitchen garden, his home is complete, the only danger being that he will not be induced ever to leave it.
The first winter let him force a small hot-bed of salads and radishes, (with a corner filled with the most useful green herbs for his cook's especial delight) with his own hands, watching its progress, moving its shutters and glasses with every considerable change of temperature, reading up to his subject, visiting and observing his nearest successful neighbor, and he has out-door, healthful occupation for his winter, both day and night; such an amateur as our friend (for such we shall ever after call him,) has now become, will not go to sleep as soon as tea is over; he will read and re-read Mt-Mahon's Kitchen Gardener - one of the very best, after all, on the subject; Downing, Thomas, and Barry on Fruits, will become his manuals, while Parsons and Rivera on the Rose, will be consulted for a little variety. With what pleasure will he read London and the horticultural and agricultural periodicals; we shall not despair in another year of seeing him bring into the parlor, for display to his neighbors, his largest pumpkin, which he remarks is a valuable article, It looks so like having results.
A Ward's case, and a few house plants that will thrive in a sitting room, among which is a fine ivy in a receptacle large enough to contain its large roots, will make in-doors in a snow storm not only tolerable but delightful. Have we conjured up an amateur, by detailing the process by which this healthy action of the mind is produced? If so, we wish there may be thousands of these added every year to our population; thousands may be added, but we want thousands more. N. Y. H.