"Willow! in thy breezy moan I can hear a deeper tone; Through thy leaves come whispering low Faint sweet songs of long ago - Willow, sighing willow! "
"Who liveth by the ragged pine, Foundeth an heroic line".
WHEN one has nearly half a mile of boundary to define around his four-acre lot, the question arises how it can be inclosed with the least expense and trouble, and in such a way as not to disfigure the grounds. With this problem we had now to deal.
The front upon the main street, thanks to the sociable fashion of our day, it would be quite proper to leave open, with only such screen of shrubs and trees as we should decide upon when the house was built, and the lawn properly graded. Part of it was already well hedged in with ancient bushes, which straggled about where the old house stood, in most admired disorder. But all along Winter Street, as the road behind us is somewhat ambitiously designated, the fence was tumbling down, and the whole garden spot lay uncomfortably open to view, as well as to the cold east winds that blow across the meadow from the sea. We decided that here a row of Willows would come in admirably, as there would be plenty of rich moist soil for the young trees to root in, and with such a protection the wind-swept garden would in time be warm and secluded, while the silvery foliage would be a harmonious setting for the emerald meadow and the sapphire stream.
This idea we carried out the week after we made our purchase. A friendly farmer neighbor, compassionating our folly in starting such an enterprise, but anxious to see what we would make out of the place, kindly offered to give us as many cuttings as we wanted; so one bright day in June he appeared upon the scene with a cartload of Willows, a crowbar, and a hatchet, and, with a man or two to help him, before night he had cut and driven firmly into holes, easily punched by the crowbar in the soft soil, some five hundred bare stakes, every one of which in a few weeks put forth a crop of roots and leaves.
The stakes, sharpened at the end, were about three feet in length, one foot of which was driven into the ground, and firmly stamped into place. It was found better, in driving them, to have them set at an angle of about twenty degrees, with the tops pointing toward the south, so that the stems did not receive the full force of the midday and afternoon sun. We used the common White Willow (Salix alba), which abounds along swampy roadsides everywhere in New England.
These trees have all thriven well, though owing to the marsh being salter in certain places than in others, some have grown less rapidly than their companions. The fear of the salt water led us into the error of planting one row of trees at first inside the fence, and at some distance from it, where the presence of Clover and English Grass showed that the top soil was fresh. Subsequently, when they were all well rooted, we removed them to the outside along the highway, where they now begin to make an agreeable shade and an effective screen. The annual dumpings of sand made by the town along the edge of the road, to maintain its level, which constantly tends to sink into the marsh across which it has been carefully built, seem to help the trees, which continue to send out surface-roots as the ground rises about them; and though some of them during their first seasons had a sorry time of it in dry, hot weather, they ultimately pulled through, and are no longer sources of anxiety.