How we waste millions on material we should never buy and on effects we can never imitate—what the best english effects are and how we can reproduce the spirit of them with long-lived material — and how we can contribute something toward that supreme goal — an american style of gardening.
What equivalents can we have for yews a thousand years old, cedars of Lebanon planted by Crusaders, and "Big" trees that grow a hundred feet in sixty years?
EVEN the most casual visitor to England notices three conifers, or evergreen trees, for every returned tourist chatters enthusiastically about "yews a thousand years old, cedars of Lebanon planted by returned Crusaders, and 1 big trees' from California that grow a hundred feet in sixty years." Verily, it is not surprising that we spend many thousands of dollars a year in vainly trying to reproduce such wonderful effects.
But all this money is wasted because we fail to realize that the climate of the Northern and Eastern quarter of the United States (where a good many of us live) is antagonistic to that of England. Our summer is hot and dry, theirs cool and moist; our winter is characterized by zero spells, theirs is mild and open. Socially we are related to Europe, but climatically to Japan and China. If beginners knew this we could save a million dollars a year which we now spend on European trees and shrubs that die the first winter or soon thereafter. For long-lived material we must look to our own native trees. For "spice " we must look to China and Japan. All else is merely temporary.
My errand in England was to study the materials of gardening from a new point of view. I was to find out what were the half-dozen most important trees, shrubs, vines, etc., in England and their long-lived equivalents for America. For example, everywhere in England you see the redwood — a native of California. Our equivalent for it is hemlock, for both trees have a feathery effect produced by flat sprays. Such a statement is calculated to give a botanist a sick headache, because the fruits of these trees are utterly different. But we do not cultivate conifers for their fruits. Plain tree lovers are primarily interested in the texture of the foliage. We know a pine by its brush, a spruce by its stiff needles, an arborvitae by its fan, and so on.
In other words, it was the landscape value of garden materials I went to study. I wanted to see with my own eyes which trees were grave and which were gay; why people gush about box, yew, and rhododendrons, and whether we cannot grow a tree that looks just like the cedar of Lebanon — except to a botanist. It was human interest I was after — the kind of thing that never gets into the botanies. I wanted to see how to make America as beautiful as England, and how to stop wasting a million dollars a year.