This section is from the book "What England Can Teach Us About Gardening", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: What England Can Teach Us About Gardening.
By "landscape forestry" I mean the art of managing woods for pleasure. There are thousands upon thousands of private deer parks and game preserves in England, while here they are comparatively rare. One can always tell a park by the abundance of grass and the peculiar shape of the trees. Most of these are nicely rounded, and all have a flat base at a uniform height above the ground — the height to which deer and cattle can reach. It would be childish in us to imitate this effect. If one keeps cattle for breeding purposes the effect will come naturally and will be appropriate. But if one wants a park for beauty it is much better to have the branches of specimen trees come right down to the ground.
In sporting woods, the characteristic effect is a dense undergrowth of English laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus), a broad-leaved evergreen shrub of great beauty which is not hardy here. We can never duplicate this effect, but even if our rhododendrons are narrower, darker, and duller of leaf, the fact is of small consequence. When America is as crowded as England we shall doubtless pay much attention to breeding cattle and making game preserves but it would be the shallowest sort of affectation for us to imitate now her cattle-pruned trees or laurel coverts.
The private arboretum is occasionally seen in England. Its object is to cultivate every kind of hardy tree. Some examples that I saw were too haphazard, some too botanical. We have a good many wrong kinds in America. The best pattern for us is the Arnold Arboretum. Mr. Thomas Proctor has a very good private arboretum at Topsfield, Mass.
The commonest point of view toward pleasure woods in America is to "let them alone." That is why our woods are so uninteresting. American woods are full of diseased, crooked, and spindly trees, and there is no comfort in walking among them because of mosquitoes, brambles, and burrs. The slowest and most imperfect way to restore a piece of woods to its primeval grandeur is to let it alone. We can make it wilder and more interesting at once by planting great quantities of wild flowers that will spread out of their own accord. I saw acres of bluebells in English woods, and this effect we can reproduce literally. The cheapest method of carpeting the forest floor with wild flowers I have explained in Chapter VI. At present I can speak only of wild gardening in which trees are dominant and flowers incidental.
The loveliest effect of this kind which I saw in England was that of beech woods. The beeches themselves are a constant revelation of beauty. All have exquisite, smooth bark, and retain much of their foliage all winter. Some are beautiful, others grotesque; some are high branched, others low branched; some are developed on all sides, others only on one; some are spotted with gray lichens; others uniformly coated with green. The finest moss in the world grows under beech trees. Holly grows to perfection under beech, and makes an ideal companion for it, but there is an atmosphere in beech woods that is positively not of this world, and therein lies its mystic charm. Tennyson reproduces it in "Pelleas and Ettare".
But I realize that private forestry is only for people with good-sized country places. These fortunate persons should buy "Forbes's English Estate Forestry".
Most of us can have only a few trees on the lawn or in the garden. Therefore all the other effects described in this chapter are viewed from this stand point. Conifers and street trees must be omitted. Conifers, since they are described in Chapter XIV and street trees because the point of view is generally public, not private. For street trees let the student consult The Garden Magazine, Vol. VI, page 128 and Vol. VIII, pages 118-121.
garden, flowers, plants, England, effects, foliage, gardening