“Nothing is more completely the child of art than a garden”; so wrote Sir Walter Scott in an (anonymous) review of a book by Sir Henry Steuart entitled The Planter’s Guide, words that have often been quoted to afford gardening a place in the hallowed halls of fine art, and by extension, its practitioners status as artists. Scott placed it below none and I, for one, would not argue with him. He had made a garden for himself at his estate, Abbotsford House, apparently at such an expense that his finances were threatened as a result (spendthrift gardeners beware!).
The review expanded into a full length essay (34 page Word Doc) covering the history of English gardening and mentions many famous past designers, some of them contemporaries, and provides some insight into their artistic and professional squabbles. Scott also laments the destruction of old gardens done in previous styles, a lament often heard today, to feed the frenzy for the “new” style of landscape gardening proposed by the likes of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and his imitators. He also extensively covers the practice of transplanting trees as practiced at the time and as recommended by Steuart in the book under review.
The essays follows in its entirety.
On Landscape Gardening *
Sir Walter Scott
* A review by Scott of The Planter’s Guide; or, a Practical Essay on the best Method of giving immediate effect to Wood, by the removal of large Trees and Underwood. By Sir Henry Steuart, Bart. Edinburgh, 8vo, 1828. — Quarterly Review, March, 1828.
The notable paradox, that the residence of a proprietor upon his estate is of as little consequence as the bodily presence of a stockholder upon Exchange, has, we believe, been renounced. At least, as in the case of the Duchess of Suffolk’s relationship to her own child, the vulgar continue to be of opinion that there is some difference in favour of the next hamlet and village, and even of the vicinage in general, when the squire spends his rents at the manor-house, instead of cutting a figure in France or Italy. A celebrated politician used to say, he would willingly bring in one bill to make poaching felony, another to encourage the breed of foxes, and a third to revive the decayed amusements of cock-fighting and bull-baiting — that he would make, in short, any sacrifice to the humours and prejudices of the country gentlemen, in their most extravagant form, providing only he could prevail upon them to “dwell in their own houses, be the patrons of their own tenantry, and the fathers of their own children.” However we might be disposed to stop short of these liberal concessions, we agree so far with the senator by whom they were enounced, as to think every thing of great consequence which furnishes an additional source of profit or of pleasure to the resident proprietor, and induces him to continue to support the useful and honourable character of a country gentleman, an epithet so pleasing in English ears, — so dear to English feelings of independence and patriotism. The manly lines of Akenside cannot fail to rush on the memory of our readers, nor was there such occasion for the reproach when it flowed from the pen of the author, as there is at this present day.
“O blind of choice, and to yourselves untrue!
The young grove shoots, their bloom the fields renew,
The mansion asks its lord, the swains their friend,
While he doth riot’s orgies haply share,
Or tempt the gamester’s dark destroying snare,
Or at some courtly shine, with slavish incense bend!”
Amidst the various sources of amusement which a country residence offers to its proprietor, the improvement of the appearance of the house and adjacent demesne will ever hold a very high place. Field-sports, at an early season in life, have more of immediate excitation; nor are we amongst those who condemn the gallant chase, though we cannot, now-a-days, follow it: but a country life has leisure for both, if pursued, as Lady Grace says, moderately; and we can promise our young sportsman, also, that if he studies the pursuits which this article recommends, he will find them peculiarly combined with the establishment of covers, and the protection of game.
Agriculture itself, the most serious occupation of country gentlemen, has points which may be combined with the art we are about to treat of — or, rather, those two pursuits cannot, on many occasions, be kept separate from each other; for we shall have repeated occasion to remark, how much beauty is, in the idea of a spectator, connected with utility, and how much good taste is always offended by obvious and unnecessary expense. These are principles which connect the farm with the pleasure-ground or demesne. — Lastly, we have Pope’s celebrated apology for the profuse expense bestowed on the house and grounds of Canons — if Canons, indeed, was meant —
“Yet hence the poor are clothed, the hungry fed;
Health to himself, and to his children bread,
The labourer bears.”
The taste of alterations may be good or bad, but the labour employed upon them must necessarily furnish employment to the most valuable, though often the feast considered of the children of the soil, — those, namely, who are engaged in its cultivation.
Horace Walpole, in a short essay, distinguished by his usual accuracy of information, and ornamented by his wit and taste, has traced the history of gardening, in a pictural sense, from the mere art of horticulture to the creation of scenery of a more general character, extending beyond the narrow limits of the proper garden and orchard. We venture, however, to think that this history, though combined by a master-hand, is in some degree imperfect, and confounds two particulars which our ancestors kept separate, and treated on principles entirely different — the garden, namely, with its ornaments, and the park, chase, or riding, which, under various names, was the proudest appurtenance of the feudal castle, and marked the existence of those rights and privileges which the feudal lord most valued.
The garden, at first intended merely for producing esculent vegetables, fruits, and flowers, began to assume another character, so soon as the increase of civilisation tempted the feudal baron to step a little way out of the limits of his fortifications, and permitted his high dame to come down from her seat upon the castle walls, so regularly assigned to her by ancient minstrels, and tread with stately pace the neighbouring precincts which art had garnished for her reception. These gardens were defended with walls, as well for safety as for shelter: they were often surrounded with fosses, had the command of water, and gave the disposer of the ground an opportunity to display his taste, by introducing canals, basins, and fountains, the margins of which admitted of the highest architectural ornament. As art enlarged its range, and the nobles were satisfied with a display of magnificence to atone for an abridgement of their power, new ornaments were successively introduced; banqueting houses were built; terraces were extended, and connected by staircases and balustrades of the richest forms. The result was, indeed, in the highest degree artificial, but it was a sight beautiful in itself — a triumph of human art over the elements, and, connected as these ornamented gardens were with splendid mansions, in the same character, there was a symmetry and harmony betwixt the baronial palace itself, and these its natural appendages, which recommended them to the judgment as well as to the eye. The shrubs themselves were artificial, in so far as they were either exotic, or, if indigenous, were treated in a manner, and presented an appearance, which was altogether the work of cultivation. The examination of such objects furnished amusement to the merely curious, information to the scientific, and pleasure, at least, to those who only looked at them, and passed on. Where there was little extent of ground, especially, what could be fitter for the amusement of “learned leisure,” than those “trim gardens,” which Milton has represented as the chosen scene of the easy and unoccupied man of letters? He had then around him the most delightful subjects of observation, in the fruits and flowers, the shrubs and trees, many of them interesting from their novelty and peculiar appearance and habits, inviting him to such studies as lead from created things up to the Almighty Creator. This sublime author, indeed, has been quoted, as bearing a testimony against the artificial taste of gardening, in the times when he lived, in those well-known verses: —
“Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art
In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon
Pour’d out profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade
Embrown’d the noontide bowers. Thus was this place
A happy rural seat of various view.”
This passage expresses exquisitely what park-scenery ought to be, and what it has, in some cases, actually become; but, we think, the quotation has been used to authorise conclusions which the author never intended. Eden was created by the Almighty fiat, which called heaven and earth into existence, and poets of genius much inferior, and falling far short of Milton in the power of expressing their meaning, would have avoided the solecism of representing Paradise as decorated with beds and curious knots of flowers, with which the idea of human labour and human care is inevitably connected — an impropriety, indeed, which could only be equalled by that of the French painter, who gave the skin dress of our first father the cut of a court suit. Milton nobly conceived that Eden, emanating directly from the Creator, must possess that majestic freedom which characterises even the less perfect works of nature, and, in doing so, he has anticipated the schemes of later improvers. But we think it extremely dubious, that he either meant to recommend landscape gardening on an extensive scale, or to censure those “trim gardens,” which he has elsewhere mentioned so affectionately.
A garden of this sort was an extension of the splendour of the residence into a certain limited portion of the domain — was, in fact, often used as a sort of chapel of ease to the apartments within doors; and afforded opportunities for the society, after the early dinner of our ancestors, to enjoy the evening in the cool fragrance of walks and bowers. Hence, the dispersed groups which Watteau and others set forth as perambulating the highly ornamented scenes which these artists took pleasure in painting. Sometimes the hospitality of old England made a different use of these retreats, and tenanted the pleasure-ground with parties of jolly guests, who retired from the dining-parlour to finish the bottle, al fresco, on the bowling-green and in its vicinity. We have heard, for example, that, in a former generation, this used to be the rule at Trentham, where a large party of country-gentlemen used to assemble once a-week, on a public day appointed for the purpose. At a certain hour the company adjourned to the bowling-green, where, according to their different inclinations, they played at bowls, caroused, lounged, or smoked, and thus released their noble landlord from all further efforts to keep up the spirit of the entertainment. The honest Staffordshire squires were not, perhaps, the most picturesque objects in the world, while thus engaged, with countenances highly illuminated,
“With a pipe and a flask, puffing sorrow away;”
but the circumstance serves to show that such plaisances as we have described formed convenient, as well as agreeable accompaniments to the mansion of a nobleman, who, having a certain duty to perform towards his neighbourhood, was accommodated by that arrangement of his pleasure-ground which enabled him to do the thing with most satisfaction to his guests, and least personal inconvenience to himself.
Such were the uses of the old fashioned and highly ornamented style of gardening. Its beauty, we have been informed by a sure, nay, we will add, the surest guide on such a subject, consists in its connexion with the house —
“Where architectural ornaments are introduced into the garden about the house, however unnatural raised terraces, fountains, flights of steps, parapets, with statues, vases, balustrades, etc., may be called — however our ancestors may have been laughed at (and I was much diverted, though not at all convinced with the ridicule) for walking up and down stairs in the open air — the effect of all these objects is very striking; and they are not more unnatural, that is, not more artificial, than the hoses they are intended to accompany.” *
* Price’s Essays on the Picturesque, vol. ii., p. 135.
Nothing is more completely the child of art than a garden. Its artificial productions are necessarily surrounded by walls, marking out the space which they occupy as something totally distinct from the rest of the domain, and they are not seldom distinguished by the species of buildings which their culture requires. The green-houses and conservatories necessary to complete a garden on a large scale are subjects susceptible of much ornament, all of which, like the plants themselves, must be the production of art, and art in its most obvious phasis. It seems right and congruous that these objects, being themselves the offspring of art, should have all the grace of outward form and interior splendour which their parent art can give them. Their formality is to be varied and disguised, their shapes to be ornamented. A brick wall is, in itself, a disagreeable object; but its colour, when covered with green boughs, and partially seen through them, produces such a rich effect as to gratify the painter in a very high degree. Upon the various shapes and forms of shrubs, creepers, and flowers, it is unnecessary to dilate; they are the most beautiful of nature’s works, and to collect them and arrange them with taste is the proper and rational purpose of art. Water, even when disposed into the formal shapes of ponds, canals, and artificial fountains, although this may be considered as the greatest violence which can be perpetrated upon nature, affords effects beautiful in themselves, and congenial with the presence of ornamented architecture and artificial gardening. Our champion, Price himself, we presume to think, rather shrinks from his ground on this particular point, and may not be willing to follow his own banner so far as we are disposed to carry it. He justifies fountains only on the ground that natural jets-d’eau, though rare, do exist, and are among the most surprising exhibitions of nature: these, he thinks, must therefore be proper objects of imitation; and since art cannot emulate these natural fountains in greatness of style and execution, she is justified in compensating her weakness by symmetry, variety, and richness of effect. Now we are inclined, with all the devotion of reverence for Sir Uvedale Price, to dispute the ground of his doctrine on this subject, and to affirm, that whether the geyser, or any other natural jet-d’eau existed or no, the sight of a magnificent fountain, either flinging up its waters into the air and returning down in showers of mist, which make the ascending column resemble a giant in a shroud, or broken into other forms of importance and beauty, would still be a captivating spectacle; and the tasteful veteran argues, to our fancy, much more like himself when he manfully contends, that the element of water is as fitly at the disposal of the professor of hydraulics as the solid stone is at that of the architect. It has been a long time fashionable to declaim against architectural water-works, and to ask triumphantly, what are les eaux of Versailles to the cataracts of the Nile and of Niagara, to the falls of Schaffhausen, or even to those of the Clyde? The answer is ready to a question which is founded on the meanest of all tastes — that which arises from comparison. The water-works of Versailles are certainly inferior to the magnificent cascades which we have mentioned; but we suspect they have been talked of by many authors who have never witnessed what is not now an everyday sight. Those who have seen that exhibition will certainly say they have witnessed a most magnificent and interesting scene, far beyond what they might have previously supposed it was within the compass of human art to produce — We do not mean to say that the expense was altogether well laid out which was necessary to bring the waters of the Seine by the mediation of a complicated bundle of sticks, to throw summersets at Versailles. This is entirely a separate affair. The present question merely is, whether, the money being spent, and the water-works completed, a great example of human power over the elements has not been given, and a corresponding effect produced? We, at least, are prepared to answer in the affirmative.
Wealth, in this, as in other respects, has proved a snare, and played “many fantastic tricks before high heaven.” If we approve of Palladian architecture, the vases and balustrades of Vitruvius, the enriched entablatures and superb stairs of the Italian school of gardening, we must not, on this account, be construed as vindicating the paltry imitations of the Dutch, who clipped yews into monsters of every species and description, and relieved them with the painted wooden figures which are seen much in the attitude of their owners, silent and snugly smoking at the end of the paltry walk of every Lust-huys. This topiarian art, as it was called, came into England with King William, and has left strong and very ungraceful traces behind it. The distinction betwixt the Italian and Dutch is obvious. A stone hewn into a gracefully ornamented vase or urn has a value which it did not before possess; a yew hedge clipped into a fortification is only defaced. The one is a production of art, the other a distortion of nature. Yet, now that these ridiculous anomalies have fallen into general disuse, it must be acknowledged that there exist gardens, the work of Loudon, Wise, and such persons as laid out ground in the Dutch taste, which would be much better subjects for modification than for absolute destruction. Their rarity now entitles them to some care as a species of antiques, and unquestionably they give character to some snug, quiet, and sequestered situations, which would otherwise have no marked feature of any kind. We ourselves retain an early and pleasing recollection of the seclusion of such a scene. A small cottage, adjacent to a beautiful village, the habitation of an ancient maiden lady, was for some time our abode. It was situated in a garden of seven or eight acres, planted about the beginning of the eighteenth century by one of the Millars, related to the author of the Gardener’s Dictionary, or, for aught we know, by himself. It was full of long straight walks betwixt hedges of yew and horn-beam, which rose tall and close on every side. There were thickets of flowering shrubs, a bower, and an arbour, to which access was obtained through a little maze of contorted walks, calling itself a labyrinth. In the centre of the bower was a splendid platanus, or Oriental plane — a huge hill of leaves — one of the noblest specimens of that regularly beautiful tree which we remember to have seen. In different parts of the garden were fine ornamental trees which had attained great size, and the orchard was filled with fruit-trees of the best description. There were seats and trellis-walks, and a banqueting-house. Even in our time, this little scene, intended to present a formal exhibition of vegetable beauty, was going fast to decay. The parterres of flowers were no longer watched by the quiet and simple friends under whose auspices they had been planted, and much of the ornament of the domain had been neglected or destroyed to increase its productive value. We visited it lately, after an absence of many years. Its air of retreat, the seclusion which its alleys afforded, was entirely gone; the huge platanus had died, like most of its kind, in the beginning of this century; the hedges were cut down, the trees stubbed up, and the whole character of the place so much destroyed, that we were glad when we could leave it. This was the progress of innovation, perhaps of improvement: yet, for the sake of that one garden, as a place of impressive and solemn retreat, we are inclined to enter a protest against the hasty and ill-considered destruction of things which, once destroyed, cannot be restored.
We may here also notice a small place, called Barncluth, in Lanarkshire, standing on the verge of the ridgy bank which views the junction of the Evan with the Clyde. Nothing can be more romantic than the scene around: the river sweeps over a dark rugged bed of stone, overhung with trees and bushes; the ruins of the original castle of the noble family of Hamilton frown over the precipice; the oaks which crown the banks beyond those grey towers are relics of the ancient Caledonian forest, and at least a thousand years old. It might be thought that the house and garden of Barncluth, with its walks of velvet turf and its verdant alleys of yew and holly, would seem incongruous among natural scenes as magnificent as those we have described. But the effect generally produced is exactly the contrary. The place is so small, that its decorations, while they form, from their antique appearance, a singular foreground, cannot compete with, far less subdue the solemn grandeur of the view which you look down upon; and thus give the spectator the idea of a hermitage constructed in the midst of the wilderness.
Those who choose to prosecute this subject farther, will find in Sir U. Price’s book his regret for the destruction of a garden on the old system, described in a tone of exquisite feeling, which leads that distinguished author to declare in favour of many parts of the old school of gardening, and to argue for the preservation of the few remains of ancient magnificence that still exist, by awakening the owner to a sense of their beauties.
It were indeed high time that some one should interfere. The garden, artificial in its structure, its shelter, its climate, and its soil, which every consideration of taste, beauty, and convenience recommended to be kept near to the mansion, and maintained, as its appendage, in the highest state of ornamental decoration which could be used with reference to the character of the house itself, has, by a strange and sweeping sentence of exile, been condemned to wear the coarsest and most humbling form. Reduced to a clumsy oblong, enclosed within four rough-built walls, and sequestered in some distant corner where it may be best concealed from the eye to which it has been rendered a nuisance, the modern garden resembles nothing so much as a convict in his gaol apparel, banished, by his very appearance, from all decent society. If the peculiarity of the proprietor’s taste inclines him to the worship of Flora or Pomona, he must attend their rites in distance and secrecy, as if he were practising some abhorred mysteries, instead of rendering an homage which is so peculiarly united with that of the household gods. *
* The present Duke of Marlborough has all but violated this law, much to the honour of his taste, at White-Knights; and more recently, we hear, at Blenheim. — S.
Such being the great change in this department of rural economy, let us next look at that which has taken place in another no less essential part of it. The passionate fondness of our ancestors for the chase is often manifested in their choice of a residence. In an ancient inscription on the house of Wharncliffe, we are informed that the lodge was built in Henry VIII.’s time, by one gentle knight, Sir Thomas Wortley, that he might hear the buck bell in the summer season — a simple record, which speaks much to the imagination. The space of ground set apart for a park of deer must, to answer its purpose, possess the picturesque qualities which afford the greatest scope for the artist: there ought to be a variety of broken ground, of copse-wood, and of growing timber — of land, and of water. The soil and herbage must be left in its natural state; the long fern, amongst which the fawns delight to repose, must not be destroyed. In short, the stag, by nature one of the freest denizens of the forest, can only be kept under even comparative restraint, by taking care that all around him intimates a complete state of forest and wilderness. But the character of abode which is required by these noble animals of the chase is precisely the same which, from its beautiful effects of light and shadow, from its lonely and sequestered character, from the variety and intricacy of its glades, from the numerous and delightful details which it affords on every point, makes the strongest and most pleasing impression on all who are alive to natural beauty. The ancient English poets, Chaucer and Spenser in particular, never luxuriate more than when they get into a forest: by the accuracy with which they describe particular trees, and from their noticing the different characters of the different species, and the various effects of light and darkness upon the walks and glades of the forest, it is evident that they regarded woodland scenery not merely as associated with their favourite sports, but as having in itself beauties which they could appreciate, though their age was not possessed of the fascinating of committing them to canvass. Even the common people, as we noticed in a former Article, seldom mention “the good forest,” and “the merry green-wood,” without some expression of fondness, arising, doubtless, from the pleasure they took in the scenes themselves, as well as in the pastimes which they afforded.
We are not, however, to suppose, that the old feudal barons made ornamental scenery any part of their study. When planting their parks, or when cutting paths and glades through them, their attention was probably entirely occupied with the protection of the deer and convenience of the huntsman. Long avenues were particularly necessary for those large parties, resembling our modern battues, where the honoured guests being stationed in fit standings, had an opportunity of displaying their skill in venery, by selecting the buck which was in season, and their dexterity at bringing him down with the cross-bow or long-bow; and hence all the great forests were pierced by these long rectilinear alleys which appear in old prints, and are mentioned in old books. The following description of Chantilly, by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, though the scene is in France, and on a scale of unusual grandeur and extent, is no bad picture of the domains by which the feudal nobility surrounded their castles and manor-houses, and of the dignified character of the mansions themselves.
“A little river, descending from some higher grounds, in a country which was almost all his (the Constable de Montmorency’s) own, and falling at last upon a rock in the middle of a valley, which, to keep drawing forwards, it must on one or the other side thereof have declined — some of the ancestors of the Montmorencys, to ease the river of this labour, made clear channels through this rock, to give it a free passage, dividing the rock by this means into little islands, upon which he built a great strong castle, joined together with bridges, and sumptuously furnished with hangings of silk and gold, rare pictures, and statues; all which buildings, erected as I formerly told, were encompassed about with water . . . . . One might see the huge carps, pikes, and trouts, which were kept in several divisions, gliding along the waters very easily. Yet nothing, in my opinion, added so much to the glory of this castle as a forest adjoining to it, and upon a level with the house; for, being of a very large extent, and set thick both with tall trees and underwood, the whole forest, which was replenished with wild-boar, stag, and roe-deer, was cut into long walks every way, so that although the dogs might follow, their chase through the thickets, the huntsman might ride along the sand walks, and meet or overtake their game in some one of them, they being cut with that art that they led to all the parts in the said forest.”
Charles V., when passing through France, was so delighted with Chantilly, as to declare he would have given a province in the Low Countries to have possessed such a residence; and the reader must be exclusively prejudiced indeed to the modern system, who cannot image to himself the impression made by the gorgeous splendour of the chateau, contrasted with the wilderness of the surrounding forest.
If the reader will imagine a house in the irregular form of architecture which was introduced in Elizabeth’s time, its varied front, graced with projecting oriels, and its angles ornamented with turrets; its columnar chimneys, so much adorned as to make that a beauty which is generally a deformity; its fair halls, banqueting-rooms, galleries, and lodgings for interior accommodation, — it will afford no uncomfortable notion of the days of good Queen Bess. In immediate and close connexion with the mansion lie its gardens, with their terraces, urns, statues, staircases, screens, alcoves, and summer-houses; its dry paved or turfed walks, leading through a succession of interesting objects, the whole line of architecture corresponding with that of the house, with its Gothic labels and entablature, but assuming gradually a plainer and more massive character, as the grounds extended and seemed to connect themselves with the open country. The inhabitants possessed the means, we must also suppose, of escaping from this display of ostentatious splendour to the sequestered paths of a lonely chase, dark enough and extensive enough to convey the idea of a natural forest, where, as in strong contrast with the scene we have quitted, the cooing of the wood-pigeon is alone heard, where the streams find their way unconfined, and the trees spread their arms untortured by art; where all is solemn, grand, and untutored, and seems the work of unassisted nature. We would ask the reader, when he has arranged in his ideas such a dwelling, with its accompaniments, of a natural and ornamental character, not whether the style might be corrected by improving the internal arrangement of the apartments; by diminishing the superfluous ornaments of the plaisance; by giving better, yet not formal, access to the natural beauties of the park, extending its glades in some places, and deepening its thickets in others — for all this we willingly admit; but whether our ancestors did not possess all that good taste could demand as the materials of most delightful habitations?
The civil wars of Charles I.’s time, as they laid low many a defensible house of the preceding period, disparked and destroyed in general the chases, ridings, and forest walks which belonged to them; and when the Restoration followed, the Cavaliers who had the good luck to retain their estates, were too poor to re-establish their deer-parks, and, perforce, contented to let Ceres reassume the land. Thus the chase or park, one of the most magnificent features of the ancient mansion, was lost in so many instances, that it could be no longer regarded as the natural and marked appendage of the seat of an English gentleman of fortune. The “trim garden,” which could be added as easily to the suburban villa as to the sequestered country-seat, maintained its place and fashion no longer; while the French taste of Charles II.’s time, introducing treillages and cabinets de verdure, and still more, the Dutch fashion, brought in, as we have before hinted, by King William, introduced so many fantastic caprices into the ancient style, that it became necessary, as we have already stated, to resort to the book of nature, and turn over a new leaf.
Kent, too much extolled in his life, and, perhaps, too much dispraised since his death, was the first to devise a system of laying out ground different from that which had hitherto prevailed in general, though with some variations in detail, for perhaps a century and a half. It occurred to this artist, that, instead of the marked distinction which was made by the old system between the garden and its accompaniments on the one hand, and the surrounding country on the other, it might be possible to give to the former some of the simplicity of the country, and invest that, on the other hand, with somewhat of the refinement of the garden. With this view, all, or nearly all, the ancient and domestic ornaments of the plaisance were placed under ban. The garden, as already noticed, was banished to as great a distance as possible; the plaisance was changed into a pleasure-ground! Down went many a trophy of old magnificence, court-yard, ornamented enclosure, foss, avenue, barbican, and every external muniment of battled wall and flanking tower, out of the midst of which the ancient dome, rising high above all its characteristic accompaniments, and seemingly girt round by its appropriate defences, which again circled each other in their different gradations, looked, as it should, the queen and mistress of the surrounding country. It was thus that the huge old tower of Glamis, “whose birth tradition notes not,” once showed its lordly head above seven circles (if we recollect aright) of defensive boundaries, through which the friendly guest was admitted, and at each of which a suspicious person was unquestionably put to his answer. A disciple of Kent had the cruelty to render this splendid old mansion, the more modern part of which was the work of Inigo Jones, more parkish, as he was pleased to call it; to raze all those exterior defences, and bring his mean and paltry gravel-walk up to the very door from which, deluded by the name, one might have imagined Lady Macbeth (with the form and features of Siddons) issuing forth to receive King Duncan. It is thirty years and upwards since we have seen Glamis; but we have not yet forgotten or forgiven the atrocity which, under pretence of improvement, deprived that lordly place of all its appropriate accompaniments,
“Leaving an ancient dome and towers like these
Beggar’d and outraged.”
The ruling principle that dictated Kent’s innovations was in itself excellent. The improver was considered as a painter, the landscape as the canvass on which, with such materials as he possessed, he was to display his power. Thus far the conception was laudable; and, indeed, it had already occurred to Sir John Vanbrugh, when consulted about laying out the grounds at Blenheim, who recommended to the Duke of Marlborough to advise with a landscape-painter upon that subject, as the most competent judge. Had Kent but approached in execution the principle which he adopted in theory, he would have been in reality the great man that his admirers accounted him. But unhappily, though an artist by profession, this father of the English landscape was tame and cold of spirit; his experience had not made him acquainted with the grander scenes of nature, or the poverty of his soul had not enabled him to comprehend and relish them. Even the Nature whom he pretended to choose for his exclusive guide seemed to have most provokingly disappeared from him. By the time that spades, mattocks, and pickaxes had formed and sloped his declivities in the regular and undulating line which he required, — that the water’s edge had been trimly bordered with that thin, lank grass, which grows on a new sown lawn, and has so little resemblance to the luxuriant vegetation of nature, — his meagre and unvaried slopes were deprived of all pretension to a natural appearance, as much as the toes which were pinched, squeezed, and pared, that they might be screwed into the little glass slipper, were different from the graceful fairy foot which it fitted without effort. Thus, while Kent’s system banished art from the province which might, in some degree, be considered as her own, he introduced her into that more especially devoted to Nature, and in which the character of her exertions always made her presence offensively conspicuous. For water-works and architectural ornaments, the professed productions of art, Kent produced ha-has! sheets of artificial water, formal clumps and belts of trees, and bare expanded flats or slopes of shaven grass, which, indicating the recent use of the levelling spade and roller, have no more resemblance to that nature which we desire to see imitated, than the rouge of an antiquated coquette, having all the marks of a sedulous toilet, bears to the artless blush of a cottage girl. His style is not simplicity, but affectation labouring to seem simple.
It is worth notice, that, while exploding the nuisance of graven images in the ancient and elaborate gardens, Kent, like some of the kings of Israel, though partly a reformer, could not altogether wean himself from every species of idolatry. He swept, indeed, the gardens clear of every representation of mythology, and the visitor’s admiration was no longer excited by beholding
“Statues growing that noble place in,
All heathen godesses most rare,
Homer, Plutarch, and Nebuchadnezzar,
All standing naked in the open air.”
But to make amends for their ejection, Kent and his followers had temples, obelisks, and gazabos of every description in the park, all stuck about on their respective high places, with as little meaning, and at least as little pretension to propriety, as the horticultural Pantheon which had been turned out of doors.
The taste for this species of simplicity spread far and wide. Browne, the successor of Kent, followed in his footsteps; but his conceptions, to judge from the piece of artificial water at Blenheim (formed, we believe, chiefly to blunt the point of an ill-natured epigram,) were more magnificent than those of his predecessor. We cannot, however, suppose old Father Thames so irritable as this celebrated professor intimated, when he declared that the river would never forgive him for having given him so formidable a rival.
The school of spade and mattock flourished the more, as it was a thriving occupation, when the projector was retained to superintend his improvements — which seldom failed to include some forcible alteration on the face of nature. The vanity of some capability-men dictated those violent changes which were recommended chiefly by the cupidity of others. While the higher-feeling class were desirous, by the introduction of a lake, the filling up a hollow, or the elevation of a knoll, to show to all the world that Mr. — — had laid out those grounds; the meaner brothers of the trade were covetous of sharing the very considerable sums which must be expended in making such alterations. Mannerists they were to the extremity of monotony, and what they extolled as new and striking, was frequently only some trick of affectation. For example, a pupil of Browne, Robertson by name, laid out the grounds of Duddingstone, near Edinburgh. The place was flat, though surrounded by many distinguished features. A brook flowed through the grounds, which, by dint of successive dam-heads, was arrested in its progress, twisted into the links of a string of pork-sausages, flung over a stone embankment, and taught to stagnate in a lake with islets, and swans quantum sufficit. The whole demesne was surrounded by a belt, which now, at the distance of forty or fifty years, is still a formal circuit of dwindled trees. It was to be expected that some advantage might have been gained by looking out from some point of the grounds on Craigmillar Castle, a ruin beautiful in its form and interesting in its combinations with Scottish history; and the professor of landscape-gardening was asked, why so obvious a resource had not been made something of? He replied, with the gravity becoming such a character, that Craigmillar, seen over all the country, was a common prostitute. A less ludicrous, though equally nonsensical reason, for excluding Duddingstone Loch, a small and picturesque lake, was, that it did not fall within his lordship’s property, and the mountain of Arthur’s Seat was not excluded, only because it was too bulky to be kept out of sight. We have heard the excellent old Lord Abercorn mention these circumstances with hearty ridicule; but he suffered Mr. Robertson to take his own way, because, he said, every man must be supposed to understand his own business, — and partly, we may add, because he did not choose to take the trouble of disputing the point. Yet this Mr. Robertson was a man of considerable taste and acquirement, and was only unsuccessful because he wrought upon a bad system.
The founders of a better school were the late Mr. Payne Knight and Sir Uvedale Price, who still survives to enjoy the triumph he has achieved. These champions, and particularly Price, succeeded in demonstrating to a deceived public, that what had been palmed upon them as nature and simplicity were only formality and affectation. The contest on behalf of the new system was chiefly maintained by Mr. Repton, and in a manner which shows that the private feelings of that layer out of grounds — unquestionably a man of very considerable talents — were more than half converted to the opinions of Sir Uvedale, and that he was disputing rather to save his own honour and that of his brethren, than for any chance of actual victory. In fact, we do not much overstate the matter when we allege, that those who were least willing to own that Price was right, because it would have been a virtual acknowledgment that they themselves were wrong, were among the first to admit in practice the principles which he recommended, or at least to make use of them, whether they admitted them or no. There has been since this controversy — that is, for these thirty years past — a considerable and marked improvement in laying out of pleasure-grounds — the spade and shovel have been less in use — the strait-waistcoating of brooks has been less rigorously enforced — and improvers, while talking of Nature, have not so remorselessly shut her out of doors. We believe most landscape-gardeners of the present day would take a pride in preserving scenery, which their masters of the last age would have made conscience to destroy. The mummery of temples and obelisks is abolished, while the propriety of retaining every shred connected with history or antiquity, is, in one system at least, religiously preserved, In such cases,
“A corner-stone, by lighting cut,
The threshold of a cottage hut,”
may have their value. The same rule is, we trust, generally observed in the scenes which Nature has herself ornamented; and the artist holds himself discharged if he consults and observes her movements without affecting to dictate to or control them. Those glens, groves, or mountains, which she has marked with a peculiar character, are no longer defaced by the impotent endeavours of man to erase it.
The tendency of our national taste, indeed, has been changed, in almost every particular, from that which was meagre, formal, and poor, and has attained, comparatively speaking, a character of richness variety, and solidity. An ordinary chair, in the most ordinary parlour, has now something of an antique cast — something of Grecian massiveness, at once, and elegance in its forms. That of twenty or thirty years since was mounted on four tapering and tottering legs, resembling four tobacco pipes; the present supporters of our stools have a curule air, curve outwards behind, and give a comfortable idea of stability to the weighty aristocrat or ponderous burgess who is about to occupy one of them. The same change in taste may be remarked out of doors, where, from the total absence of ornament, we are, perhaps, once more verging to its excess, and exhibiting such a tendency to ornament, in architecture and decoration, that the age may, we suspect, be nothing the worse for being reminded that, as naked poverty is not simplicity, so fantastic profusion of ornament is not good taste.
But in our landscape-gardening, as it has been rather unhappily called, although the best professors of the art have tacitly adopted the more enlarged and liberal views provided by the late Mr. Knight, and Sir U. Price, these are not, perhaps, so generally received and practised as could be desired. We say the art has been unfortunately named. The idea of its being, after all, a variety of the gardening art, with which it has little or nothing to do, has given a mechanical turn to the whole profession, and certainly encouraged many persons to practise it, with no greater qualifications than ought to be found in a tolerably skilful gardener. This certainly, however intelligent and respectable the individuals may be, is not the sort of person, in point of taste and information, to whom we would wish to see the arrangement of great places intrusted. The degree of mechanical skill which they possess may render them adequate to the execution of plans arranged by men of more comprehensive abilities, better education, and a possession, as demanded by Price, of the knowledge connected with the higher branch of landscape-painting, and with the works of the first masters. Far from threatening the disposers of actual scenery with an abrogation of their profession, as was unjustly stated to be his object, Price’s system went to demand from them a degree of scientific knowledge not previously required, and to elevate in proportion their rank and profession in general estimation.
The importance of this art, in its more elegant branches, ranks so high in our opinion, that we would willingly see its profession (and certainly it contains persons worthy of such honour) more closely united with the fine arts than it can now be esteemed. The improvers or layers out of ground would, in that case, be entitled to demand from their employers a greater degree of fair play than is, in many cases, allowed them at present. According to the common process, their time is estimated at a certain number of guineas per day, and the party consulting them is not unnaturally interested in getting as much out of the professor within as little time as can possibly be achieved. The landscape-gardener is, therefore, trotted over the grounds two, three, or four times, and called upon to decide upon points which a proprietor himself would hesitate to determine, unless he were to visit the ground in different lights, and at different seasons, and various times of the day during the course of a year. This leads to a degree of precipitation on the part of the artist, who knows his remuneration will be grudged, unless he makes some striking and notable alteration, yet has little or no time allowed him to judge what that alteration ought to be. Hence, men of taste and genius are reduced to act at random; hence an habitual disregard of the genius loci, and a proportional degree of confidence in a set of general rules, influencing their own practice, so that they do not receive from nature the impression of what the place ought to be, but impress on nature, at a venture, the stamp, manner, or character of their own practice, as a mechanic puts the same mark on all the goods which pass through his hands. Some practise the art, we are aware, upon a much more liberal footing; — it is on that more liberal footing that we would wish to see the profession of the improver generally practised. We would have the higher professors of this noble art to be that for which nature has qualified some of them whom we have known, and, doubtless, many to whose characters we are strangers — we mean, to be physicians — liberally recompensed for their general advice — not apothecaries, to be paid in proportion to the drugs which they can contrive to make the patient swallow.
It may, perhaps, be thought that, by the change we propose, we would raise too high a standard for such artists as might attain great proficiency in their calling, and so limit the benefit of their efforts to the great and the wealthy. This would be a consequence far from answering our purpose — but we have no apprehension that it would follow. The rules of good taste, when once exemplified, are pretty sure to be followed. Let any one recollect the atrocious forms of our ordinary crockery and potter’s ware forty years since, when the shapes were as vilely deformed as that of the pipkin which cost Robinson Crusoe so much trouble; and observe the difference since the classical outlines of the Etruscan vases have been adopted as models for our Staffordshire ware. Every form before was detestable, whatever pains might have been bestowed in the ornamenting and finishing: whereas, since the models introduced by Messrs. Wedgwood, the most ordinary earthenware is rendered pleasing to the eye, however coarse its substance, and mean the purpose for which it is designed. It is thus with good taste in every department. It cannot be established by canons and dicta, but must be left to force its way gradually through example. A certain number of real landscapes, executed by men adequate to set the example of a new school, which shall reject the tame and pedantic rules of Kent and Browne, without affecting the grotesque or fantastic — who shall bring back more ornament into the garden, and introduce a bolder, wider, and more natural character into the park, will have the effect of awakening a general spirit of emulation. There are thousands of proprietors who have neither scenes capable of exhibiting the perfection of the art, nor revenues necessary to reimburse the most perfect of the artists, but who may catch the principle on which improvers ought to proceed, and render a place pretty though it cannot be grand, or comfortable though it cannot aspire to beauty.
We are called at present from the general subject, to which, at some future period, we may, perhaps, return, by the duty of noticing a discovery, as it may be called, of one of the most powerful and speedy means of effecting a general and most interesting change in the face of nature, for the purpose of ornamenting the vicinity of a gentleman’s residence.
The three materials with which the rural designer must go to work — the colours, in other words, of which his landscape must be composed, are earth, water, and trees. Little change can be attempted, by means of digging away, or heaping together earth: the levelling of rising grounds, or the raising artificial hillocks, only serves to show that man has attempted what is beyond his powers. Water is more manageable, and there are places where artificial lakes and rivers have been formed with considerable effect. Of this our author, Sir Henry Steuart, has given a very pleasing instance in his own park. But, to speak generally, this alteration requires very considerable advantages in the previous situation of the ground, and has only been splendidly successful, where Nature herself had formerly designed a lake, though the water had escaped from its bed by the gradual lowering or sudden bursting of the banks at the lower end. These being replaced by a dam-head, the lake will be restored to its bed, and man will only have brought back the state of the landscape to that which nature originally presented. But, we doubt if even the ingenious process recommended by Sir U. Price would satisfy his own just and correct taste, when carried into execution; and we are, at any rate, confident that it is only in rare instances, and at considerable expense, that artificial water can be formed with the desired effect.
Trees, therefore, remain the proper and most manageable material of picturesque improvement; and as trees and bushes can be raised almost any where — as by their presence they not only delight the eye, with their various forms and colours, but benefit the soil by their falling leaves, and improve the climate by their shelter, there is scarcely any property fitted for human habitation so utterly hopeless, as not to be rendered agreeable by extensive and judicious plantations. But, to obtain the immediate command of wood, mature enough to serve as shade, shelter, and ornament, has been hitherto denied to the improver. He has been compelled to form his plan while his plants are pigmies; to await their slow progress towards maturity; and to bequeath as a legacy to his successors and descendants the pleasure of witnessing the full accomplishment of his hopes and wishes. He also frequently bequeaths his land to the care of careless or ignorant successors, who, from want of taste or skill, leave his purposes unfulfilled.
Repton, indeed, has justly urged, in favour of the plans of Kent and Browne, that the formal belts and clumps which they planted were intended only to encourage the rise of the young plantations, which were afterwards to be thinned out into varied and picturesque forms, but which have, in many instances, been left in the same crowded condition and formal disposition which they exhibited at their being first planted. If the school of Kent and Browne were liable to be thus baffled by the negligence of those to whom the joint execution of their plans was necessarily intrusted, a much greater failure may be expected during the subsequent generation, from the neglect of plans which affect to be laid out on the principles of Price. We have already stated, that it is to be apprehended that a taste for the fantastic will supersede that which the last age have entertained in favour of the formal. We have seen various efforts, by artists of different degrees of taste and eminence, to form plantations which are designed at some future day to represent the wild outline and picturesque glades of a natural wood. When the line of these is dictated by the character of the ground, such attempts are extremely pleasing and tasteful. But when a bizarre and extravagant irregularity of outline is introduced upon a plain or rising ground, when its whole involutions resemble the irregular flourishes of Corporal Trim’s harangue, and when we are told that this is designed to be one day a picturesque plantation, we are tempted to recollect the common tale of the German baron, who endeavoured to imitate the liveliness of Parisian society, by jumping over stools, tables, and chairs, in his own apartment, and when the other inhabitants of the hotel came to inquire the cause of the disturbance, answered them with the explanation, Sh’apprends d’estre fif. If the visitor applies to know the meaning of the angles and contortions introduced into the lines of the proposed plantations, in Petruchio’s language —
“What! up and down, carved like an apple tart;
Here’s snip, and nip, and cut, and slish, and slash,
Like to a censer in a barber’s shop” — —
he receives the plausible reply, that what he now sees is not the final result of the designer’s art, but that all this fantastic zig-zaggery, which resembles the traces left by a dog scampering through snow, is but a set of preparations for introducing at a future period, as the trees shall come to maturity, those groups and glades, that advancing and retiring of the woodland scene, which will realize the effects demanded by lovers of the picturesque. At present we are told, that the scene resembles a lady’s tresses in papillotes, as they are called, and in training for the conquests which they are to make when combed into becoming ringlets. But, alas! art is in this department peculiarly tedious, and life, as in all cases, precarious and short. How many of these papillotes will never be removed at all, and remain unthinned-out, like the clumps and belts of Browne’s school, disfiguring the scenes they were designed to adorn!
This has been hitherto the main obstruction to the art of laying out ground, that no artist could hope to see the perfection of his own labours; nay, the pleasure of superintending their progress till the effect begins to appear, is granted but to those who live long, or who commence their improvements early in life. The ambition of man has not remained passively quiescent under this restriction of his powers, and since the days of Sultan Adhim in the Tales of the Genii, down to the present time, various efforts have been made by different means, and under various circumstances, to transfer trees in a considerable state of maturity to the park or pleasure-ground, and apply them to the composition or improvement of real landscapes. The modes essayed may probably have been successful, in some instances, where the operation has been peculiarly favoured by circumstances; but, in general, the result has been fruitless expense and disappointment. The practice has been, therefore, latterly considered as, in a great measure, empirical, so slight were the chances of success. Miller dissuades his readers from the attempt; and Mr. Pontey judiciously considers the mutilated and decaying trees on which the experiment had been made, rather as a deformity than a beauty to the landscape. It was even denied that any real advance was gained by transplanting a tree of ten years old, and it was averred (and truly, according to the ordinary practice) that a plant from the nursery, placed beside it, would, in the course of a few years form by far the finer tree of the two.
Nevertheless, the obstacles which have been so long considered as insuperable, have given way, in our own time, before the courage, patience, and skill of an individual who has been enabled, with a success which appears almost marvellous, to cover a whole park at once with groups and single trees, combined with copse and underwood of various sizes, all disposed with exquisite taste. This accomplished person, Sir Henry Steuart of Allanton, is known to the literary world by an elaborate translation of Sallust, accompanied with a body of notes intimating an uncommon degree of general knowledge and classical learning. Independent in circumstances, and attached by taste and habits to rural pursuits, and especially those of which we have been treating, Sir Henry has resided chiefly at the seat of his ancestors, to which, little distinguished by nature, his wonderful exertions have given, within a comparatively short period of time, all that could, according to the usual mode of improvement, have been conferred in the course of forty tedious years.
Allanton, an ancient possession of this branch of the house of Steuart, had not originally much to recommend it to the owner, except its recollections. Situated in the county of Lanark, it is removed from the vale of the Clyde, which presents such beautiful scenery to the eye of the traveller. The soil is moorish, and the view from the front of the house must, before it was clothed with wood, have consisted in irregular swells and slopes, presenting certainly no striking features either of grandeur or beauty, — probably “just not ugly.” But fortune, that consigned a man of taste and observation to a spot which was not peculiarly favourable to his pursuits, gave him the power of indemnifying himself, by compelling nature to impart to his domain no inconsiderable portion of those silvan beauties with which she has spontaneously invested more favourite scenes; and we certainly cannot hesitate to avow our opinion, that the park of Allanton, as it now appears, its history being duly considered, is as well worthy of a pilgrimage as any of the established lions of “the North Countrie.”
We cannot be surprised, nor ought Sir Henry Steuart to be offended, if the wonder excited by so great a triumph of art over nature, in a process which has been thought and found so extremely difficult, should be, on the first view, mingled with some incredulity. It is natural for the reader to suspect, that the zeal of the theorist may, in some degree, have imposed on the improver, and that he communicates to the public observations which he himself has made under a species of self-deception, and which are, perhaps, a little exaggerated in his account of their results. But Allanton has been visited by many intelligent judges, disposed to inquire with sufficient minuteness into the reality of the changes which have been effected there; and so far as we have had an opportunity of knowing, the uniform testimony of those visitors corresponds with the account given by Sir Henry Steuart himself.
A committee of gentlemen, * deputed by the
* The Lord Belhaven, Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth, Bart., Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford, Bart., George Cranstoun, Esq., now Lord Corehouse, Alexander Young, Esq., of Harburn. — S.
Scottish Highland Society, supposed to be well acquainted with country matters, and particularly with the management of plantations, visited the place in September, 1823. Their report embraces three principal objects of inquiry: 1st, The single trees and open groups on the lawn, which have suffered the operation of transplanting. Of this description, birch, ash, wyche, or Scotch elm, sycamore, lime, horse-chestnut, all of which having been, at one time or other, subjects of transplantation, were growing with vigour and luxuriance, and in the most exposed situations, making shoots of eighteen inches. The trees were of various sizes. Several, which had been transplanted some years since, were from thirty to forty feet high, or more. The girth of the largest was from five feet three to five feet eight inches, at a foot and a half from the ground. Other trees, which had been only six months transplanted, were from twenty to thirty feet high; and the gentlemen of the committee ascertained their girth to be about two feet and a half, or three feet, at eighteen inches from the ground. These trees were in every respect flourishing, but their leaves were perceptibly smaller than those of the trees around them, a difference which ceases to exist in the second, or at furthest the third, year after transplantation. Upon the whole, the committee were satisfied, first, with the singularly beautiful shape and symmetry of the trees; secondly, with their health and vigour, as they showed no decayed boughs or twigs, the usual consequence of transplantation under other systems; thirdly, with their upright and even position, though set out singly and in exposed situations without any adventitious support. Thus the single trees possessed all the advantages which the proprietor could desire in the qualities of beauty, health, and stability.
The second branch of the committee’s inquiry related to enclosed groups, or masses of wood planted close together. There are several of these in the park, which correspond and occasionally contrast pleasingly with the open groups and single trees already observed. The committee particularly describe one of these close masses, intended as a screen to the approach. It had been clothed with wood in the course of one season by means of the transplanting system, trees from twenty to thirty feet high being first planted as standard or grove-wood, about twenty feet apart, and the intervals filled up with bushes or stools of copse or underwood. The standard trees being in this mass sheltered by each other, made larger shoots than those which stood singly, and the underwood of oak, birch, holly, mountain-ash, horse-chestnut, common and Canadian birdcherry, and other species usually found in a natural wood, were making luxuriant progress in their new situation. And though it was but five years since this copse, interspersed with standard trees, had been formed by Sir Henry, his visitors assigned no less a space than from thirty to forty years as the probable time in which such a screen could have been formed by ordinary means. From the facts which they witnessed, the committee reported it as their unanimous opinion, that the art of transplantation, as practised by Sir Henry Steuart, is calculated to accelerate, in an extraordinary degree, the power of raising wood, whether for beauty or shelter. They added, that of all the trees they had examined, one alone seemed to have failed; and that, being particularly intent on this point of inquiry, they had looked closely for symptoms of any dead tree having been removed, without being able to discover any such, although the traces of such a process could not have escaped their notice had they existed.
The existence of the wonders — so we may call them — which Sir Henry Steuart has effected, being thus supported by the unexceptionable evidence of competent judges, what lover of natural beauty can fail to be interested in his own detailed account of the mode by which he has been able to make wings for time, and anticipate the operation of years, so as altogether to overthrow the authority of the old saying: —
“Heu! male transfertur senio com induruit arbor?”
It is the object of the present publication to give in full detail the measures employed by the author to anticipate in such a wonderful manner the march of time, and to force, as it were, his woodlands in somewhat the same manner as the domestic gardener forces his fruits; and the information which the work affords, is as full and explicit concerning the theory upon which our author has proceeded as upon the practical points necessary to carry that theory into effect. Sir Henry Steuart’s method of transplantation is (as might have been expected from a scholar and philosopher) founded upon the strictest attention to vegetable physiology, as ascertained by consulting the best authors; and the rationale which he assigns as the cause of his success is not less deserving of strict attention, than the practical results which he has exhibited.
Sir Henry Steuart’s first general proposition on the subject of transplantation will be conceded to him at once, although, in practice, we have known it most grossly neglected. It amounts simply to the averment, that success cannot be expected unless upon principles of selection, determining the subject to be transplanted with relation to the soil that it is to be transferred to. All will grant in theory that every plant has its soil and subsoil, to which it is particularly adapted, and where it will luxuriate; whereas in others it can scarce make shift to exist; yet the planter or the transplanter, nine times in ten, neglects this necessity of suiting his trees to the soil, and is at the expense of placing the trees which chance to be his favourites indiscriminately upon every soil. Sir H. Steuart has largely and conclusively illustrated this matter; and henceforth it may be held as a positive rule, that there can be little hope of a transplanted tree thriving unless it be removed to a soil congenial to its nature, and that it will become every planter to bestow the same care in selecting the species of his trees that a farmer fails not to use in adapting his crops to the soil of his farm. But there is a second principle of selection, no less necessary to be attended to, and which respects the condition and properties of the individual trees suited for transplantation. This requires to be considered more in detail.
It is familiar to all acquainted with plantations (although the honour belongs exclusively to Sir Henry Steuart of having deduced the natural consequences,) that the constant and uninterrupted action of the external air on a tree which stands completely exposed to it, gives that tree a habit, character, and properties entirely different, and in many respects directly opposite, to those acquired by one of the same species which has grown in absolute shelter, whose energies have exerted themselves in a different manner and for a different purpose, and have, therefore, made a most material difference in the attributes and constitution of the plant.
We must suppose that our reader has some general acquaintance with the circulation of the sap in trees, being the substance by which they are nourished, and resembling, in that respect, the chyle in the human system. This nutritive substance is collected by the roots with those fibres which form their terminations, and which, with a degree of address which seems almost sentient, travel in every direction, and with unerring skill, to seek those substances in the soil best qualified to supply the nourishment which it is their business to convey. The juice, or sap, thus extracted from the soil, is drawn up the tree by the efforts of vegetation, each branch and each leaf serving, by its demand for nourishment, as a kind of forcing-pump to suck the juice up to the topmost shoot, to extend it to all the branches, and, in a healthy tree, to the extremity of each shoot. The roots, in other words, are the providers of the aliment; the branches, shoots, and leaves, are the appetite of the tree, which induce it to consume the food thus supplied to it. The analogy holds good betwixt the vegetable and animal world. If the roots of a tree are injured, or do not receive the necessary supplies of nourishment, the tree must perish, like an animal unsupplied with food, whatever be the power of the appetite in one case, and of the vegetation in the other, to consume the nutritive substance, if it could be procured. This is dying by hunger. If, on the other hand, the powers of vegetation are in any respect injured, and the tree, either from natural decline, from severe amputation, or from any other cause, ceases to supply those shoots and leaves which suck the sap up into the system, then the tree dies of a decay in the powers of digestion.
But the tree, like the animal, is not nourished by food alone; air is also necessary to it. If this be supplied in such extreme quantities as is usual in exposed situations, the trees will suffer from the action of the cold, like a man in an inclement climate, where he is, indeed, furnished with enough of pure air, but where the cold that attends it deranges his organic system. In like manner, when placed in a situation where air is excluded, both the vegetable and the animal are reduced to a state of suffocation equally fatal to their health, and, at a certain period, to their existence. Both productions of nature have, however, their resources; — the animal, exposed to a painful and injurious degree of cold, seeks shelter; man, however often condemned to face the extremity of cold, supplies his want of warmth by artificial clothing; and the inferior animals in the polar latitudes, on the Himalaya mountains, and so forth, are furnished by nature with an additional thickness of furs, which would be useless in warmer regions. * Trees placed
* The reader is referred to Bishop Heber’s travels in India for some most interesting details on this subject. — S.
in an exposed situation have also their resources; — the object being to protect the sap-vessels, which transmit nutriment, and which lie betwixt the wood and the bark, the tree never fails to throw out, and especially on the side most exposed to the blast, a thick coating of bark, designed to protect, and which effectually does protect, the sap-vessels and the process of circulation to which they are adapted, from the injury which necessarily must otherwise ensue. Again, if the animal is in danger of suffocation from want of vital air, instead of starving by being exposed to its unqualified rigour, instinct or reason directs the sufferer to approach those apertures through which any supply of that necessary of human life can be attained, and induces man, at the same time, to free himself from any coverings which may be rendered oppressive by the state in which he finds himself. Now it may be easily proved, that a similar instinct to that which induced the unfortunate sufferers in the black-hole of Calcutta to struggle with the last efforts to approach the solitary aperture which admitted air to their dungeon, and to throw from them their garments, in order to encourage the exertions which nature made to relieve herself by perspiration, is proper, also, to the noblest of the vegetable tribe. Look at a wood or plantation which has not been duly thinned: — the trees which exist will be seen drawn up to poles, with narrow and scanty tops, endeavouring to make their way towards such openings to the sky as might permit the access of light and air. If entirely precluded by the boughs which have closed over them, the weaker plants will be found strangely distorted by attempts to get out at a side of the plantation; and, finally, if overpowered in these attempts by the obstacles opposed to them, they inevitably perish. As men throw aside their garments, influenced by a close situation, trees, placed in similar circumstances, exhibit a bark thin and beautifully green and succulent, entirely divested of that thick, coarse, protecting substance which covers the sap-vessels in an exposed position.
Another equally curious difference betwixt trees which have stood in exposed situations and those which have grown in such as are sheltered, is also so reasonable in appearance as to seem the act of volition, so curiously do the endeavours of nature in the vegetable world correspond with the instinct of animals and the reason of mankind. Man and beast make use of the position of their limbs to steady themselves against the storm, although, as their exposure to it is only temporary, the exertion bears the same character: but trees, incapable of locomotion, assume, when placed in an exposed situation, a permanent set of self-protecting qualities, and become extremely different in the disposition of the trunk, roots, and branches from those of the same species which remain in the shelter of crowded plantations. The stem of trees in an exposed situation is always short and thick, because, being surrounded by air and light all around, the tree has not the motive to rush up towards the free air which is so strongly perceptible in close woods. For the same reason, its branches are thrown widely out in every direction, as if to balance itself against the storm, and to obtain, from the disposition of its parts, a power of resistance which may supply the place of the shelter enjoyed by plants more favourably situated. The roots of such trees, which are always correlative to the branches, are augmented in proportion as necessity obliges the former to extend themselves.
There is a singular and beautiful process of action and reaction which takes place betwixt the progress of the roots and of the branches. The former must, by their vigour and numbers, stretch out under ground before the branches can develope themselves in the air; and, on the other hand, it is necessary that the branches so develope themselves, to give employment to the roots, in collecting food. There is a system of close commerce between them; if either fail in discharging their part the other must suffer in proportion. The increase of the branches, therefore, in exposed trees, is and must be in proportion with that of the roots, and vice versa; and as the exposed tree spreads its branches on every side to balance itself against the wind, as it shortens its stem or trunk, to afford the mechanical force of the tempest a shorter lever to act upon, so numerous and strong roots spread themselves under ground, by way of anchorage, to an extent and in a manner unknown to sheltered trees.
These facts afford the principles on which our author selects the subjects of his operations. It may seem a simple proposition, that to succeed in the removal of a large tree to an open situation, the operator ought to choose one which, having grown up in a similar degree of exposure, has provided itself with those qualities which are peculiarly fitted for it. Every one will be ready to acknowledge its truth at the first statement; but Sir Henry has been the first to act upon it; and, having, ascertained its accuracy, to communicate it to the world. It is Columbus making the egg stand upright.
Our author has enumerated four properties which Nature has taught trees that stand unsheltered to acquire by their own efforts, in order to suit themselves for their situation. First, thickness and induration of bark; secondly, shortness and girth of stem; thirdly, numerousness of roots and fibres; and fourthly, extent, balance, and closeness of branches. These, Sir Henry has denominated the four protecting qualities; and he has proved, by a very plain and practical system of reasoning, founded upon an intimate acquaintance with the most distinguished writers on vegetable physiology, that in proportion as the subject for transplantation is possessed of these four qualities, in the same degree it is fitted to encounter exposure as a single tree in its new position.
The characteristics of the trees which have grown in sheltered and warm situations are precisely the opposite of these; their bark is thin, glossy, and fresh-looking, without any of the rough, indurated substance necessary to protect the sap-vessels when exposed to the extremity of cold; the stem is tall, and slender, as drawn upwards in quest of light; the tops are small and thinly provided with branches, because they have not had the necessary room to expand themselves; and, lastly, the roots are spare and scanty. Sir Henry Steuart says, that a tree, in the situation, and bearing the character last described, is possessed of the “non-protecting properties.” A great-coat and a pair of overalls or mud-boots, may be called, with propriety, the protecting properties of a man who mounts his steed in rough weather; but he who sits at home, in a nightgown and slippers, can hardly be said to possess any non-protective qualities, or any thing, except a negation of the habiliments which invest his out-of-doors friend. We will not, however, disturb the subject by cavilling about expressions; it is enough that the reader understands that the presence of the “non-protecting qualities” implies the total absence of those which render trees fit to endure the process of transplantation.
Yet, though this principle of selection be, when once stated, so very satisfactory, it is no less certain, that no preceding author had so much as glanced at it; and that convenience, the usual, though by no means the safe guide of planting operations, has pointed out an entirely different course. Young woods, being usually planted far too thickly with hard-wood, — or, in other words, the principals being in too great a proportion to the firs intended as nurses, — are found, after the lapse of twelve or fourteen years, to be crowded with tall, shapely plants, which have not room to grow, and are obviously damaging each other. The consequence of this is, that the proprietor, unwilling to lose so many thriving plants, is very often tempted, by the healthiness of their appearance, to select them as subjects for transplantation. Their graceful and lengthened stems, and smooth and beautiful bark, seem to be marks of health (as, indeed, they are, while they remain in the shelter for which they are qualified,) and the thinness of their heads will, it is supposed, prevent their suffering much by the wind. But almost all such attempts prove abortive. The tree comes, indeed, into leaf, for one year, as some trees (the ash particularly) will do, if cut down and carried to the woodyard. But the next year the transplanted tree displays symptoms of decay. The leaves do not appear in strength and numbers enough to carry the sap to the ends of the branches; the stem becomes covered with a number of small sprays, which at once indicate that the sap has been arrested in its progress, and that the tree is making a desperate, we had almost said an unnatural, effort to avail itself of the nutriment in the stem, which it cannot transfer to the branches; the bark becomes dry, hide-bound, and mossed; the projecting branches wither down to the stem and must be cut off; and, after all, the young tree either dies utterly, or dwindles into a bush, which, perhaps, may recover elevation, and the power of vegetation, after a pause of ten or twelve years, but more likely is stubbed up as a melancholy and disagreeable object. This grand and leading error is avoided in the Allanton system, by the selection, from the beginning, of such trees as, having grown in an exposed situation, are provided with the protecting properties, and can, therefore, experience no rude change of atmosphere or habits by the change of place to which they are subjected.
But, it may be asked, where is the planter to find such trees as are proper for being transplanted? Our author replies, that there are few properties, however small in extent, or unimproved by plantations, which do not possess some subjects endowed, perfectly or nearly so, with the protecting qualities. The open groves, and scattered trees around old cottages, or in old hedge-rows — where not raised upon an embankment, which gives the roots a determination downwards — are invaluable to the transplanter. They are already inured to the climate, and furnished with a quantity of branches and roots, — they possess the limited length and solidity of stem and the quality of bark necessary to enable them to endure exposure, — in other words, they are fit for being immediately transplanted. In most cases, however, the trees may have but partially gained the protecting qualities; and where such subjects occur, they must, by training, be made to complete the acquisition of them. The process to which they are subjected is various, according to the special protecting quality in which the tree is deficient. In general, and especially where the bark appears of too fine and thin a texture to protect the sap-vessels, a gradual, and, in the end, a free exposure to the elements, induces the trees selected fully to assume the properties which enable them to dispense with shelter. If, on the other hand, the bark is of a hardy quality, and the branches in sufficient number, but the roots scanty and deficient — the tree ought to be cut round with a trench, of thirty inches deep, leaving only two or three strong roots uncut, to act as stays against the wind. The earth is then returned into the trench, and when taken up at the end of two or three years, with the purpose of final removal, it will be found that the roots have formed, at the points where they were severed, numbers of tassels (so to speak) composed of slender fibres, which must be taken the greatest care of at the time of removal, and will be found completely to supply the original deficiency of roots. Again, if the branches of the subject pitched upon be in an unfavourable state, this evil may be counteracted by a top-dressing of marl and compost, mixed with four times the quantity of tolerable soil, spread around the stem of the tree, at four feet distance. This mode Sir Henry Steuart recommends as superior to that of disturbing the roots, as practised in gardens for the same purpose of encouraging the growth of fruit-trees; and assures us, that the increase, both of the branches and roots, will be much forwarded, and that the tree will be fit for removal in the third year.
These modes of preparing individual trees are attended with some expense and difficulty; but here again the experience of Sir Henry Steuart suggests a plan, by which any proprietor, desirous to carry on the process upon a considerable scale, may, by preparing a number of subjects at once, greatly accelerate the time of commencing his operations, at an expense considerably less than would attach to the preparation of each tree separately. The grounds of Allanton had been, about forty years ago, ornamented with a belt and clumps, by a pupil of Browne. Sir Henry found in both, but especially in the clumps, the means of obtaining subjects in sufficient number and quantity for his own purposes. The ground where these were set had been prepared by trenching and taking a potato-crop.
“About the twelfth or fifteenth year, I began to cut away the larch and spruce-firs. These had been introduced merely as nurses to the deciduous trees; and, from the warmth and shelter they had afforded, and the previous double-digging, the whole had rushed up with singular rapidity. The next thing I did was, to thin out the trees to single distance, so as that the tops could not touch one another, and to cut away the side-branches, within about three, or three and a half feet of the surface. By this treatment, it will be perceived, that a considerable deal of air was admitted into the plantations. The light, which before had had access only at the top was now equally diffused on all sides; and the trees, although for a few years they advanced but little in height, made surprising efforts towards a full developement of their most important properties. They acquired greater strength of stem, thickness of bark, and extension of roots, and consequently of lateral branches. But, at this time, it was apparent, that the clumps had a remarkable advantage over the belt, or continuous plantation. While in no part so deep as to impede the salutary action of the atmosphere, the circular or oval figure of the clumps, and their free exposure to the elements, furnished them with a far greater proportion of good outside trees; and these, having acquired, from the beginning, a considerable share of the protecting properties, were in a situation to shelter the rest, and also to prevent the violence of the wind from acting injuriously on the interior of the mass. It therefore became necessary to thin the belt for the second time, which was now done to double distance; that is to say, to a distance such as would have admitted of a similar number of trees in every part, to stand between the existing plants. Thus, within four years from the first thinning, I began to have tolerable subjects for removal, to situations of moderate exposure; while every succeeding season added fresh beauty and vigour to these thriving nurseries, and made a visible accession to all the desirable pre-requisites.” — Pp. 203-205.
The author proceeds, with his usual precision, to give directions how each country-gentleman, that is so minded, may, by a peculiar treatment adapted to accelerate the acquisition of the protecting properties applied to a portion of any existing plantation, secure a grand repository of materials high and low, light and massive, from which his future plans of transplantation may be fully supplied. Indeed, he adds, that all grove woods, which have been regularly and properly thinned, and so treated that the tops have not been suffered to interfere, may be esteemed good transplanting nurseries, provided the soil be loose and friable.
Thus much being said about the principle of selection, the reader will naturally desire to know, what size of trees can be subjected to the process of transplantation. According to Sir Henry’s general statement, this is a mere question of expense. A large tree may be removed with the same certainty of success as a lesser one; but it requires engines of greater power, a more numerous band of labourers, and the expense is found to increase in a rapidly progressive ratio. We presume to add, although our author has not explicitly stated it, that to sustain this violent alteration, trees ought to be selected that have not arrived at maturity, far less at the point from which they decline; and this, in order that the subject of transplantation may be possessed of all the energy and force of vegetation belonging to the period of youth. In the practice at Allanton, a tree of six or eight inches in diameter, or two feet in girth, is the least size which is considered as fit to encounter the elements; if planted out singly, eighteen inches and two feet in diameter are among the largest specimens, and plants of about a foot in diameter may be considered as a medium size, being both manageable and of size enough to produce immediate effect upon the landscape, and to oppose resistance to the storm.
We are next to trace the Allantonian process of removing and replanting the tree.
The tree is loosened in the ground by a set of labourers, named pickmen, who, with instruments made for the purpose, first ascertain with accuracy how far the roots of the subject extend. This is easily known when the subject has been cut round, as the trench marks the line where the roots have been amputated. If the tree has not sustained this previous operation, the extent of the roots will be found to correspond with that of the branches. The pickers then proceed to bare the roots from the earth with the utmost attention not to injure them in the operation. It is to the preservation of these fibres that the transplanter is to owe the best token of his success, namely, the feeding the branches of the tree with sap even to their very extremities. The roots are then extricated from the soil. A mass of earth is left to form a ball close to the stem itself, and it is recommended to suffer two or three feet of the original sward to adhere to it. The machine is next brought up to the stem of the tree with great caution. This is the engine devised by Browne, and considerably improved by Sir Henry Steuart. It is of three sizes, that being used which is best adapted to the size of the tree, and is drawn by one, or, at most, two horses. It consists of a strong pole, mounted upon two high wheels. It is run up to the tree, and the pole, strongly secured to the tree while both are in a perpendicular posture, is brought down to a horizontal position, and in descending in obedience to the purchase operates as a lever, which, aided by the exertions of the pickmen, rends the tree out of the soil. The tree is so laid on the machine, as to balance the roots against the branches, and it is wonderful how slight an effort is necessary to pull the engine when this equilibrium is preserved. To keep the balance just, one man, or two, are placed aloft among the branches of the tree, where they shift their places, like a sort of moveable ballast, until the just distribution of weight is ascertained. The roots, as well as the branches, are tied up during the transportation of the tree, it being of the last consequence that neither should be torn or defaced by dragging on the ground or interfering with the wheels. The mass, when put in motion, is manœuvred something like a piece of artillery, by a steersman at the further end. It requires a certain nicety of steerage, and the whole process has its risks, as may appear from a very good story told by Sir Henry, at page 232.
The pit for receiving the transplanted tree, which ought to have been prepared at least a twelvemonth before, is now opened for its reception, the earth being thrown out for such a depth as will suit its size; with this caution, that the tree be set in the earth as shallow as possible, but always so as to allow room for the dipping of the vertical roots on the one hand, and sufficient cover at top on the other. This is preferred, even though it should be found necessary to add a cart-load or two of earth to the mound afterwards.
It is well known that in all stormy and uncertain climates every species of tree shows what is called a weather side, that is, its branches shoot more freely to that side which is leeward during the prevailing wind, than in the opposite direction. Hence the trees, in a windy climate, excepting, perhaps, the sycamore, are but indifferently balanced, and seem, from their growth, to be in the act of suffering a constraint which they cannot resist. Now an ancient rule which is echoed and repeated by almost all who touch on the subject, affirms that a transplanted tree must be so placed in its new site, that the same side shall be weather and lee which formerly were so. Sir Henry Steuart, in direct opposition to this rule, recommends strongly that the position of the tree be reversed, so that the lee side, where the branches are elongated, shall be pointed towards the prevailing wind, and what was formerly the weather-side, being now turned to leeward, shall be encouraged, by its new position, to shoot out in such a manner as to restore the balance and symmetry of the top. This change is, indeed, in theory a departure from Sir Henry Steuart’s general principle, because it exposes to the greatest severity of the element that side of the tree whose bark has been least accustomed to face it. But, nevertheless, as the practice is found successful, it must rank among those powers of control by which human art can modify and regulate the dispensations of nature, and the beauty given to the tree, which is thus brought to form an upright and uniform, instead of an irregular and sidelong head, is not less important than the shelter and power of resistance which is acquires on mechanical principles, by turning its heaviest and strongest branches against the most frequent and severe blast. Sir Henry claims the merit of being the first planter who ever dared to rectify the propensity of trees to shoot their branches to leeward by moving the position; and as, in his extensive experience, he has never found his doing so injure the tree, or impede its growth, we must thank him for breaking through the prejudice in question.
A second and most important deviation from the common course of transportation is the total disuse of the barbarous practice of pollarding or otherwise mutilating and dismembering the trees which are to be transplanted. This almost universal custom, which subjected the tree, at the very moment when it was to sustain its change of place, to the amputation of one-third, one-half, or even the whole of its top, seems to be founded on a process of false reasoning. “We cut off the roots,” say these reasoners, “and thereby diminish the power of procuring supply for the branches; let us also cut off a similar proportion of the branches which are to be supplied, and the remaining roots will be adequate to support the remainder of the top.” In this argument, it is assumed that the branches are themselves of no use to the process of vegetation, and can be abridged with as much ease as the commandant of a besieged town, when provisions grow scarce, can rid himself of the superfluous part of his garrison. But it is not so; we cannot deprive the tree of a healthy branch, without, to a certain extent, deranging the economy of vegetation: each leaf, in its degree, forms a forcing-pump, which draws up a certain quantity of sap, the natural food of the tree; and, moreover, it forms a portion of the lungs of the tree, as the leaves inhale a certain quantity of air, an operation which may be compared to respiration. To destroy the branches, therefore, further than for the moderate purpose of pruning, is to attempt to fit the tree to rest satisfied with an inferior supply of nourishment, by depriving it of a part of its appetite and a part of its power of inhaling the air, which is no less necessary to its healthful existence. The case comes to be the same with that of a worthy chaplain, who, with the crew of a vessel he belonged to, was thrown by shipwreck on a desolate rock, where there were no means of food. His shipmates suffered grievously, “But for my part,” says the chaplain, “I bless heaven that I was in a burning fever the whole time, and desired nothing but cold water, of which there was plenty on the island.” Now, though the good man seems to have been grateful even for his burning fever (having, it must be observed, safely recovered from it,) it will generally be thought rather too hazardous a remedy to be desired by others in similar situations, and those who treat their trees on the same principle ought to remember, that to cure one injury they are exposing their subjects to two.
The sagacious Miller long ago noticed these facts, and ascribed this fashion of thinning and pollarding to the ignorance of planters, who, not being aware of the principles of vegetation, did not know that trees were nourished as well by their leaves, sprays, and branches, as by their roots: —
“For (says that judicious writer) were the same severities practised on a tree of the same age unremoved, it would so much stint the growth, as not to be recovered in several years; nor would it ever arrive at the size of such as had all their branches left upon them.” *
* Miller’s Gardener’s and Botanist’s Dictionary, voc. “Planting.”
But were this species of mutilation less directly injurious to vegetation than it certainly is, we ought to remember that the purpose of transplanting trees is chiefly or entirely ornamental; and if we render them, by decapitation and dismemberment of every kind, disgusting and miserable spectres, we destroy the whole purpose and intention for which they were transplanted, and present the eye with a set of naked and mutilated posts and poles, resembling the unhealthy and maimed tenants of a military hospital after a great battle, instead of the beautiful objects which it was the purpose of the improver to procure by anticipating the course of nature. It is true, good soil, and a tract of years, may restore such ill-used subjects to form and beauty, but, considering the length of time that they must remain disgusting and unsightly, we would far rather trust to such plants as nature might rear on the spot — plants which would come to maturity as soon, and prove incomparably more thriving in their growth, and more beautiful in their form. But the Allanton system, by planting the subjects without mutilation, boasts to obtain the immediate effect of trees complete and perfect in all their parts, without loss of the time required to replace the havoc of axe and saw.
There is a third material point in which Sir Henry Steuart’s system differs from general practice, not indeed, absolutely, but in degree. The only absolute requisite which the old school of transplantation enjoined, was that the tree should be taken up with as large a ball of earth as could possibly be managed. In obeying this direction, there was considerable expense incurred by the additional weight, not to mention that the transplanter was often disappointed by the ball falling to pieces by the way. In short, the difficulty was so great, that the operation was often performed in severe weather, to secure the adhesion of the earth to the roots, at the risk of exposing the extremities of the fibres and rootlets to the highly unfavourable agency of frost. The Allanton system limits the earth, which is, if possible, to be retained, to that lying immediately under the stem of the tree, where a ball of moderate extent is to be preserved: the roots extending from it are, as already explained, entirely denuded of earth by the pickmen, in their process of loosening the tree from the soil. When the tree is borne by the machine up to the spot where it is to be finally placed, it is carefully brought to a perpendicular posture by means of elevating the pole of the machine, and the centre of the stem is received, with the ball of earth adhering to it, into a cavity in the middle of the pit, so shallow, however, that the trunk of the tree stands rather high, and the roots have a tendency downwards. The roots are then freed from the tyings which have bound them up for temporary preservation, and are divided into the tiers or ranks in which they diverge from the trunk. The lowest of these tiers is next arranged, as nearly as possible in the manner in which it lay originally, each root, with its rootlets and fibres, being laid down and imbedded in the earth with the utmost precaution. They must be handled as a lover would dally with the curls of Neæra’s hair, for tearing, crushing, or turning back these important fibres, is in the highest degree prejudicial to the growth of the tree. The earth is then laid over this the lowest tier of roots with much precaution; it is carefully worked in by the hand, and the aid of a sort of small rammer, with such attention to the safety of the fibres, as to encourage them immediately to resume their functions, as if they had never been disquieted. Additional earth is then gradually sifted in, and kneaded down, till it forms a layer on which the second tier of roots is extended; and these are put in order, and disposed of in the same way as the lower tier. The same process of handling and arranging the roots then takes place with the third tier, and the fourth, if there is one. This attention to incorporating with the soil each root, nay, each fibre, as far as possible, answers a double purpose. It not only induces the roots to commence their usual and needful office of collecting the sap, but also secures them against the effect of storms of wind, which, blowing on trees transplanted in the ordinary way with a ball, makes them rock like a bowl in a socket, the ball, with the roots, having no communication with the pit except by adhesion. The sense of this great evil suggested to former transplanters the necessity of stakes, ropes, and other means of adventitious support, which were always ugly, and expensive, and generally inefficient. Whereas, according to the Allanton system, the tree, reversed so as to present its weightier branches against the wind, and picketed to the firm earth by a thousand roots and rootlets, carefully incorporated with the soil, is not found to require any support, is seldom swayed to a side, and almost never blown down by the heaviest gales. Here, therefore, is a third and important difference between the Allanton system and all that have preceded it, occasioned by the stability which the mode of laying the roots imparts to the tree, and the power of dispensing with every other species of support, except what arises from well-balanced boughs and roots received in the ground. We have to add, that Sir Henry’s own territory lies considerably exposed to those storms from the North, which are the heaviest and most prevailing gales of the Scottish climate.
When the soil has been placed about the roots, tier after tier, the rest of the earth is filled into the pit regularly, so that the depth around the stem shall be twelve or fourteen inches, and subjected to a gentle and uniform pressure, but by no means to severe ramming or treading in, leaving it to nature to produce that consolidation, which, if attempted by violence, is apt to injure the fine fibres of the roots. If there is turf, it is replaced around the stem in regular order. We ought not to have omitted, that the tree is subjected to a plentiful watering when the roots are fixed, and to another when the operations are completed.
From our own experience, we should consider this last requisite as of the highest consequence. Count Rumford, in his various experiments upon the food of the poor, arrived at the economical discovery, that water alone contained a great deal of nutritive aliment. Without extending our averment as far as that practical philosopher, we are much of his opinion, in so far as transplanted trees are considered; for we have seen hollies of ten and twelve feet high removed from the centre of a forest, and planted in a light and sandy soil, without any other precaution than placing them in a pit half-filled with earth, mingled with such a quantity of water that it had the consistence of thin porridge. Every forester knows the shyness of the holly, yet, set in soil thus prepared, and refreshed by copious watering during the season, they throve admirably well. Accordingly, we observe that Sir Henry recommends watering as one of the principal points respecting the subsequent treatment of the transplanted tree. When the trees stand singly, or in loose and open disposition, he recommends that the earth around them shall be finally beat down by a machine resembling that of a pavior, but heavier, about the month of April or May, when the natural consolidation shall have, in a great measure, taken place. To exclude the drought, he then recommends that the ground immediately under the stem of the oak, birch, and other trees which demand most attention, shall be covered with a substance called shews, being the refuse of a flax-mill, which, of course, serves to exclude the drought, like the process which gardeners call mulching. Lastly, in the case of such transplanted trees as do not seem disposed to thrive equal to the others, we are instructed to lay around the stem four cart-loads of earth, with a cart-load of coal-ashes, carefully sifted: this composition is spread round the tree, in a proportion of nine inches in depth, around the stem or centre, and five inches at the extremity of the roots.
It is most important to observe, that the success of the whole operation seems to depend as much upon this species of treatment, which takes place after the transplantation, as on observation of the rules laid down as to preparing the tree for its removal, and as to the method of the transplantation itself. We have already mentioned the efficacy of frequent watering: the excluding drought from the roots of the transplanted tree by the intervention of shews, or some equivalent subject (leaves, perhaps, or a layer of wet straw,) is of the last consequence; and not less so is the application of manure to the roots of such trees as seem, in the language of planters, to fail or go back. When these things are attended to, the tree seldom or never fails. It is surrounded with a very neat species of defence against the deer, sheep, or other animals with which the park may be stocked, and which is more handsome as well as less expensive than the ugly tubs in which transplanted trees seem usually to be set out in the ground which they are designed to occupy. Taking the medium degree of thriving, a tree thus transplanted may be expected to suffer in its growth of leaves for the first year or two. In the second particularly, it has less the air of general health than at any future time. In the third, if regularly attended to in its after-treatment, it shows little sign of suffering any thing. In two or three seasons more, it begins to show growth, and resume the progress of active vegetation.
We have thus gone hastily through the general requisites of the Allanton system of transplantation, for the details of which we must refer to the work itself. The merit to be assigned to the ingenious baronet is exalted by the character of his discovery, relating to such a fascinating branch of the fine arts as that of improving the actual landscape. He has taught a short road to an end which almost all landed proprietors, possessed of the slightest degree of taste, must be desirous of attaining. In a word, the immediate effect of wood is obtained — an entire park — may, as in the case of Allanton, be covered with wood of every kind: trees, arranged singly, in scattered groups, or in close masses, intermixed with copse of every description, and boasting, in the course of four or five years, all the beauty which the improver, in the ordinary case, can expect, after the lapse of thirty or forty. Even in the first year, indeed, a great general effect is produced; but as, upon close inspection, the trees will for some time show a thinness of leaves and check of vegetation, we have taken that period at which the transplanted wood may, with ordinary management, be expected to have lost all appearance of the operation which it has sustained.
It is now time to attend to a formidable consideration, the expense, namely, at which a victory over nature, so complete as that which we have described, is to be attained. Sir Henry Steuart complains, with justice, of reports, which, assigning the price of ten or twelve pounds to the removal of each tree, and circulated by envy or ignorance, have represented his system as beyond the reach of any, excepting the most opulent individuals; whereas he himself contends, that the art which he has disclosed has the opposite merit of being within the easy compass of any person of moderate fortune. As the practical utility of this ingenious system depends entirely on this point, we feel it our duty to notice the evidence on the subject.
The days of Orpheus are no more, and no man can now pretend to make the rooted denizens of the forest shift their places at the simple expense of an old song. It must be held sufficient if the expenditure does not so far exceed the object to be obtained, as to cause the alterations produced to rank with the extravagant freaks of Nero, who was the first of landscape-gardeners, and his successors in the school of gigantic embellishment. But the country-gentleman, of easy fortune, who does not hesitate to lay out two or three hundred pounds for a tolerable picture or two to adorn the inside of his house, should not surely be induced to grudge a similar expenditure to form the park, by which it is surrounded, into a natural landscape, which will more than rival the best efforts of the pencil. The power of adorning nature is a luxury of the highest kind, and must, to a certain extent, be paid for, but the following pieces of evidence serve to show, that the price is uncommonly moderate, if contrasted with the effects produced.
The committee of the Highland Society remark, that the transplantation of grown trees belongs to the fine arts rather than those which have had direct and simple utility for their object, and that the return is to be expected rather in pleasure than in actual profit:
“Value, no doubt, every proprietor acquires, when he converts a bare and unsightly common into a clothed, sheltered, and richly ornamented park. But, excepting in the article of shelter, he has no more immediate value than the purchaser of a picture.”
But this apologetical introduction is so far short of the truth, since it omits to notice that the improver has created a value — unproductive, indeed, while he continues to retain possession of his estate, but which can be converted into actual productive capital so soon as he chooses to part with it. The difference between Allanton, with its ornamented park, and Allanton as it was twenty years since, would soon be ascertained were the proprietor disposed to bring his ancient heritage into the market. The committee proceed to state, that the formation of the two acres of copse, intermingled with standard trees, already mentioned, appears to have amounted to £30 per acre; and they express their belief that no visible change, to the same purpose, could have been effected by the landscape-gardener, which could have had effect before it had cost the proprietor three times the sum.
Mr. Laing Meason, who had personally attended some operations on Allanton park, mentions the transplantation of two trees, from twenty to thirty years old. The workmen began their operations at six o’clock in the morning. The first tree was, by measurement, twenty feet; the second, thirty-two feet high, the girth from twenty-four to thirty-six inches. The one was moved a mile, the other about a hundred yards, and the whole operation was concluded before six in the evening. The wages of the men amounted to fifteen shillings, so that each tree cost seven shillings and sixpence. Adding the expense of a pair of horses, the sum could not exceed twelve shillings, and we must needs profess, that the mere pleasure of witnessing such a wonderful transmigration successfully accomplished, was, in our opinion, worth half the money. Mr. Laing Meason proceeds to say, “that if a comparison was to be drawn between the above expense and that of planting groups of plants from the nursery, keeping enclosures up for twenty years, and losing the rent on the ground occupied, the Allanton system is much preferable on the point of economy.”
The evidence of various gentlemen who have already adopted Sir Henry Steuart’s system on their own estates, is given at length in the book before us: — Mr. Smith, of Jordanhill, in Lanarkshire, appears to have made the largest experiments next to the inventor himself; and he states the results as uniformly successful. Before his workmen attained proficiency in the art, the individual trees cost from fifteen to eighteen shillings each, when transported about a mile; but in his later operations the charge was reduced to eight shillings for very handsome subjects, and six shillings for those of an inferior description.
Mr. MacCall, of Ibroxhill, another gentleman in the same neighbourhood, estimates the cost of his operations on trees, from eighteen to twenty-eight feet high, at eight shillings and tenpence per tree. Mr. Watson of Linthouse, in Renfrewshire, reckons that his trees, being on an average thirty feet high, cost him fourteen shillings the tree. Sir Charles Macdonald Lockhart, of Lee, and Sir Walter Scott, of Abbotsford, mention their expenses as trifling; and Mr. Elliot Lockhart, (M.P. for Selkirkshire) states ten shillings as the average cost of transplanting trees from twenty-four to thirty-five feet in height. All these gentlemen attest the success of their operations, and their thorough belief in the soundness of their ingenious master’s doctrine.
It ought to be observed, that no special account seems, in any of these cases, to have been kept of the after treatment of the transplanted tree, by watering and manuring, which must differ very much, according to circumstances. Something, however, must be added on this account to almost all the prices quoted by the experimentalists above mentioned.
We now come to Sir Henry’s account of his own expenses, which, with the laudable and honourable desire to be as communicative and candid as possible, he has presented under various forms. The largest trees which Sir Henry Steuart himself has been in the habit of removing
“being from twenty-five to thirty-five feet high, may be managed,” he informs us, “by expert and experienced workmen, for from 10s. to 13s. each, at half a mile’s distance: and the smallest, being from eighteen to five-and-twenty feet, for from 6s. to 8s. With workmen awkward or inexperienced, it will not seem surprising, that it should require a third part, or even a half more, fully to follow out the practice which has been recommended. As to wood for close plantations, or for bush-planting in the park, the trees may be transferred for about 3s. 6d., and the stools of underwood for from 1s. to 2s. per stool.” — P. 341.
In another view of his expenditure, Sir Henry Steuart fixes on a very considerable space of ground, which he had fully occupied with wood during a period of eight years, and shows data for rating his annual expenditure at fifty-eight pounds ten shillings yearly — a sum certainly not too extravagant to be bestowed on any favourite object of pursuit, and far inferior in amount to that which is, in most instances, thrown away on a pet-farm. We have dwelt thus long on the subject of expense, because it forms the most formidable objection to every new system, is most generally adopted, and most completely startling to the student. But where so many persons, acting with the very purpose of experiment, after allowance has been made for difference of circumstances, are found to come so near each other in their estimates, and that twelve shillings for the expense of transplanting a tree of thirty feet high forms the average of the calculation, it will not surely be deemed an extraordinary tax on so important an operation.
But, although we have found the system to be at once original, effectual, and attended with moderate expense, we are not sanguine enough to hope that it will at once find general introduction. The application of steam and of gas to the important functions which they at present perform, was slowly and reluctantly adopted, after they had been opposed for many years by the prejudices of the public. Yet these were supported by such effective arguments ad crumenam, as might, one would have thought, have ensured their advocates a favourable hearing. The present discoverer is a gentleman of liberal fortune, who, after having ornamented his own domain, has little interest whether his neighbours imitate his example or no. The system, too, must be subjected to the usual style of sneering misrepresentation which is applied to all innovators, until they gain the public to their side, and rise above the reach of detraction. We have also to anticipate the indifference of country gentlemen, too indolent to conquer the difficulty of getting the fitting and indispensable machinery, or to procure the assistance of experienced workmen. Even in the cases in which the new system may be brought to a trial, it may fall under discredit from the haste of the proprietor, or the no less formidable conceit and prejudices of the workman. The one may be disposed to leave out or hurry over some of the details, which are peculiarly slow and gradual, though producing such an immediate effect when completed; the other, unless closely watched, will assuredly revert to his own ancient practice, in despite of every charge to the contrary. In either case, the failure which may ensue will be imputed to the Allanton system, though it should be rather attributed to departure from its rules.
Notwithstanding all these obstacles, the principle is so good, and the application so successful, that we shall be much surprised if, ere long, some professional person does not make himself master of the process, and proceed to strive for that eminence which he cannot fail to achieve when it is found he possesses the art of changing the face of nature, like the scenes in a theatre, and can convert, almost instantly, a desert to an Eden. Nurserymen and designers will then find it for their interest to have the necessary machinery, and gangs of experienced workmen, to enable them to contract for raising, transferring, and upholding any particular number of trees, which a country gentleman of moderate fortune may desire to place in groups, or singly, in his park. The alteration will be thus effected without the proprietor, who wishes but to transplant some score or two of trees, being obliged to incur the full expenses of providing and instructing superintendents, as if he meant to countermarch the whole advance of Birnam wood to Dunsinane. Earlier or later, this beautiful and rational system will be brought into general action, when it will do more to advance the picturesque beauty of the country in five years than the slow methods hitherto adopted can attain in fifty.
Our readers are now enabled to answer with confidence the question of Macbeth: —
“Who can impress the forest? Bid the tree unfix his earth-bound root?”
But the subject, though to ourselves of special interest, has already, perhaps, detained some readers too long. Non omnes arbusta juvant.