The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section III. On Wood.

Planting in the Highlands of the Hudson and the Alleghanies

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Although spiry-topped trees in large masses cannot be generally admired for ornamental plantations, yet they have a character of their own, which is very striking and peculiar, and we may add, in a high degree valuable to the Landscape Gardener. Their general expression when single or scattered is extremely spirited, wild, and picturesque; and when judiciously introduced into artificial scenery, they produce the most charming and unique effects. "The situations where they have most effect is among rocks and in very irregular surfaces, and especially on the steep sides of high mountains, where their forms and the direction of their growth seem to harmonize with the pointed rocky summits." Fir and pine forests are extremely dull and monotonous in sandy plains and smooth surfaces (as in the pine barrens of the southern states); but among the broken rocks, craggy precipices, and otherwise endlessly varied surfaces (as in the Alps, abroad, and the various rocky heights in the Highlands of the Hudson and the Alleghanies, at home) they are full of variety. It will readily be seen, therefore, that spiry-topped trees should always be planted in considerable quantities in wild, broken, and picturesque scenes, where they will appear perfectly in keeping, and add wonderfully to the peculiar beauty of the situation. In all grounds where there are abruptly varied surfaces, steep banks, or rocky precipices, this class of trees lends its efficient aid to strengthen the prevailing beauty, and to complete the finish of the picture. In smooth, level surfaces, though spiry-topped trees cannot be thus extensively employed, they are by no means to be neglected or thought valueless, but may be so combined and mingled with other round-headed and oblong-headed trees, as to produce very rich and pleasing effects. A tall larch or two, or a few spruces rising out of the centre of a group, give it life and spirit, and add greatly, both by contrast of form and color, to the force of round-headed trees. A stately and regular white pine or hemlock, or a few thin groups of the same trees peeping out from amidst, or bordering a large mass of deciduous trees, have great power in adding to the interest which the same awakens in the mind of the spectator. Care must be taken, however, that the very spirited effect which is here aimed at, is not itself defeated by the over anxiety of the planter, who, in scattering too profusely these very strongly marked trees, makes them at last so plentiful, as to give the whole a mingled and confused look, in which neither the graceful and sweeping outlines of the round-headed nor the picturesque summits of the spiry-topped trees predominate; as the former decidedly should, in all scenes where an expression of peculiarly irregular kind is not aimed at.