The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section IV. Deciduous Ornamental Trees

Beauty and utility, John Evelyn

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As beauty is often closely connected in our minds with utility, we must be allowed a word on the great value of this tree. For its useful properties the oak has scarcely any superior. "To enumerate," says old Evelyn in his quaint Sylva, "the incomparable uses of this wood were needless; but so precious was the esteem of it of old, there was an express law among the Twelve Tables concerning the very gathering of the acorns, though they should be found fallen on another man's ground. The land and the sea do sufficiently speak for the improvement of this excellent material, for houses and ships, cities and navies, are builded with it." In almost all the finest buildings of Europe, particularly the vast Gothic edifices of the middle ages, oak was the chief material for the interior. The rich old wainscot, the innumerable carvings and decorations of those days were executed in this material. In America the vast pine forests produce a wood easily wrought, which has in a great measure superseded the use of this fine timber, and the exportation of immense quantities of the former to the eastern continent, has even in some degree lessened its consumption abroad. But for certain purposes where great strength and durability are required, the oak will always take the precedence claimed for it by Evelyn.* The English oak is probably rather superior in these qualities to most of our American species; but for ship-building the Live oak of the southern states is not exceeded by any timber in the world. (* The doors of the inner chapels of Westminster, it is stated, are of the same age as the original building; and as the original ancient edifice was founded in 611 they must consequently be more than 1,200 years old. Professor Burnet, in his curious Amenitates Quercine�, observes, that many of the stakes driven into the Thames by the Ancient Britons, to impede the progress of Julius C�sar, are in a good state of preservation, "having withstood the destroyer time nearly 2,000 years.")