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

Poplar trees in landscape gardening

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In Landscape Gardening the poplar is not highly esteemed; but it is a valuable tree when judiciously employed, and produces a given quantity of foliage and shade sooner perhaps than any other. Some of the American kinds are majestic and superb trees when old, particularly the Cottonwood and Balsam poplars.* One of the handsomest sorts is the Silver poplar, which is much valued in our ornamental plantations; the more so, perhaps, because it is an exotic. At some distance, the downy under surfaces of the leaves, turned up by the wind, give it very much the aspect of a tree covered with white blossoms. This effect is the more striking, when it is situated in front of a group or mass of the darker foliage of other trees. It is valuable for retaining its leaves in full beauty to the latest possible period in the autumn, even when all the other deciduous trees are either brown, or have entirely lost their leafy honors. Its growth is extremely rapid, forming a fine rounded head of thirty feet in height, in six or eight years. (* There is a noble specimen of the Cottonwood, or, as it is here called, the Balm of Gilead poplar, about two miles north of Newburgh, on the Hudson, which gives its name to the small village (Balmville) near it. The branches cover a surface of one hundred feet in diameter, the trunk girths twenty feet, and the branches stretch over the public road in a most majestic manner. (See Fig. 37.)) The Lombardy poplar is a beautiful tree, and in certain situations produces a very elegant effect; but it has been planted so indiscriminately, in some parts of this country, in close monotonous lines before the very doors of our houses, and in many places in straight rows along the highways for miles together, to the neglect of our fine native trees, that it has been tiresome and disgusting. This tree may, however, be employed with singular advantage in giving life, spirit, and variety to a scene composed entirely of round-headed trees, as the oak, ash, etc.,-when a tall poplar, emerging here and there from the back or centre of the group, often imparts an air of elegance and animation to the whole. It may, also, from its marked and striking contrast to other trees, be employed to fix or direct the attention to some particular point in the landscape. When large poplars of this kind are growing near a house of but moderate dimensions, they have a very bad effect by completely overpowering the building, without imparting any of that grandeur of character conferred by an old oak, or other spreading tree. It should be introduced but sparingly in landscape composition, as the moment it is made common in any scene, it gives an air of sameness and formality, and all the spirited effect is lost which its sparing introduction among other trees produces. The Lombardy poplar is so well adapted to confined situations, as its branches require less lateral room than those of almost any other large deciduous tree.