Wanted--a Pinetum


INNUMERABLE are the occupations pursued by the people of our country in addition to the business or profession from which their livelihood comes. Great in number as are the gainful occupations, the pleasurable pursuits of our citizens are perhaps even more numerous. Everyone must have his hobby, and many who rarely change a business once adopted may ride, in the course of a lifetime, many hobbies, turning from the breeding of hunting dogs to the rearing of pheasants, from shooting to fishing, from farming to gardening, from tennis to golf, as inclination or changing fashion may decide.

Golf in the last two or three decades has been the hobby par excellence and its devotees probably outnumber the followers of any other sport or occupation pursued for pleasurable, as apart from gainful, reasons. That I hold no brief for golf may be known to many of the constant readers of this magazine. While its pursuit certainly tends to improve the health of steady and regular players, it is of doubtful benefit to those who are able to find time only for week-end playing; and to play the game regularly, and thus attain proficiency, takes far more time than the man engaged in an absorbing business or profession can afford. So that for most of those who now follow the game it is of doubtful value as a means to health, and involves merely a waste of time and effort, the irregular player seldom attaining sufficient skill to make his game interesting either to himself or to onlookers.

Some years ago I was an earnest advocate of farming as a pleasurable and healthful pursuit and as an alternative to golf. Farming is an outdoor occupation amid pleasant and interesting scenes; it provides its followers with excellent exercise, and as a means to health, interest, pleasurable emotion, and even in some instances to pecuniary profit, it distances golf as a hobby in every direction. While I received many letters from all parts of the country as a result of the publication of an article setting forth the advantages of farming over golf as a hobby, later inquiry induced me to believe that the number of amateur farmers was not increased by its publication and that, as a matter of fact, it is probable that the number of persons pursuing farming as a pleasurable occupation is on the decrease rather than otherwise, the fact of the matter being that amateur farming is a lonely pursuit, does not conduce to sociability or the forming of friendships; and to invite friends to play at farming with you would be difficult, even if they could be induced to do so. Furthermore, it is sometimes useful, and usefulness is not usually a characteristic of the really successful hobby.

When about to take up with my new hobby, the planting of trees as a pleasurable occupation, which I am now about, to recommend to the readers of this magazine in substitution for my former recommendation of farming, I talked over the matter with an old friend, the head of a great department at one of our best-known universities. He deplored my new pursuit, telling me that the study of dendrology and the planting of trees, except in the way of business, was a sure sign of advancing age (in my case he was good enough to say the first sign of oncoming years that he had noticed). The desire to plant trees he interprets as a part of man’s eternal reaching out for a future existence, for an immortality, if not for himself yet for things of his own planning and creation; for according to the authorities the long-lived tree, while it may die of neglect or insect diseases or enemies, should never die of old age, renewing its youth as it does with each recurring year.

Time was when the forest was the greatest enemy of the new settler and the chief obstacle to home-making in many parts of the North American continent. The land had to be cleared before farming could begin or villages and towns could be laid out and built. If you would get some idea of the conflict waged by the pioneer against the forest, read the chapters on the clearing of the woods in the country around Lake St. John in the Province of Quebec, in Louis Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine. Thousands of our early settlers spent their lives in unceasing warfare with axe and fire against the everencroaching forest, which constantly threatened to engulf their small clearings; and this conflict is still going on in distant and thinly settled parts of the country. The memory of it remains in the minds of the older people and is one of the obstacles in the way of reforestation in some of our newer states. Almost everywhere the battle against the forests has long since been won, and the land cleared of trees over most of the country formerly covered by dense and impenetrable woods.

In fact, so far has the forest receded and so great have been our inroads on this vast source of national wealth, that to-day we are using three or four times as much wood as the country is growing, and our Eastern States, which were, until a few years ago, self-sufficient in the matter of timber-production, now bring the lumber to build houses and the ties for the beds of railroads hundreds and even thousands of miles, from the only considerable forests, in the far Northwest or some of the Southern States, that still contain large supplies of merchantable timber. Unless we learn a lesson from the countries of the Old World and plant trees on a great scale; unless, in fact, as Colonel Greeley says, ‘Forestry becomes a matter of common interest and everyday speech,’ and everyone realizes that ‘our forests are going the way of the buffalo,’ a timber famine is not many years ahead of us.

By wasteful extravagance, by forest fires (mostly due to carelessness), by bad, not to say wicked and ignorant methods of lumbering, we have destroyed, and are still destroying, one of our greatest sources of national wealth, a source of wealth which is responsible for more large private fortunes perhaps than even the oil industry itself, with its innumerable millionaires; and the public sees this ever-increasing spoilage and diminution of our timber supply, or, as one writer puts it, ‘withholds its attention from our great and vital forest problem,’ with the same unconcern which is responsible for our failure to install proper methods of sewage utilization, pouring the richness of the prairies and the fatness of the farming lands into the sewers of our towns and cities, to choke up and poison our rivers and to pollute the ocean itself surrounding our shores.

The planting of trees, however, on a large scale is not exactly a hobby. It is the serious and necessary business of all our citizens, and it is even the solemn duty of those of us who are fortunate enough to own large tracts of land. Much of the so-called worthless land, all the abandoned farms, of which there are so many in the Eastern States, if properly planted to the right kind of trees, and given some attention afterward, with occasional thinning of overcrowded stocks, will produce good timber. Such lands, properly planted and with some regard to modern forestry methods in their care afterward, will probably give a larger money profit under timber cultivation than if regularly farmed. Indeed, experts have calculated that on such lands a timber crop, when matured and cut, will have earned a greater yearly interest than is given by our best securities, and with at least equal safety, provided always, however, that the public is educated in the matter of forest fires, making the camper who fails to extinguish his campfire, or the smoker who throws away lighted matches or cigarettes, amenable to the law and a respecter of the rights of others — a difficult matter, perhaps, now that the prohibition amendment has made lawbreaking the common habit of, in all probability, more than half of our entire population, and threatens to cause us to become what many Europeans have long thought us, ‘the most lawless nation on earth.’


It is not, however, the planting of timber trees with which I am attempting to deal; the particular hobby which I have written this paper to advocate, and to which I have at last, after much circumlocution, arrived, is the planting and establishing of a pinetum — the planting of coniferous trees for the interest and pleasure which growing them affords. This can be done on a large or a small scale. A large tract of land is not needed, and may even be detrimental; for even if you are the fortunate possessor of a large place, it is better to begin in a small way and thus avoid the many pitfalls which otherwise are sure to confront the beginner. You can have a small pinetum on two or three acres of ground, or even less, particularly if you grow the smaller evergreens; or you may have a glorious pinetum of thirty or forty acres, containing all or nearly all the conifers and other evergreens that can be grown in this climate, such as that at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston or the New York Botanical Garden, a visit to either place, which can be made entirely without cost, being one of the most interesting ways of spending a day out of doors at any season of the year that can be imagined.

A pinetum is beautiful at every season of the year. In the spring the new foliage, varying with the different species, fairly rivals in beauty the colorings of the most showy flowers; in the autumn the great variety in shape, size, and color of the cones makes a most interesting study. Most beautiful of all, perhaps, is the pinetum in the winter season. When all other trees are bare and dead in appearance, the conifers stand out, with their covering and carpet of snow, green as in summer, and living pictures in the surrounding desolation.

Most people, I think, recognize an evergreen when they see one; but so great is the indifference of the public to the fascinating science of dendrology, that even this modest claim may be an overstatement. When it comes to recognizing the very patent differences between such common conifers as the Scotch Red and Black Pines, or the Norway White and so-called Douglas Spruces, the average person in my experience is hopelessly at sea. It is to this new and intriguing study that I invite my reader’s attention.

The commoner conifers of your pinetum are easy to acquire (I am taking it for granted that each of my readers will at once adopt this fascinating pursuit). You may obtain from the nearest nursery some twenty or more different varieties in all stages of growth, out of the hundred or more that can easily be grown in the climate of the Northeastern States; or, if you are not yet arrived at mature age, you may grow them from seed. I do not advise this latter method unless you are willing to wait years for results which your friends will appreciate; but if you are a true lover of conifers, the growth of trees from seeds will prove of fascinating interest, from the first appearance of the small seedling breaking through the soil, through all the changes of appearance which are characteristic of these trees, the conifers changing much more in form and appearance at their different stages of growth than is the case with their deciduous neighbors.

Since the government regulations stopped the importation of trees from foreign growers because of the many and serious tree-pests, unseen and unsuspected, which come in with these shipments, the rarer kinds of conifers have become very difficult to secure otherwise than by growing from seed. Then begins the most interesting phase of your hobby, that of hunting rare specimens. You will travel hundreds of miles on the mere chance of finding one new tree, and feel greater joy when you have carried it home and safely planted it in your pinetum than is given even to the collector of old furniture, or a rarebook collector, when triumphing in a similar find.

Many and most interesting are the days that I have spent in these searches, often through most beautiful stretches of country, because the native trees, which are seldom grown in the nurseries, have to be transplanted from the wild, and a shovel and damp bagging in which to wrap the roots of the trees you dig yourself should always accompany these expeditions. You may also find in quite small local nurseries, in out-ofthe-way places, trees for which you have long searched in vain. On one happy day last year I came across, in a neglected corner of an old nursery, three Bhotan pines (now a comparatively rare tree), and because they were disease-laden and pest-infected, I was allowed to dig and carry them away for nothing. The joy of nursing them back to health and curing their diseases has been one of the very real satisfactions of the past trying summer, dry, in our part of the country, beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant.

Motor-trips, if you do not drive too fast, are a very good way of seeing the countryside and its ofttimes magnificent scenery; but motoring without an object, merely journeying from one expensive hotel to another of the same sort in another town, soon becomes monotonous and a weariness to the flesh. I had long ago largely abandoned the motor as a means of restoring tired nerves and of breathing the fresh country air; but when I mounted my new hobby, I found renewed interest in these journeyings, and now make trips in all directions to visit well-known nurseries specializing in conifers. Indeed, on my trips latterly I have never passed a nursery without going in to look over its collection of evergreens. Only the other day, in a small nursery in a neighboring State, I came across large well-grown specimens of Pinus densiflora and Picea orientalis, neither of which happened to be in my collection. After wandering over the back lots in this nursery for an hour or so, I finally found the proprietor and secured the trees, going on my way rejoicing. Neither of these trees is, of course, rare, but it just so happened that I had never been able to secure good specimens previously for my pinetum.

On another day, in a similar manner, I came across two well-grown cryptomeriœ, not, of course, comparable with this tree in its native land, but wellgrown specimens as far as this tree will flourish in our harsh Northern climate; and I secured these readily and at a moderate price, as they were the last two in the nursery and consequently no longer worth cataloguing or advertising. Similar surprises meet the ardent collector who will steadily pursue his course.


The Garden Clubs of America held a convention at Newport this past summer, and the various local clubs throughout the country sent delegates to this meeting, to the number of about six hundred. The visitors had an opportunity of seeing the many beautiful gardens and choice collections of flowers for which this exclusive summer resort is chiefly noted. The Garden Clubs serve a very useful purpose. Started in many localities with grave doubts as to the interest that could be fostered in them, most of them now have long waiting-lists for membership, and they are well established in most places. Not only do these local clubs furnish their members with information about gardens and flowers, but in at least one instance they publish in their proceedings important papers on various rare and interesting shrubs and flowers, and they cultivate the spirit of sociability and love of country life, any member being free to visit and inspect the gardens of members of other clubs, which are to be found in all parts of the country.

Some young and enterprising owner of a pinetum should get up a similar movement for the establishment throughout the country of clubs of evergreen-lovers, which would, I think, in course of time be similarly successful, as the love of evergreens is growing fast throughout our suburban communities and one finds everywhere throughout the country that the planting of evergreens is assuming large proportions in the laying out of country places both large and small.

Unfortunately, at present many of these plantings seem to begin with the Norway spruce and Colorado blue spruce, two of the most undesirable evergreens with which to make a start, in my opinion: the Norway spruce because it soon becomes ragged and unsightly, and the Colorado blue spruce because its color and shape make it inharmonious with its surroundings — an unfamiliar note, which becomes less congenial and even distasteful as the tree grows to maturity. If, instead of the Colorado blue spruce, planters would choose another variety of the same tree, Picea pungens viridis, the form with green needles, much more satisfactory results would in the end be attained; and the Norway spruce should be supplanted by some of the pines, such as Pinus nigra, Pinus sylvestris or Pinus resinosa, much more beautiful and durable trees, and entirely free from insect pests or other enemies in the Eastern States.

I cannot better conclude this plea for the establishment of a pinetum than by quoting from the Preface of Professor Bailey’s book on The Cultivated Evergreens:

The interest in evergreens, particularly the more durable conifers, is a subject particularly suited to the substantial amateur. The slowness and regularity of growth, the abiding quality in the round of the twelve months, the element of stability in these plants, appeal strongly to the person who has arrived at a settled purpose in life, who has an estate to develop and whose sentiments are established. We easily reflect our human qualities into them. There is no haste in their nature, no radical change of purpose in their character. They have a strong juvenile habit and quality, and then they age gradually into a picturesque maturity, each one with outstanding individuality. They are not unduly elated over the advent of spring; they are patient in the adversity of midsummer; they withstand the buffet of winter. They cover the margins of the landscape and inclose the property securely, giving it a serene atmosphere. They typify the strength of strong men and women as they grow old with advancing years.

The love of the conifers is no passing fancy. It is not subject to change in fashions. What a man plants to-day will give him joy as long as he lives, and the trees will carry his memory to his children’s children; ‘he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.’

Although to the unpractised eye most evergreens look alike, yet there are clear distinctions in leaves, and the identification of them cultivates the discriminating faculties. The cones and berries are a never-failing source of interest.

Specially so are the seed-bearing cones of pines and spruces and the other true conifers, unlike the fruits of other kinds of plants.

The pinetum-owner’s interest in evergreens is of two kinds — to grow a collection of different genera and species, and to incorporate them as parts in a landscape picture. These two purposes are often in conflict, although either one is legitimate.

The happiest result is no doubt a thoughtful combination of the two efforts, unless one desires to make only an arboretum; and yet the arboretum may itself have an artistic quality.