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The Forester
Chapter II. Season of the Year best adapted for Planting Operations



Many practical planters have laid down that the months of March and April are the only proper months or season of the year adapted for planting operations. For my own part, I have planted extensively at all times between the months of November and April, both included, while the weather was fresh, and have had equal success from planting in all the different months. I may, however, say, that I always prefer the months of November and December for the planting of hard wood, and those of February, March, and April, for the planting of the fir and pine tribes. If the ground intended to be planted be naturally dry, I put in both hard wood and firs in the months of November and December; but if the ground be naturally wet, and the drains only recently made, I delay planting such ground till the spring months.

Where planting operations are not carried on extensively, it may be an easy matter to delay till a certain time in the year, as the private opinion of the party intrusted with the work may suggest to him; but where three or four hundred acres are intended to be laid down in wood, in one season, it is always found necessary to take advantage of the whole season, from November till April, whenever the weather will permit, in order to have the work all done before the growth of the plants begins, which is generally about the middle of April. Those who advocate planting in the spring months only, say, where planting operations are to be executed upon an extensive scale, put on the greater number of men, and have the work done in the shorter time; but I beg to say here, that those who advise to put on a great number of men, in order to have the planting of a piece of ground quickly accomplished, are not worthy of the name of practical foresters ; and cannot have had much experience in the results of such operations, as performed at different times, and under different circumstances.

Every experienced planter who has had occasion to employ a considerable number of men, in order to get through his work as fast as possible, is aware of the difficulty there is in getting a large number of labourers from any neighbourhood properly qua-lifted to conduct the operation well, and as it ought to he done. Common country labourers are seldom acquainted with planting operations, and require at least a few weeks’ practice before they can be safely trusted; therefore it is, that when a number of inexperienced men are brought together to plant, the work is always badly done; and, consequently, is seldom attended with success in the end. In planting extensively, my method has always been, to prolong the season of operations, and with a few experienced men to do the work in a proper manner; and by so doing, I have generally been very successful.

In reading the above assertion, many may bo inclined to say, that if the weather were to prove unfavourable, it would be impossible to get through an extensive piece of planting with a few men in one season; and, at first sight, there appears, indeed, some reason in this objection: but I answer, that very much depends upon the proper management of [the work in hand. In planting extensively, with a few good hands, I do not generally begin at one end or side of the plantation, and make good all the ground as the work proceeds, as is the custom with many planters who employ a great number of men at once. In almost every piece of ground laid out for an extensive new plantation, there is generally a variety of soils and situations in it, and of this variety of soils and situations I always take the advantage, thus:—when the weather is fine and fresh, I set the men to plant upon the most exposed sides on parts of the ground, and also to plant any piece naturally wet; and when the weather is cold or wet, I set them to plant upon the most sheltered parts, or where the ground is naturally dry ; and in the case of frost coming upon them, I always reserve the making of pits for hard wood, which can be done during frost, and is still carrying on the work, and at the same time keeping the workmen in employment. In short, by conducting planting operations in the manner above referred to, ten good experienced men will do far more work in four months, than twenty inexperienced ones in two months; and, what is of more importance, the work by the few hands will be much better done, and prove far more satisfactory in the end. Not long ago, I had an interview with an old forester of fifty years’ extensive and successful practice, who, upon conversing with me upon the point now under consideration, told me, that his rules for planting, for the last twenty years, had been, to plant dry ground in autumn, either with hard wood or firs, and to plant ground naturally wet in spring. Also to plant dry ground in wet weather, and ground naturally damp in dry weather; to the advantages of which method I can myself bear testimony from my own experience, and any planter who will go to work upon these principles, will find the happy results arising therefrom.


Next to the draining of the soil, nothing is of more importance, in order to insure the future welfare of any young plantation, than the proper adaptation of the different sorts of trees to the various soils and situations therein. This is a point in arboriculture which has all along been too little attended to by planters in general; and the not attending to this point, is in a great measure the reason that we at the present day see very many of our home plantations, in Scotland, mere eye-sores rather than ornaments. I have often regretted very much to see larch and Scots firs of thirty years’ standing in an unhealthy and dying state, where if beech, or any other of the native sorts of hard-wood trees, had been planted, they would undoubtedly have proved both useful and ornamental; and again, as often have I seen stunted-looking hard-wood trees striving for existence, where if firs or pines had been planted instead, all would have been well; which at once shows the low state of arboricultural knowledge among us. Upon a little reflection, it must appear evident to every inquiring man interested in the welfare of our home plantations, that a forester, in order to be one profitably, must be perfectly acquainted with the natural habits, constitution, and peculiarities of every tree that he attempts to cultivate; for if he is not so, the ultimate result of his work must in a great measure be left to chance. I by no means wish to say any thing lightly of the qualifications of foresters; but, at the same time, I feel in duty bound to say the truth, and that is, that taking foresters as a body of men, there is extremely little of useful practical information among them; and in order to prove the truth of this assertion, I may say, that foresters in general are not so able to cultivate the trees which grow under their notice, upon natural principles, as we find gardeners do the plants under their notice. And, admitting this, what is the reason of such a deficiency in their professional character? So far as I have been able to trace the cause of this defect among my brethren, I am led to think, that it is the want of having proper sources of information upon their business. Gardeners have been assisted by the advice of many able and scientific men, who have written much for their instruction; while the forester has had very little indeed written for his information. It has often been observed, that gardeners make better farmers and foresters than any other class of men; and it is the truth; but the reason is, that they have, or rather are obliged to have, a closer acquaintance with the nature of plants than any other class of men. A gardener cultivates several thousand of distinct species of plants; and yet he is generally able to adapt each species to that sort of soil which is found to he best suited to its nature. The gardener, in cultivating a heath, for instance, gives it a light, sharp, mossy soil and a cool dry situation; and he does so because he knows that the heath, in its native country, is an inhabitant of a light dry soil, and hilly or mountainous situation; and so on with every other plant he cultivates. Now, the principal thing to be observed here is, that the gardener who cultivates his plants with the most success is he who can by his art give his plants most nearly that soil and situation which is found to be their condition in a state of nature; which is just the point that the forester ouo-ht to attend to also.

Foresters, knowing that trees in the natural forest develope themselves to the greatest magnitude there, ought to make themselves aware of the particular circumstances which induce or assist that full development ; and upon knowing the peculiar circumstances attending the full development of each species in the natural state, they ought to make their practice agree therewith; which is the only way that any man can arrive at perfection as a forester.

I shall here give a short statement of the natural peculiarities of the principal sorts of trees grown in our home woods; and also point out the particular circumstances which are favourable to the healthy growth of each species. Such a statement will, I am persuaded, prove useful to proprietors, and also to foresters who may not have had long experience; at least, it appears very evident to me, that such knowledge is necessary to both proprietors and foresters, and if acted upon, would be the means of removing that very bad practice among arboriculturists, of planting all sorts of trees promiscuously in any soil or situation.

The Elm Tree (Ulmus campestris) is a native of Britain, and is found growing naturally, or in a wild state, in many parts of England. It is considered one of the finest and tallest of our European timber trees for park scenery, and lives to a considerable age. There are many elms in England and Scotland which exceed two hundred years of age; however, it appears to me, that the most profitable age of the elm, as a timber tree, is between sixty and seventy years—the wood of the tree is then in its best condition, and after that age it will not increase materially in the bulk of its available timber.

The quality of the wood of the elm depends entirely upon the nature of the soil and situation upon which it is grown. When grown in a low, sheltered situation, and upon a heavy soil, the elm attains its greatest bulk of timber; but then the wood of trees grown in such a condition is generally brittle, and is soon affected by rot; in fact, very few trees grown in such a condition are found sound in the heart if they have attained any considerable size. Where the elm is found growing in a low, sheltered situation, and upon a light soil, the tree grows very rapidly, and attains its greatest perfection as a tall spreading ornamental tree; but under such conditions the tree seldom lives long, and generally is found to die suddenly when rapidly grown. Another peculiar circumstance attending elm trees grown in a sheltered place and upon a light soil is, that they are generally found what is termed “shaken" that is, the heart wood of the tree is all split into longitudinal pieces, consequently the wood of such trees is of little value.

Upon a high and exposed situation, the elm succeeds best upon a light dry soil; hut if the soil be stiff it will not succeed in developing any thing like valuable timber. In situations twelve hundred feet above the level of the sea, I have seen good valuable elm trees growing upon a light and rather sandy soil; but at the same height, when the soil was inclined to clay, I have always seen the elm assume a low spreading habit, and very apt to become knotty and of little value as regards its timber.

The circumstances which are most favourable to the healthy growth of the elm are, a dry loamy soil, rather deficient in vegetable matter, which would produce too keen an excitement to the growth of the tree, a free exposure to the open air, and the situation upon a slope rather than upon a level.

In the forest the elm tree requires considerable space in order to develope itself properly ; the natural habit of the tree is to spread out its branches horizontally, and if much confined by its neighbours, it becomes drawn up and weakly, and does not grow well to timber.

The Beech Tree (Fagus sylvatica) is a native of Britain, and is found growing naturally in almost all old plantations. It is a very ornamental tree upon a lawn or park, and often attains even greater dimensions than the elm, and lives to about the same age. The beech is not considered a valuable timber tree, although it bears a strong massive appearance; the wood is very brittle and short-grained, and not well adapted for purposes where strength and durability are required. It is a tree which, from its accommodating habits, is well fitted for growing in a forest among others; but, upon account of the little value now set upon its wood, it is not extensively introduced among other more valuable trees in modern plantations. However, few trees suffer less from bad management than the beech; although it may have been overburdened and crushed down among other trees, yet, when it is once relieved, it will shoot up again, and in a few years make good its position among its neighbours. Upon poor, thin, sandy soils, and even in a high and exposed situation, no hard-wood tree is more worthy of a place. I have seen the beech grow well upon a soil and situation where almost no other tree could have existed, not even the Scots fir. In a high-lying dry situation, with a free circulation of air, the beech lives to its greatest attainable age; and in a low situation, with a rather humid atmosphere, the tree reaches its greatest size; but in such a state it generally dies quickly after attaining full size.

The circumstances which appear most favourable to the healthy development of the beech are a dry and rather light soil, with a considerable proportion of lime or chalk.

I have often had occasion to remark healthy beech plantations in all sorts of soils, from a stiff clay to a light sand; and, in my opinion, this accommodating nature of the tree is the reason why we so often see at the present day so many old beech trees about the seats of proprietors in Scotland.

The Ash Tree (Fraxinus excelsior) is a native of Britain, and a well-known tree. It is considered one of the most useful of all our hard-wood trees for general country purposes, and is much sought after by carpenters and coach-builders. A peculiar characteristic of this tree is, that the quality of the wood is always the better from being rapidly grown, the opposite of which is the case with most other trees. On very poor soils, where the ash grows slowly, the wood is brittle, and soon affected by the rot; but where the growth has been vigorous, the timber is very tough, elastic, and durable. The ash never attains such thickness as some of the other forest trees. Upon the estate of Arniston, in Mid-Lothian, there are ash trees fifteen and sixteen feet in circumference ; but trees of such large dimensions are not numerous, neither is it necessary that the ash should attain such a large growth, considering that smaller trees always yield much better timber. From its upright habit, the ash forms one of the best trees for a forest; in fact, many other trees are improved by growing along with it, particularly the larch, which is almost always found healthy when growing among ash trees.

The circumstances which are found favourable to the healthy development of the ash are—as regards soil, a good strong loam, rather rich than otherwise, and rather moist than dry; that is, the ash does not disagree with a little moisture, provided that this moisture have free and ready access away from the roots, and is not liable to remain in the least degree stagnated. The ash is often found of large dimensions growing upon bare rocks; in such cases, the roots of the tree get into the seams of the rock, and are watered by the moisture which descends between the strata. The ash is fonder of shelter than either of the other two trees I have already described; therefore, to grow it well, it is an advantage to plant it in a hollow or glen, or in the interior of a large plantation.

The Great Maple, or Sycamore, (Acer psendo-platanus,) is supposed by some to be a native of Britain, and by others of the continent of Europe. This tree is more generally known by the common name of the plane tree, which is the platanus of botanists, and is originally from the Levant. The sycamore grows to a large size, and lives to a great age. There are many sycamores in Scotland, at the present time, which I have myself measured, and found nearly twenty feet in circumference and sixty feet high. It is not a tree that carries height along with its girth, when compared with many other forest trees; but it is, notwithstanding, a magnificent tree, and few, if any other, can vie with it upon the lawn or park. It is a fast-growing tree, well adapted for almost every situation, and well worthy of a place in every forest where the soil is not damp nor mossy, nor the situation too much exposed; it being a rapid-growing tree, it requires room to develope itself properly. The timber is reckoned of equal value with that of the elm when of good size.

The circumstances which are found most favourable for the healthy development of the sycamore are—soil, dry, sandy loam, with a free exposed situation—as in the open parks about gentlemen’s home grounds: however, this tree may be profitably planted in almost every situation where the beech will thrive, but it will not succeed in a damp or mossy soil.

The various species of Poplar (Populus nigra and P. alba) are trees well worthy of a place in every forest where the ground is suitable to them ; that is to say, where the ground is heavy and rather damp, and in a sheltered situation; but they will not succeed if planted upon a high-lying dry site.

The poplars are all quick-growing trees; and although the wood is soft, it is a good deal sought after. I have known poplars of thirty-five years of age sold for five pounds each. The circumstances which are most favourable to the healthy and full development of the poplar are—a rather damp, heavy soil, with a sheltered situation.

The Willows {Salix alba, Huntingdon willow, and Bedford willow) are all good timber trees, and are equally deserving of a place in the forest as the poplars above mentioned are.

The wood of the willow tree is tougher, and sells at a higher price, than that of the poplar. The circumstances favourable to the growth of the willow tree are the same as those already stated for the poplar.

The Birch Tree (Betula alba) is a native of Britain, and found in great abundance in many high-lying dry situations. It is found very useful for the planting up of any poor, thin, stony parts, where nothing else would make a valuable cover. It will even thrive in a soil rather damp; but it is observed that the largest and healthiest trees of the species are always found upon a dry soil, which circumstance at once points out that a dry situation is most favourable to their healthy development. The wood of the birch is not reckoned a valuable timber ; it is principally sought after by gunpowder manufacturers, who buy it after it is stripped of the bark.

The Alder Tree (Alnus glutinosa) is, like the birch, a well-known tree in Scotland, and very common in its natural or wild state in many parts of the Highlands. It is a tree particularly well adapted for a damp piece of ground upon a high situation, where nothing else more valuable could with advantage be put in. The alder, like the birch, is not considered a tree of much value, and should always be dispensed with where any tree of greater worth would grow. I have found it extremely useful when I have planted extensive plantations upon high moor grounds; in such situations, there are often damp mossy spots included within the bounds, on which it will succeed well after the-ground has been partially drained.

In travelling through the Highlands of Scotland, we often meet with large tracts of natural birch and alder; and upon examining the position of those two different trees, as found in their native glens, it is at once observed that the birch chooses the high and dry spots, while the alder is seen luxuriating in the swampy, low-lying grounds, and this at once points out the circumstances favourable to the growth of each. The alder, after being stripped of its bark, is used for making charcoal.

The Oak Tree (Quercics robur) is the most valuable of all our timber trees. The oak is well known to be a long-lived tree, and its wood to be of great durability. There is one point relative to the oak which may not be so well known, and which I think it proper to refer to here; and that is, that there are two species of oak generally found growing in our forests—the one the true British oak, and the other a species evidently introduced from the Continent at a very early period, and which is of a very inferior quality as compared with our true British oak. The Quercus robur, or true British oak, has the acorn-stalks long, and its leaves short, firm, and set-looking; whereas the one introduced, and of inferior value—Quercus sessilijlora— has the acorn-stalks short, and the leaves long. The acorns of the former grow singly, those of the latter in clusters.

The forests upon the continent of Europe consist chiefly of the Quercus sessilijlora, and it is well known that the timber from those forests is worthless ; and it is to be regretted that such worthless oak is becoming abundant in Britain. I am informed that the greater part of the New Forest in England is composed of the Quercus sessilijlora. It is certainly worthy of the attention of Government to have properly experienced men appointed, in order to point out and collect the seed of the Quercus robur, and have it decidedly introduced instead of the other bad sort which, it is evident, is gaining ground in our forests every year.

Even every landed proprietor in Britain, who has occasion to plant oaks, should be particular in having his plants reared from acorns of the true species, either by raising them upon his own grounds, or giving a good price to a respectable nurseryman in whom he can place confidence. By such careful means of going to work, the true species could very soon be introduced into every part of the country. It is often remarked that “ the oak used to be a wood almost indestructible by time when put into the building of a house; and now, oak is no better than almost any other wood, whatever purpose it may be used for.” There is no doubt that this assertion is to a great extent well founded; as we see, on the one hand, from many instances of old oak beams still remaining in several old buildings in the country, and on the other, from the short period that the greater part of the oak now used is known to keep in a sound state when used for any purpose whatever; and the superiority of the old oak beams is to be traced to the fact, that at the time of their being used, there was scarcely any other sort of oak in the country but the robur, or true sort, of which sort the old beams consist.

Few trees are more hardy than the oak; it accommodates itself to almost any soil or situation: hut, notwithstanding this vigour and hardihood of nature, it will not develope itself to perfection unless it have a good dry loamy soil, with some shelter. The largest oaks that I have ever seen grew upon a dry sandy loam, with a free exposure to air; however, although the oak may attain its greatest dimensions under such circumstances as these, we find it growing to the size of useful timber wherever it has the advantage of a soil with a dry bottom, and not too much exposed to storm—as for instance upon the top of a bare hill. The oak will not thrive nor live long in a deep mossy soil.

The Horse Chestnut {AEsculus hippocastanum) is a native of Asia, and upon account of the softness of its wood, is not much esteemed as a forest tree; it is, properly speaking, an ornamental lawn tree, and should not, in my opinion, be planted in a forest as a timber tree in this country. It requires shelter and a good rich soil, under which conditions it is an extremely rapid-growing and very ornamental tree.

The Sweet Chestnut (Castanea vesca) is a native of Britain, and grows to very large dimensions, but is not now much esteemed as a forest tree—the oak, being more valuable and hardy, is in all cases preferred. The wood is seldom sound when the tree has arrived at full maturity; however, it makes a very fine ornamental tree upon a lawn or park, and it requires a good strong soil and considerable shelter, in order to make it develope itself properly.

The Lime Tree is properly an ornamental lawn tree, and very seldom introduced into the forest. The wood is valuable when of a large size, but as it requires a sheltered situation and a pretty strong soil to make it grow large and valuable, it cannot with propriety be recommended for the forest.

The Scots Fir {Pinus silvestris) is a native of Scotland, and is a well-known tree throughout the whole of the north of Europe. It is found growing naturally in many parts of Scotland, particularly in the native forests of Invercauld and Rothiemur-ckus, where there are by far the finest specimens of this tree to be found in Britain. The Scots fir, in favourable situations, attains a very large size, frequently eighty feet high, and three and four feet in diameter. Next to the larch, it is the most valuable of what is generally termed the fir tribe. The timber of the Scots fir is much influenced by the soil and situation upon which it is grown; that produced upon the cold high districts of the north of Scotland, is found superior to any imported from any other part of Europe; while that which has been planted and reared in the Lowlands is not nearly so good. Even within the Lowlands themselves, the quality of the Scots fir is very much influenced by the particular situation upon which it is grown; and as an instance of this, I may here mention that upon the estate of Arniston, the Scots fir growing upon the high and exposed parts of the estate is of excellent durable quality, while that growing in sheltered parts of the home plantations is extremely worthless and soft; and this same observation relative to the quality of the Scots fir, as affected by situation upon the estate of Arniston, is equally applicable to every other estate in the Lowlands; the best timber always being obtained from trees growing upon a thin soil and a high exposed situation.

There are two varieties of the Scots fir, the Pinus silvestris, and the variety montana, which is the true Highland or Bonnet fir. The late Mr Don of Forfar says, “that the montana, or true pine, is distinguished by the disposition of its branches, which are remarkable for their horizontal direction, and for a tendency to bend downwards close to the trunk. The leaves are broader and shorter than in the common kind, and are distinguished at a distance by their much lighter and more beautiful glaucous appearance. The bark of the trunk is smoother than in the common kind; the cones are thicker, and not so much pointed. The plant is also more hardy, grows more freely in almost any soil, and quickly arrives at a considerable size.” Of the truth of this assertion of Mr Don’s, I am perfectly satisfied, although many botanists -will not allow that these two species are really distinct; they say that soil and situation have the effect of changing, in a great measure, the external appearance of this tree; but those who so assert cannot have had much experience of them. I have myself seen, and that very often, the two distinct species growing in the same plantation, and close to one another; now, were it the case that soil and situation changed the external appearance of the trees, why were they found to have different external appearances when growing upon the same soil and site.

There is another feature which is very remarkable in the true pine as compared with the common one, which is this. The boll of the true pine, or Bonnet fir, when standing singly in a park, rises to a considerable height before it sends off any horizontal branches; the branches, as it were, form a bonnet on the top of a pole, whence the origin of the name of bonnet fir; whereas the boll of the common sort, if left to grow singly upon a park or lawn, sends out branches almost from the very ground.

The Scots fir, in its natural state, is found clustering together in one mass, seldom associating with any other sort of tree ; indeed, this is the case with all the pine tribe—each species being generally found congregated by itself. With reference to the common Scots fir, the best timber trees for general purposes are raised where they are standing pretty close in one mass; but the most picturesque form of this tree is found when standing singly, and has room to spread out its branches. When grown in one mass close together, the trees are found clean stemmed, and drawn up to a great height; consequently, such trees are available for many purposes, whereas, when standing singly, the tree is generally found short-stemmed, thick, and branchy.

No tree, a native of Britain, can with more safety be planted out into any soil and situation, provided only that soil be a dry one. I have seen a crop of good Scots fir timber taken off almost every sort of soil, of an earthy or stony nature, but upon a mossy soil I have never seen good Scots fir timber grow.

The Norway Spruce Fir (Abies excelsa) is a native of the north of Germany and Russia, and is a beautiful and stately tree. It is now widely dispersed throughout Britain, particularly in the Lowlands of Scotland. It is a hardy tree, and, when planted in a favourable situation, soon grows to useful size. It is not so valuable in its timber as the Scots fir; but from its rapid growth, and from its tendency to grow in a rather damp situation, where the Scots fir would not succeed so well, it is often preferred. It is the tallest of all the European firs, and forms indeed a majestic object when grown detached. In the home woods upon the estate of Arniston, many of the spruce firs rise to the height of eighty and ninety feet, with a diameter of two feet and a half. It is not so hardy as the Scots fir, if planted upon a high situation; in fact, upon a dry soil and a high situation, it does not attain to large size, and is soon affected by heart-rot. The circumstances which appear most favourable to the healthy and full development of the spruce fir are, a good strong loamy soil, and rather a low-lying sheltered situation. The spruce fir thrives in a soil rather inclined to damp than otherwise.

The Silver Fir (Picea pectinata) is another excellent timber tree for the forest, and is not cultivated to the extent in our plantations which its value demands. In every respect, the observations made relative to the spruce fir are applicable to the silver fir, only, I may add, that the silver fir is even a more hardy tree than the spruce.

The Larch (Larix Europcea) is one of the most valuable of the pine tribe. It is a native of the mountainous districts of Germany, and is found to endure the climate of Scotland equally as well as the Scots fir, hut is more particular with regard to the circumstances which favour its healthy growth than that tree. As an instance of the success of the cultivation of the larch in Scotland, I may refer to the plantations of the Duke of Athol in Perthshire. There, some of the larch trees were to be seen one hundred feet high. Upon the estate of Arniston, there are several larches above eighty feet high; and one, in particular, is yet growing, which contains above one hundred and fifty cubic feet of timber, and is apparently quite sound.

There are two varieties of the larch generally cultivated in Scotland, the white and the red. The white is the variety which attains the greatest dimensions of timber, and is the sort most generally cultivated, although they are both often seen growing together in the same plantation, and that by mere accident. It is said, that upon the Athol estates the red larch does not contain above one-third the cubic contents of timber which the white larch of the same age does; and this is observable in every plantation where the two varieties are found growing together.

No timber tree at present cultivated in our woods, begins to repay the expense of culture nearly so soon as the larch does. It is a rapid-growing tree, and is well adapted for almost every country purpose. It generally sells at nearly double the price per cubic foot that Scots fir brings, and, besides the price of the wood, the bark is available for tanning purposes. For some years past, the larch has been subject to disease in our plantations in Scotland, which circumstance has caused considerable sensation among planters in general; relative to which I intend to speak hereafter, as may be seen in its proper place in this book. (See Cause of Disease in Larch Fir Plantations.)

The circumstances which are found favourable to the healthy development of the larch are,—as to soil, it is not particular, but the roots must have a constant supply of water, in order to keep the earth in which they grow in a pure state, as is the case upon all rugged mountain slopes, where there is a continual descent of water from the higher ground to the lower.

Having now briefly stated the peculiarities of each sort of forest tree which is generally cultivated in our plantations, for the sake of timber, &c., I may add further, that all deciduous hard-wood trees, to grow them properly, require more shelter than the firs or pines do; consequently, in all cases of planting a piece of ground upon a gentleman’s estate, the hard wood ought to be planted upon the most sheltered parts, always keeping the firs and pines upon the high and exposed districts. And this is only imitating the proceedings of nature in the same operation; for, in the natural disposition of trees over the surface of the earth, the firs and pines inhabit those cold high-lying districts where the soil is thin, and the oak, ash, elm, &c., inhabit the more temperate regions nearer the equator.

The hard-wood trees, to grow them well, require a heavier and a richer soil than the firs do ; which suggests to us, that in laying out a new plantation, the hard wood should be planted in the heaviest and richest parts of the soil contained in it.

The planter being possessed of a knowledge of the soil and situation adapted to the healthy growth of each species of forest tree, his duty is, in the planting of a piece of ground with forest trees, to plant those sorts which, from his knowledge, he has reason to expect will succeed upon it. With this view he may proceed thus:—Let him examine the nature of the soil throughout the whole extent of the ground designed for planting, and, having done so, consider what sort of tree will succeed best, for a permanent crop, upon each different soil and situation that may be contained within the bounds of the intended plantation ; and, having determined this point, proceed to have pits made for all hard-wood trees intended to be put in—say at eight feet distance from each other. Wherever the soil is found of a loamy nature, and the situation is not too high, plant oak, ash, elm, or plane-tree, at the distances specified; but in all cases giving the preference, in number and extent, to that species which is supposed to be most likely to succeed best upon the soil; and observing, in all cases where it is intended that one sort of hard wood alone shall be the ultimate crop, to plant no other kind of hard wood among them; that is, if you wish to have any particular part of a plantation to he entirely an oak forest ultimately, plant those in pits at eight feet distance, and make up to the requisite thickness with firs, generally Scots and larch, which are only intended to act as nurses to the hard wood, and to be cut down by degrees, in order to give the latter room as they rise up and fill the ground. Where it is intended to have a mixed hard-wood plantation, distribute the different sorts in accordance with taste, and make up to the desired distance, which is generally about forty inches, with firs.

Having planted all the better parts of a plantation with hard wood, as above mentioned, if there be any thin heathy parts, which would not raise such wood to advantage, occupy such parts entirely with firs; and in doing so observe that, if it be considered that larch trees would grow to any useful size, but not so as to be relied upon for a permanent crop upon the ground, then plant Scots firs, say at seven feet apart, for a permanent standing crop, and nlake up to the desired thickness of about three feet, with larches, which can be thinned out as the Scots firs require to have room—and in this manner the larch thinnings will come to pay well; for, if the entire crop had been Scots firs, little or no value could have been got from them by the first thinning—the larch being always valuable when young, while the Scots fir is not.

If, in planting a new plantation, there arc found spots of ground lying very high, with an extremely thin, poor, sandy soil, upon which it would be doubtful if even Scots firs would ..attain useful size, or live long as a permanent standing crop, plant upon such spots, one half Scots firs, and the other half birches and beech, of each an equal number per acre. By so doing, if the Scots firs happen not to succeed, as is very likely upon a high-lying sandy soil, then the birches and beeches are sure to keep the ground; and, although they may probably never come to be a valuable crop of timber, still it is desirable to have a cover, though but for the sake of shelter, upon such portions of the land.

If, on the other hand, there are any low-lying, damp, swampy parts in it, make up such parts with alder, birch, and spruce firs; and give the preference in number to that sort which may be considered most likely to succeed best as a permanent crop; and, when they come the length of thinning, it can then be judged which sort will stand, and which should be taken away.

If there be any rugged precipices or steep glens within the bounds of a new plantation, plant larches and oaks, in equal proportions; and, if it is considered necessary for the sake of shelter, plant a few Scots firs upon prominent points; and in any hollow parts of such grounds, put in poplars or willow-trees, or, if not too damp, spruce firs.

If the situation to be planted be near the sea, no plant, in the form of a forest tree, will succeed so well, as a nurse for others, as the Pinaster, or cluster pine*. Upon situations near the sea-coast, it is often difficult to get trees of any description to succeed to any considerable extent, even so as to make a moderate shelter; and it is in such situations that the pinaster is found useful.

Upon the estate of Dunskey, the seat of Colonel Hunter Blair, in Wigtonshire, it was found impossible to grow almost any thing like trees, until the pinaster was planted upon the heights along the sea-shore; and now, since those have risen up,— and they grow very rapidly,—the different sorts of common hard-wood trees are thriving well behind them. In such a situation, they do not, of course, rise up so as to make valuable timber themselves, yet, as they grow very bushy, they form an excellent shelter for trees inland, and by the shelter attained from them, the more valuable trees behind succeed, which is the end in view in planting them.


In the planting of forest trees, two different methods are in practice among foresters: the first is the method of planting in pits; and the second, the method of planting in notches, either with the common spade, or the planting mattock. The method of planting in pits should be employed for all hard-wood trees, for two years’ transplanted larches and Scots firs, and for three years’ transplanted spruce firs. These pits are made with the common spade, at the regular distance of from four to ten feet, as the case may be; that is, if the whole of the plantation intended to be done, is to be planted with hard wood and two years’ transplanted firs, then the whole ground will require to be pitted to the distance required, but observing to make the pits for the hard wood larger than those intended for the firs; and in order to do the work properly, make all the pits for the hard wood first, say sixteen inches on the side of the square, and fourteen inches deep, and having the pits for the hard wood made at the distances, say of ten feet from pit to pit, make those for the firs nine inches on the side of the square, and ten inches deep, and just as close one to another as may be considered sufficient for the nature of ground, say three-and-a-half feet over all. If after having the pits made for hard wood upon a piece of ground, it may be found advisable to plant up with one year’s transplanted firs, then no more pits will require to be made there, for it is not necessary to be at the expense of making pits for any firs which are under two years transplanted.

In the making of such pits as are above described, I generally let the work by contract, and I cause the contractor to cut off the upper turf as thinly as possible, and lay it on one side of the intended pit; and in taking out the soil, in the act of making the pit, I cause him to lay it upon the opposite side, which comes to be of great advantage in the act of planting: and where the soil is hard in the pit, the pick must be used to open it up to the desired depth. I have generally got pits made for hard wood, to the dimensions already named, for Is. 6d. per hundred, and those for firs, for Is. per hundred; but if the pits have to be made among old roots, where large trees have formerly been, 6d. more per hundred in each case may be considered a fair price.

In the case of planting up a piece of ground among old roots, the remains of former trees, the pits should be made at least two months previous to commencing to plant in them; by having the soil in the pits a few weeks exposed to the influence of the atmosphere, it becomes much more healthy and congenial to the roots of young plants.

The manner of planting the young trees in those pits must be regulated according to the nature of the situation of the ground to be planted: that is, if the situation be a low sheltered one, I plant a tree in the centre of each pit, and, cutting the turf which comes off the surface of the pit exactly into two halfs with the spade, I make them fit closely upon the young tree, with the grass side uppermost; hut if the situation to be planted by the method of pitting be an exposed one, then I plant a tree in one of the corners of each pit, and by so doing it is kept firm in its place by having a rest against the firm sides of the pit: and here let me observe, that this method should always be practised when the trees are apt to be blown about by winds and storms. In planting trees in such pits, great care is necessary to see that they be made perfectly firm in the new soil of the pit. But in making the trees firm in the pits, no tramping or beating with the feet should be allowed, until the whole of the earth be put in; for if the planter begin to beat the earth upon the roots of the young tree, while they are only half covered with soil, he is sure to do them injury; and, knowing the evil of this from experience, I never allow a man to beat the earth about the roots of a young tree, until he has it all into the pit, when a good firm tramping with the feet is necessary, in order to keep the plant properly in its place until its roots take hold of the soil. After the earth has been all put into the pit and made firm, the turf should be put over the whole as closely as possible, and made firm in order to keep out the drought.

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with an extensive proprietor of land in the north of Scotland, who, while speaking to me relative to the different methods of planting trees, said that he was of opinion, that the plan of making pits for young trees was altogether superfluous, and ought not to be practised; because upon his estate he had hitherto planted by the same method, and found that the pits when made were only receptacles for holding water. Now, as it is possible that many other proprietors may hold the same opinion, I here beg to make a few observations relative to the good arising to young trees when planted in pits.

If the roots of a young hard-wood tree, or a two years’ transplanted fir, are put into the ’ground, merely by a simple opening with the spade, they they are so soft and tender, that they are unable to push their way through the solid earth in search of food, and the natural consequence is, that if the tree does not altogether die, it grows weakly, and is long in attaining the character of a healthy tree. If the soil be of a damp open nature, the tree may succeed well after the roots become strong enough to push their way; but if the soil be naturally poor, and of a binding quality, the probability is that the trees planted in it without pits will die altogether.

As to the pits made for the reception of young trees becoming a receptacle for water, that can only be the case under bad management; for where the ground has been drained for young trees, the water will not stand in the pits; and where the ground has not been drained in the manner already inculcated, it is not in a fit state for planting trees in; therefore, I repeat again, that it is only under bad management that pits made for young trees can retain water. Where trees are planted in pits made upon land in a dry state, their young and tender roots have at once free access into the open soil; consequently, the trees soon establish themselves in their new site; and, generally speaking, I have found that trees planted in pits, after the manner I have recommended, are ten years in advance of those planted otherwise.

I may here observe, that it is only necessary to plant in pits those trees which are of pretty large size, such as two years transplanted, and upwards; but trees under that age and size, having smaller roots, require to be planted only in the natural surface soil, which is generally free and open to the roots of all small plants.

The method of planting termed notching, or slitting, is done with the common spade or planting mattock, and is so well understood by all planters, that it would be superfluous to enlarge upon it here. It is the practice most commonly in use for the planting of all small trees, such as two years’ seedlings, or one year’s transplanted firs. The great point to attend to in this system of planting, is to see that the cut or notch be properly closed about the young plant after it is inserted, which should be done by the planter using the heel of his shoe in beating the cut all quite close again. The system of notching in trees by the planting mattock, is done upon the same principle as that by the spade, and is generally practised upon a thin hard surface, where the spade could not be used conveniently.


Every proprietor who has occasion to plant forest trees to any considerable extent, will find it necessary to supply himself from some respectable nurseryman; and in doing so, it is absolutely necessary that healthy trees should be selected; and also those of such a nature as may be suited to the situation where they are intended to be planted for good and all.

The proprietor who intends to plant, should either himself visit, or cause his forester to visit, during the summer previous to the planting season, any nursery from which he intends to purchase his supply of young forest trees, and see that the stock of young trees in it are in a clean healthy state, and free from all scale, bug, or any other vermin generally infesting young trees.

Such a visit in the summer season may by many be considered an unnecessary piece of work, but every experienced planter can attest to the propriety of it. I have known an instance of diseased trees from a nursery being the cause of propagating the same disease through several plantations in the neighbourhood; but in asserting this, I do not mean to say that any respectable nurseryman would be guilty of sending diseased trees to any of his customers; but I do mean to say, that every planter or forester should, previous to making a purchase, go and visit the nursery grounds, and judge for himself, as to whether he shall buy them or not; and the proper time for such a visit is during the month of July, when the trees are in full leaf and in a vigorous state of growth.

In that month, all young trees should have the bark upon the main stem and branches clean and free from any appearance of scale or bag; and when a little of the surface skin is removed by the nail of the thumb, the bark under should be of a pure healthy transparent green colour, and not pierced by any small holes; the surface bark of a young tree in perfect health should be easily removed from the inner bark. There should be no appearance of small holes in the leaves at tills season of the year; neither should they have the appearance of having been bitten short by any insect.

Having visited the public nursery grounds in the month of July, and found the general health of the young trees quite satisfactory, it will again be necessary for the intending planter to visit the same grounds about the lirst week of November, in order to make a purchase of such trees as he may require for the season. In making purchase, it is absolutely necessary to bear in mind the nature of the ground and situation to be planted. If the ground to be planted be a thin soil upon a high situation, then choose trees from the nursery that have stood rather widely in the rows, and have had free air and room, and are rather of a low set, bushy character, and altogether presenting a hardy appearance—plants of such a character will suffer very little indeed from being removed to a high climate; and for a high situation, always choose one year’s transplanted firs, and hard wood not exceeding two feet in height; if plants of an opposite character be chosen for a high situation—that is, tall, slender plants, which have made long shoots of young wood the previous summer—they will be sure to suffer, and it is more than probable that more than one half of them may die.

If the situation to be planted be a low sheltered one, with a good soil, then choose tall well-grown plants for it; for in such situations there is generally a luxuriant growth of the natural grasses, and unless the young trees be pretty tail, they would be altogether choked by such a mass of herbage surrounding them. Above all, it is necessary to be most particular in seeing that the young trees chosen be well rooted; that is, having plenty of small fibrous roots, which are the mouths by which the plant derives its nourishment from the earth. In a rather light soil, not too highly manured, the roots of young trees are generally good ; but if the young trees have grown in a stiff heavy soil, there is a risk of their beiug badly rooted; that is to say, they will most likely have few small fibres, and young trees with few fibres never succeed well when replanted—and more especially the Pine tribe. Much of the success in the growing of trees in the forest, depends upon a good healthy choice from the nursery; therefore this point should always be carefully attended to by every intelligent planter.

No proprietor should grudge to give a fair price to a respectable nurseryman, in order to have his orders punctually attended to : the gentleman who offers a fair price is always sure to have a good article sent him; when a proprietor offers a low price to any nurseryman for his trees, the nurseryman is not enabled to bestow that labour upon the lifting of the young trees which is necessary to secure the safety of the roots. Trees of the pine tribe, if they are lifted out of the earth carelessly, generally lose one half of their roots, and in such a case the trees cannot grow; therefore, every planter ought to see that the trees he uses are carefully lifted from the nursery ground.


That every extensive proprietor of land, who has occasion to plant young forest trees to any considerable extent, should have a piece of ground adapted for the raising of a few young trees, is quite consistent with good management in forest operations. I do not here mean to advise, that every gentleman should be his own nurseryman; for the raising of forest trees to such an extent would be altogether out of the question, and such a state of forest operations would come to be found bad management. No gentleman’s forester, however well qualified he might be, can possibly have sufficient time and opportunity to attend to the minute operations of raising young trees from the seed, from cuttings, layers, &c.; but I do assert, that a piece of ground kept as a reserve nursery, is absolutely necessary in order to good management.

In order to point out the utility of gentlemen having their own home nurseries, and in order to point out to what extent it is advisable for them to cultivate their own young trees, previous to planting them out into the forest, I shall here detail my manner of proceeding at Arniston with regard to this operation.

At Arniston, we have about two acres occupied as nursery ground. In it I raise all our own oaks from the acorn; and as I am in the habit of getting a regular supply of acorns, I have ready for transplanting out into the forest grounds about twenty thousand every year successively ; and having this piece of ground occupied as a nursery, I am enabled to raise the oaks in it to a pretty large size previous to planting them out, which is of great advantage to us, as we have very many hares and rabbits to contend with; and besides, being tall, they are not apt to be choked by long grass and weeds overtopping them. To get such large plants as I am in the habit of using for our home woods, from the common nurseries, would be quite impracticable to any considerable extent. I do not raise all our oaks to a large size previous to planting them out, but only a part, so far as is required for our home woods. This spring (1847) I have planted out in the home plantations six thousand oaks from three to five feet high, with strong fibrous roots; and, in order to have them strong bushy plants, I give them abundance of room plant from plant in the rows, which is never the case with plants got from the common nurseries. In our nursery ground.

I also raise yearly three or four thousand larches to a pretty large size, as also a number of all the common sorts of trees generally planted in tlie forest, which, when I have them grown to the desired strength, I plant out into the forest ground to fdl up any vacancies which may have occurred among the young plantations; and even in some instances, where a small plantation may be required to have an immediate effect, I have planted up with such large trees entirely.

Now, from what I have said above, my meaning will appear evident in advising proprietors to have their own home nurseries; and that is, that they may have a command of good specimens of all the general varieties of trees to plant out at any time into any parts of their plantations where they may be required. No proprietor’s establishment can be said to be complete, as relates to forests, without such accommodation. Without a reserve nursery, no forester can have young trees at command in order to meet the demands of his employer as occasion may sometimes require. Without a reserve nursery, no gentleman can reasonably expect to have forest operations conducted properly. It would be folly to send forty or fifty miles to a nurseryman for a few good trees to answer some particular purpose, when the same could be got more conveniently and more safely from the home nursery; and even after sending for such trees, they might not be such as were expected. Difficulties of this kind I have myself experienced in certain situations; but where I have had the accommodation of a home nursery, I have been able at all times fully to meet the demands of my employer, and that also at a very moderate expense; therefore it is, that having experienced the disappointments attendant upon the want of a reserve nursery, I would here urge every proprietor to adopt the system of having a small one, merely with the view of raising a few particularly good trees, for a particular purpose, and the extent of ground to be occupied as such must be regulated according’ to the probable demand; that is, if the forest grounds be extensive, two, or perhaps three acres may not be too much, and if the forest grounds be not extensive, half an acre may be quite enough. In making such a nursery, never let it be in a sheltered or low-lying part, for there the young trees would be drawn up and weakly; neither make it upon a stiff clay soil, for in such a soil young trees never make good roots—but let the situation be rather an exposed one, with a light friable soil; there the young trees will become bushy and hardy, and also throw out numerous fibrous roots, which is always favourable to the healthy growth of young forest trees which have to be transplanted.

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