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Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland
The Old and Remarkable Lime Trees in Scotland

By Robert Hutchison of Carlowrie.
[Premium—Ten Sovereigns.]

Considerable doubt exists amongst arborists as to whether the lime tree (Tilia europoea) is indigenous to this country or not. Some evidence, and that of considerable weight, exists, and is cited by several of the older writers on trees, which goes to prove that in the variety of Tilia europaea microphylla, or small-leaved lime, it is found indigenous in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and South Wales. But apart from the fact that this particular variety is found indigenous in uncultivated ground, and as underwood in these counties in England, no evidence is found to show that the lime tree, as known at the present day, of our woods and forests, is a native of Britain. Sufficiently conclusive proof, however, exists to show that the variety now best known in our woodlands (viz., the broad or large leaved) has long been naturalised in Scotland, and that its introduction must have taken place at a remote period in our country's history. The extreme rareness with which it ripens its seeds in Britain renders it very improbable that the lime tree of the variety now under consideration is a native of our shores, and hence, from this peculiarity, its propagation in Scotland has been principally from layers, excepting in a few instances where trees have been raised from seed obtained from Holland and other European countries.

The introduction of the lime tree into Scotland appears to have been chiefly with a view to ornamental or picturesque effect in the park or landscape, and with little idea of utility or profit as a timber tree. We find the finest specimens, and indeed all the old or remarkable trees of this species, disposed in lawn policies, or as avenues, or groups, or in formal lines leading to or around ancestral seats, or in pleasure grounds as single specimens in large demesnes throughout the country. Its graceful habit and form, pleasing green foliage, delicious perfume when in flower, rapid growth and ease with which it may be transplanted even when of considerable size, are all characteristics and qualifications which have tended to render the lime tree a great favourite with proprietors for clothing with genial verdure and graceful contour of outline their ancestral policies. It must not, however, from these remarks, be inferred that the lime tree is destitute of any value as a timber-producing tree. The purposes to which, when manufactured into marketable timber, its wood can be applied, or is principally used, are doubtless special, but for turnery purposes, artistic carvings, and decorative as well as many domestic uses, it is invaluable; and it yields one of the finest qualities of charcoal made from any home-grown wood. In point of magnitude, the lime tree takes a prominent place, being frequently found, in various soils and at different altitudes, to attain to 90 or 100 feet in height, with a circumference of trunk and length of bole in proportion to such height.

Another use to which the lime tree is often adapted in this country is in suburban and town planting, in gardens, squares, and public parks, or as boulevards along public walks. It is, indeed, similarly used, but to a far greater extent, in various continental towns both in France, Holland, and Germany, and that also from an early date. "The French," says Du Hamel, "growing tired of the horse chestnut for avenues, adopted the lime for that purpose in the time of Louis XIV.; and accordingly the approaches to the residences of the French as well as English gentry of that date are bordered with lime trees." Since the modern style of laying out pleasure grounds has for the time rendered straight lines of avenue somewhat unfashionable during the last sixty or eighty years, the lime tree has not been nearly so much planted as formerly. The use of the lime tree as a good shelter fence, when planted in close order, against wind for orchards and pleasure grounds, is worthy of farther adoption than at the present day; for while the heads may be pollarded down to become an almost dense mass of bush-like rows of any height that may be desired, the roots of the trees do not, like those of the elm and other hard woods in such circumstances, spread along the surface and impoverish all around them. For bowers and covered ways, or as a screen to exclude unsightly objects, the use of the lime tree planted in close colonnades or columns, is extremely valuable. Interesting instances of its adaptation in this way occur in many localities in Scotland, and one of the most notable we may cite is that of the lime trees in Monmouth's Walk at Dalkeith Park, Mid-Lothian.

In this way the lime is a serviceable friend in exposed districts to the agriculturist no less than to the arborist. It admits, moreover, of severe pruning with advantage to its twiggy habit, under such treatment for shelter, or for obtaining that fine Gothic-like colonnade appearance so much admired in many lime-tree avenues, and of which so many noteworthy examples exist at the present day in Scotland, as, for example, at Hopetoun, Linlithgowshire; Duchall, Renfrewshire; Kenmure, Kirkcudbright; Duns Castle, Berwickshire; Kinnaird, Stirlingshire; Dalwick, Peeblesshire; Penicuik, Mid-Lothian; Whittinghame, East Lothian, and other well known places. The lime tree, while luxuriating in an alluvial deep loamy soil with porous cool subsoil, will be found thriving vigorously in almost any variety of soil, and is also found of large dimensions at lofty altitudes; as, for example, by reference to the appendix, it is recorded at Cleish Castle (Kinross-shire), where, at 600 feet above sea-level, it has attained a height of 93 feet, and a girth, at 5 feet from the ground, of 10 feet 4 inches—no mean growth at such an altitude and in such soil and subsoil. There are many other trees in this site of nearly equal dimensions. But while we have thus indicated the suitability of the lime tree for planting in almost any situation and soil in Scotland with certain prospects of success at the present day, it is rather discouraging to the arboriculturist, who wishes to trace out the progress and history of the species in Scotland during past years, to find that Dr. Walker, in his Catalogue of 1799, records only one remarkable lime tree in Scotland. This he gives as growing at Polkemmet (Linlithgowshire), and states to be then about seventy years old, and 5 feet 1 inch at 3 feet above ground! From this we may assume either that the learned professor had paid little attention to this species, or had not admired the tree and thought it of little value to the country, or that there were then few lime trees of note to which he had access. Had his zeal for the propagation of the species throughout the country been commensurate with the interest he took in other varieties of trees, no doubt he could easily have found many nobler examples at that date with which to enrich his Catalogue. He only further states, in regard to the lime trees in Scotland, that "the oldest, and probably the largest, are those at Taymouth and Inveraray." Loudon also is scarcely more fortunate in his record of remarkable lime trees. He only refers to one at Hopetoun (Linlithgowshire), "a hundred years planted, 70 feet high, with a trunk 3½ feet in diameter at 1 foot from the ground," which is probably the one referred to in the appendix to this chapter. It stands in the fine lime-tree avenue near Hopetoun House. The others he cites are at Gordon Castle, Roseneath, Taymouth, and Perth Nursery. The Gordon Castle lime has been long famous in the north of Scotland as the finest and largest lime tree in that quarter. When measured about 1838 by Loudon, it is said to have been above 80 feet high, and 16 feet in circumference, at 2 feet from the ground. This tree is still extant, and its dimensions are as follow:—

This tree is only equalled in size by two others in the kingdom.

The branches issue from the trunk at a uniform height, and form an arch 24 feet in diameter. The limbs bend gracefully over and rest on the ground, the intermediate space being gravelled over, while an arched entrance is formed out of the branches on opposite sides. The whole of the lower ones are resting on the ground, and the tree is therefore clothed with foliage to the grass. In 1863 this tree, which is called the Duchess's Tree, was 70 feet in height, and girthed, at 3 feet above ground, 16½ feet, while the circumference of the branches was 310 feet. It has therefore continued in a growing condition, and is still, at the present day, vigorous. The soil is alluvial loam on a gravel subsoil, and the altitude of the site above sea-level is 70 feet. The exposure is N.W.

The lime tree seems to be peculiarly well adapted to the soils and climate of the north of Scotland, and it succeeds there even better than in the more southern parts of the kingdom, as it does not lose its leaves so early in autumn in the north as it does in the southern districts of Britain. There are many fine specimens to be noted in the northern counties, as, for example, at Brodie Castle, Altyre, Darnaway, and other localities in Morayshire, where there are numerous very handsome examples to be found. Several of these are given in the appendix. We may, perhaps, beyond referring to the dimensions given in these returns, notice here the very fine and vigorous lime-tree avenue at Brodie Castle, which is worth a long journey to see. The many fine lime trees at Altyre are specially noticeable for their tallness, some of them attaining almost 100 feet in height, with corresponding development of trunk, and all growing on a light loamy soil, on a gravelly and clay subsoil. The extreme stature •of the lime in such soil, as we find here, might be attributed to the trees having been "drawn up" by close planting in their early years, but this is not the case; they appear never to have been, at any time, crowded in their sites.

At Kinnaird, Forfarshire, there are several very large lime trees growing in a deep sandy loam, upon a subsoil of gravel, and at an altitude of only 3 feet above sea-level. Of these, the largest is now 19 feet 8 inches in girth at 1 foot, and 18 feet 1 inch at 5 feet from the ground. Another measures 16 feet 2 inches, and 12 feet 8 inches in girth, at 1 and 5 feet respectively. These trees, with others of similar bulk, were planted 200 years ago, as is ascertained from family records at Kinnaird. From Perthshire we are able to furnish details of many fine lime trees, both growing singly as park trees, and in avenues of majestic appearance and dignity. At Blairdrummond, for example, we find trees girthing at 5 feet from the ground 14 feet 9 inches and 14 feet 3 inches, an unusually large size for the lime to attain. These trees are also from 82 to 98 feet in height, with richly verdant foliage gracefully "feathering" their trunks to the very ground. In Drummond Park we find amongst others two noble specimen trees, girthing respectively 21 feet 7 inches, and 19 feet 1 inch at 1 foot, and 14 feet 11 inches, and 15 feet 11 inches at 5 feet above the surface. They are 85 and 84 feet in height, with clean boles about 20 feet long. There are taller trees in this locality, reaching nearly 100 feet in height, but scarcely so large in circumference, although in this respect they do not come far short of the measurements of those given.

At Kinloch, near Meigle, we find a tree 21 feet 2 inches at 1 foot, and 19 feet 2 inches at 5 feet from the ground, and with a diameter of branches embracing 90 feet. This is the heaviest lime tree we have been able to record as to girth, either in this or in any other county in Scotland. A fine specimen of the spray-like habit of the lime when in open and favourable situations, which it often affects, is instanced in the Freeland lime. In this county (Perth) the fine old avenue of lime trees at Kilgraston is one of the most notable and picturesque features of arboriculture representing this species treated in the formal manner so common about 150 years ago, and in which the artificial disposal of the trees does not in the least degree interfere with their own natural and peaceful habits. There are several capital instances found in Scotland of the suitability of the lime for succeeding well at lofty altitudes, and in this particular reference to the appendix will afford interesting details. For example, besides Cleish Castle already referred to, at Kinross House, at an altitude of 550 to 600 feet, in a damp reddish clay loam, on a clay subsoil, we have noble trees of from 75 and 93 feet in height, quite vigorous and healthy, girthing from 7 feet 8 inches to 10 feet 4 inches at 5 feet up. At Inveraray Castle, Argyllshire, the lime tree recorded in 1863, as being then 16 feet in girth at 3 feet from the ground, in a sandy soil, on gravelly bottom, is now 20 feet 6 inches in circumference at 1 foot, and 15 feet 1 inch at 5 feet above ground, and still making progress in the development of timber. At Pollok (Renfrewshire), where periodical measurements of trees have been long taken in a most accurate and careful manner, we find a lime of the following dimensions at the dates stated:—In 1858, at 5 feet, 9 feet 6 inches; in 1862, 9 feet 7 inches; and in 1881, 11 feet 3 inches. This tree now girths at 1 foot from the ground, 12 feet 8 inches, and is 82 feet high. Near the old tower of Cairnhill (Ayrshire) there is a remarkable square of thirty limes, by far the oldest and largest in this district, the largest of which girths 14 feet 2 inches at 5 feet up, and 16 feet at 1 foot. There are many more fine limes given in the appendix from this county, and their number might be multiplied. In the Lothians are to be found at the present day numerous fine lime-tree avenues, and trees planted in single rows, where their conical upright habit and gracefully pendant sprays of greenery sweeping the very lawn, produce a very fine gardenesque and architectural effect. At Hopetoun House one of the finest vistas of lime trees may be seen, in full vigour and splendour, though their veteran forms have shadowed that princely domain for fully two centuries. At Dalkeith Park there are many fine examples, both standing as single sentinels in the ducal park and as colonnades or rides. Here we may specially refer to the lime trees planted in a long triple alignment in what is called Monmouth's Walk, which gives an adequate conception of the effect which may be produced by pollarding the lime when disposed in policy grounds in such a manner, whether for the purpose of artificially producing a grand Gothic architectural effect by their inarched boughs, recalling as it were the long columnar and perpendicular aislelike appearance of a vast cathedral, or for the more utilitarian purpose of inducing a closer habit of growth and foliage to screen out from the policy any ungainly buildings or objects. There are also observable in several parts of the beautiful and interesting park of Dalkeith, instances of the predisposition of the lime tree when grown in close rows, or amongst other tall trees, to run up a head composed of several large stems, which interlace and become naturally inarched or self-grafted in the most quaint and interesting manner, presenting a curious and weird-like and grotesque appearance,—fitting and appropriate subjects for the pencil of a Gustave Doré! A fine row of lime trees, of apparently contemporary age with the Dalkeith limes, still exists at the adjoining estate of the Marquis of Lothian, at Newbattle Abbey. They are all in pristine vigour, and girth from 12 to 14 feet on an average, at 5 feet from the ground. At Ingliston, in Mid-Lothian, stands behind the mansion-house a notable lime called "Wallace's Switch," which girths 19 feet 2 inches at 1 foot, and 17 feet at 5 feet above ground, with a clear bole of 20 feet, and total height of 83 feet. Popular local tradition states that Scotland's hero, Sir William Wallace, riding past this spot, stuck his riding switch into the ground, and from that this veteran tree sprang! Without wishing to strip this aged and noble monarch of any of its romantic association with the past, it appears much more probable that the popular name it now bears arose from its having been planted by the hand of one of a former family named Wallace, who were proprietors of the estate, and who owned the property about 250 years ago. Another of the many lime-tree avenues in the Lothians worthy of notice is that at Penicuik, to the right of the mansion-house, which presents a most imposing appearance, with its pillared aisle of perpendicular columns, each of whose shafts measures 13 feet and 14 feet at 1 foot from base, and 10 and 11 feet at 5 feet up. The vista opened up by this fine avenue carries the eye stereoscopically to the open space on the opposite bank of the glen of the Esk, where an obelisk raises its needle-shafted point in memory of the poet Allan Ramsay.

Turning now to East Lothian, we find that county and Berwickshire also equally rich in fine specimens of old and large lime trees. These are, as in the case of most of the other districts which we have cursorily glanced at, disposed in lines, or formal rows, or avenues.

At Whittinghame there is a fine avenue of limes in red clay loam upon sandstone formation, at 350 feet altitude, very healthy and thriving ; there are fifty trees in it, which average in girth from 8 feet to 9 feet at 5 feet from the ground. The lime-tree walk at Yester contains many fine specimens, girthing, as will be observed by reference to the appendix, as much as 14 feet 6 in some cases. These trees, with gracefully drooping branches, are foliaged to the very ground, and the delightful perfume of their summer's blossom scents the air in the most delicious manner far around. At Belton, near the sea-coast in East Lothian, at only 75 feet elevation, there is a magnificent specimen of a park lime tree. It is now 60 feet high, with a gracefully balanced conical contour, with a bole measuring 25 feet in length, and a girth of trunk of 21 feet at 1 foot, and 11 feet 8 at 5 feet from the ground.

Before leaving the county of Haddington, and its many interesting and historic trees, notice must not be omitted of the finely wooded estate of Lennoxlove, near Haddington. Anciently called Lethington, and the domain in former centuries of the powerful house of Lauderdale, its history is vividly intertwined with legends of strife and border warfare, as well as with many storied annals of this country's history in later centuries, and in commemoration of which events, doubtless several of the old patriarchal trees still surviving were planted,—a fashion in former days much more common than it is at the present. Some of the finest lime trees in the county may be seen within the grounds. To the west of the house, stands a conspicuous circle of venerable limes, still vigorous in their old age, which doubtless have a romantic history of their own, but which popular tradition has failed to preserve. Some clue to it may probably be found in the family charter-chest, but their history for the present remains unchronicled, although it may have been associated with that of the neighbouring "Politician's Walk,"—a double row of old ash and sycamore, apparently coeval with the lime-tree circle, and under whose umbrageous shade Sir William Maitland was wont to take his morning walk, and revolve the projects which were fraught with such consequences to the ecclesiastical Reformers of that age.

In many parts of Berwickshire the lime tree appears to have been an especial favourite with the proprietors for planting in the formal manner so often referred to in this chapter. Excellent examples of this style of planting are seen at Marchmont,. Spottiswoode, Blackadder, Kimmerghame, and Duns Castle. At the first-named place, growing in strong red clay, upon a subsoil of hard till, there are several lime trees now about 80 feet high, and upwards of 11 feet in circumference. The Duns Castle lime-tree avenue, long the pride, and one of the most interesting arboricultural features of Berwickshire, is likely now to become even more interesting and famous than ever, from the recent calamity which befell it, in common with very many other trees of large dimensions and venerable antiquity in this district, by the disastrous north-easterly gale of 14th October 1881, which swept across this and the eastern portion of the adjoining county of Haddington with such unwonted severity. The avenue referred to contains upwards of fifty splendid columnar or perpendicularly architectural-like trees, of dimensions ranging in girth from 9 feet to 14 feet in circumference, whose splendidly arched Gothic-like aisle extends in a straight line, in an easterly direction, from the old castle to the Duns road. The singularly impressive beauty of this famous avenue reminds one of the words of Cowper:—

''How airy and how light the graceful arch;
Yet awful as the consecrated roof,
Re-echoing pious anthems! while, beneath
The chequer'd earth seems restless as a flood
Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light
Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance,
Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
And darkening and enlightening, as the leaves
Play wanton, every moment, every spot."

But, alas! the glory of trees, as of men, is not for ever. The great storm of October referred to proved too much for the old veteran lime trees here, whose close ranks and upright trunks had weathered so many a blast before, and breaking upon its northern side row in great fury, thirteen of the finest specimens were uprooted, and crashing down upon their neighbours carried destruction along with their fall, in the sad havoc made upon the heads of those through and upon whose branches and limbs they fell. The fallen trees averaged 12 feet in girth at 5 feet from the ground. The truly sad and melancholy aspect of this formerly noble avenue, a few days after the storm, with the huge trunks laid flat across the avenue, with shattered limbs, and twisted and broken branches, will not soon be forgotten by those tree lovers who had the melancholy privilege of seeing them. To any admirer of nature the spectacle would be sad indeed, but to an enthusiastic arborist it was a sight at once most disheartening and sickening. Mr. Hay, however, the generous proprietor, with feelings of deep regret at the loss of so well-known a landmark in the county, consulted with the author of this paper as an authority in arboriculture, and he at once advised their being raised and reset in their sites. This work was at once willingly, and ungrudgingly as to expense, undertaken by Mr. Hay, and under the personal superintendence of Mr. Shearer, long well known in connection with Yester gardens, and Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Hay's forester, the prescribed advice has been most successfully carried out, and with favourable seasons to permit of nature's recuperative powers having a fair chance of re-rooting these veterans, and with the adventitious aid of the applications and root treatment bestowed on them, the soil and other physical conditions of the site being favourable, it is confidently to be hoped that this fine old avenue is not lost to the county, but will in a few years again present a healthy and vigorous appearance; and although much of the massive grandeur of o'er-arching boughs, and gracefully depending branch, the growth of many years, is gone, the resuscitated and rescued lives of the fallen, storm-beaten, and shattered veterans, raised to their pristine position, will add fresh interest to the old associations of the Duns lime trees, and a new laurel to the achievements of arboriculture in her scientific aspect. The height of the trees raised were from 43 to 75 feet; one contained 240 cubic feet of measurable timber, and the girth varied from 12 feet 2 inches upwards, the greatest being 13 feet 7 inches at 5 feet from the ground.

This praiseworthy effort to regain and re-establish the amenity of hoary and ancestral antiquity, rudely and suddenly shattered by the blast, may fittingly recall a passage from Landor, in his Conversations, and with which we may appropriately close the present chapter:—"Old trees in their living state are the only things that money cannot command. Rivers leave their beds, run into cities, and traverse mountains for it; obelisks and arches, palaces and temples, amphitheatres and pyramids, rise up like exhalations at its bidding; even the free spirit of man, the only thing great on earth, crouches and cowers in its presence. It passes away and vanishes before venerable trees! What a sweet odour is there! Whence comes it?—sweeter it appears to me, and stronger than the pine itself." "Imagine," said he, "from the linden." "Yes, certainly." "Oh, Don Pepino," cried I, "the French, who abhor whatever is old and whatever is great, have spared it. The Austrians, who sell their fortresses and their armies, nay, sometimes their daughters, have not sold it. Must it fall? Oh, who upon earth could ever cut down a linden!"

Since the foregoing chapter was written in the end of October 1881, and before any opinion could be formed of the probable success of the very interesting process of raising the fallen trees in the Duns Castle avenue, it may now be interesting to add that up to this time (February 1883) the experiment has been eminently successful.

Excepting in regard to severe gales which prevailed shortly after the avenue had been raised, the seasons have been very favourable, and good healthy young shoots have been put forth during last year. In fact, the growths of young wood have been all that could be expected, even if the trees had suffered no such calamity. The moorings of the trees, which were of seven-strand wire ropes, very carefully adjusted, proved quite sufficient to support them from the effects of all the gales that have taken place during the interval since the experiment was made. Sixty-two trees in all of various sorts were raised in the park at Duns Castle, and all promise to do well. They were each treated on the same principle as the avenue trees. The success of this undertaking at Duns has led to similar attempts, but on a smaller scale, elsewhere, and at the Tynninghame policies a number of limes and other hardwooded trees of large size have been successfully "resurrected." For such an operation, however, the lime is by far the most suitable variety of tree, from its fibrous roots, and soft and spongy nature, and quick growth. In every instance where it is attempted to raise a large lime, the hole caused by the overthrow must be excavated 2 feet deeper, fresh good soil thrown in, and when raised, the butt end of the trunk of the tree should be sunk from 6 to 9 inches deeper than it was before it fell.


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