A FELLOW COMPLAINS too much attention is paid to small gardens in town, to the general neglect of bigger ones, and he'd like comments on trees for large gardens.
Needless to say, the ones for small gardens are eminently suited for gardens of any size, but in addition to them there are many others.
First, if I had a place bigger than 200 feet square, I'd plant a white oak, Quercus alba. It is the final summing up of everything splendid in oaks. The only trouble with planting one is that 150 years or 350 years from now, it will break some gardener's heart to see it die.
The ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is a tree of equal majesty. We often see these ancient trees, dating from the ages when coal was being formed, as somewhat hutchered specimens along Washington streets. There is an upright columnar form, and some clonal forms that do not set fruit (the fruit stinks like vomit as it rots).
But the run-of-the-mill ginkgo forms an enormous round-headed tree beautiful at all seasons, and none is worthier of space in a large garden. It is fine for a magnificent alley of trees, too, if you have room for such a thing.
A neglected tree -- except in Washington, where somebody once had the wits to plant it freely -- is the sophora or scholar-tree, Sophora japonica. This becomes a large semi-weeping tree that holds its leaves late and its bean-shaped fruits late, and all through the warm weather displays its locust-like ferny foliage. It flowers in late summer, when virtually all other trees have finished.
The Himalyan cedar, Cedrus deodara, is to my mind the finest of all large conifers. In the country where I grew up (Tennessee-Mississippi) it was planted too freely, too close to houses, and every fall you could see trash trucks laden with maginificent branches, desperately sawed out in the losing battle to keep the tree under control.
A magnificent specimen may be seen at General Lee's house at the end of Memorial Bridge. It is a forest tree, and even more than most other true cedars, its branches are horizontal and drooping.
It does not often occur to people to plant the native ash, though it makes an enormous rounded tree casting soft shade, and it does drop things from time to time, seeds and so on, but this would make no difference in a large place.
I would not grow elms, for the simple reason I not only do not especially like elms but rather actively dislike them, but a number of elms might be grown, despite the unfortunate disease that has ruined so many American elms.
The catalpa is much more widely admired in Europe than here. To me it lacks the quality -- though please do not press me to define that word -- of the white oak or the other trees mentioned. Still its huge leaves and handsome early-summer candle sticks of white and yellow flowers are gorgeous enough.
You hear many complaints against sugar maples, but if I had the space I would ignore all trifling objections and plant them. I would avoid the Norway maple, but not the sugar.
To me one of the most beautiful trees is the native wild red cedar, Juniperus virginiana.
Often the rutty lane leading to an old house in the country is lined with these trees, and for the purpose I can think of none better. Some people object to the bronze cast of these junipers in winter, and do not care for the bare peeling trunks. Beauty is a subjective thing, but to me no tree is more beautiful, and its general neglect in the planning of large gardens is nothing more than a foolish contempt for things close at hand.
Various hickories, including pecans, make enormous trees, and the hickories (not the pecans) turn beautiful rich yellow in the fall. I recall one lane through a pine forest studdled with hickories, in which the drive was lined with michaelmas daisies, and it was lovely in October with gold and green for background to various shades of blue-lavender.
The common red maple is a poor choice in town gardens because of its greedy roots, heavy shade and great size, but in a large place nothing is much handsomer in the fall when it turns not only red, but a whole rainbow of yellow-red colors.