William Pontey.

The forest pruner; or, Timber owner's assistant: a treatise on the training or management of British timber trees; whether intended for use, ornament, or shelter; including an explanation of the causes of their general diseases and defects, with the means of prevention, and remedies, where practicab online

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Online LibraryWilliam PonteyThe forest pruner; or, Timber owner's assistant: a treatise on the training or management of British timber trees; whether intended for use, ornament, or shelter; including an explanation of the causes of their general diseases and defects, with the means of prevention, and remedies, where practicab → online text (page 8 of 12)
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off, very close, more than half the number


af the largest branches, to about two-thirds
of the height of the plant; and above
that, the same or a greater number of the
smallest ; that part being intended to form
its future head. This is to be done when
they are not less than two years old. After
another year's growth, the same sort of
operation may be repeated upon the part
intended to be the stem, and that may
be followed by another annual dressing ;
Avhen the whole of the remaining branches
may be displaced.

It is not said that the above business,
which is indeed like bring-in 2[ order out of
chaos, can be always effected in a given
time; as subjects will materially differ;
but that, if the means be persisted in,
they will never fail, where the tree is
young, or vigorous enough to deserve such

If the object were the growing of Fire
or Hedge-Wood onlj^ perhaps the fore-


going method of lopping Elms might be
thought a good one, in some respects ;
but certainly it is one of the worst that
absurdity could have invented, for the
increase of timber. Were there no other
means of preventing trees overshadowing
the land, it would be some apology for
persisting in so barbarous a practice, but
as the fact is otherwise, it must be consi-
dered as evincing at once the want of
taste and skill ; the custom being equally
disgusting and absurd.

We frequently see ashes, and sometimes
oaks, trimmed, so as to appear no better,
but often much worse than No. 2 on PL
IV. — Here, every additional lopping
leaves additional stumps; so that, at last,

deformity stands conspicuous. Such

subjects, however, may easily be trained
into ornamental figures, by thinning out
part of the shoots, and letting the others
remain to form a head. Every oMer at-
tempt to improve them would be unavail-


ing; because, though it might be possible
to enlarge the length of stem in some
cases, still such enlargement must ever
remain too knotty, and otherwise defec-
tive, to be of much value. — The stem,
usually a short one, is all the timber this
$ort of management produces.


Having said thus much of pruning, as
applicable to the growth and improve-
ment of timber generall}^, we now come
to mention some circumstances peculiar
to plantations, but shall first notice the
reasons or inducements which Gentlemen
have to attend to the business.

Plantations forni one of the first orna-
ments upon an estate, and fortunately in-
clude likewise the comfortable and bene-
ficial property of shelter ; and, also, what
is still more important, prove the best


of all situations for producing a large
quantity of valuable Timber.

To those who have been at the expence
of making Plantations, few argunients
will, I trust, be necessary, to induce them
to follow it up with adequate attention.
The act is certainly evidence of a portion
of public spirit, as well as a proper sense
of private utility. We trust there are
thousancls in the United Kingdom actuat-
ed by such laudable motives ; nor can it
be an arrogant presumption to suppose,
that what has advanced, will attract the
attention of a few hundreds of them, in the
first instance ; and, if so, the business of
improvement will most assuredly spread:
a beneficial example will be a moving
principle, w4iere a precept, equally good,
would be a dead letter. — ^To such cha-
racters the author looks, with a peculiar
degree of complacency and expectation.
The spirit that first induced them to plant


must, to be consistent, induce them to
give his precepts a fair trial.*

* From the number of copies which have been sold,
and the opinion entertained of their utility, by many
of the first characters for rank and intclHgence in the
country, we may be assured that not ^.few anhj, but
maiiTj hundreds, are now reducing the precepts liere
delivered to practice. Certainly, many such have
already, in part at least, seen their beneficial effects ;
and hence the practice spreads in every direction.
One, and one only, who comes forward as an author,
propria, persona, has lifted bis pen against it in the
way of argument. He gives us to understand, as a
general maxim, (what we certainly should neither have
understood, nor believed without some such help) that
such a method must damage the timber because it
causes the trees to grow too fast. But verily, if the
*' Forest Primer''^ has paddled upon the surface of
error, our autJior has plunged into the stream; — for,
among numerous passages equally valuable, he treats
us with the following:- — 'Hf we suppose that trees
grow only twice as fast where the soil is prepared,
as where it is not, then a plantation worth 100^. in
fifty years, had the soil been prepared, would have
been worth 200=g?. in the same time, or worth 100c£.
in twenty-five years. But every one will allow that
all kinds of deciduous trees will grow four ox six times y


To such as have inherited Plantations
from their ancestors, we may likewise
drop a word. For independent of the
ideas of public spirit and private utilitjj
they have a call (a powerful one !) to
tend with care the objects of their ances-
tors' solicitude. If they had left a clause
in their wills, that it should be done, the
omission would indeed be considered as un-
pardonable ; but certainly no such docu-
ment is wanted, to shew that such was really
their will ! as every tree, so planted, is a
living evidence of the interesting fact. —
How often must such have gratified them-
selves with contemplating the gran-
PEUR, shelter, and worth, which their
works were adding to the domain. It is in-
deed obvious, that a planters* principal gra-
tification must often be in the idea of be-
nefiting posterity ; and, therefore, that pos-

and often ten iimes^faster in prepared than in unpre*
pared ground; and of course, the return of profits will
be correspondent!'''*


terity must be truly ungrateful, which
thwarts or defeats such benevolent design.*

That the foregoing digression is not
causeless, will appear, by considering the
wretched state of plantations, generally.
Their three essential properties are, Or-
nament, Shelter, and Use ; and,
therefore, we see clearly to what points
their management should tend. They are

* The treatment of the two poplars continued the
same for two seasons longer, viz. until 22nd Sept.
1807, when they were again measured, and it was
found that the dimensions of the former were the same
as before, while the latter had increased in girt to three
feet one inch. It had of course, in four years, consi-
derably more than doubled its size, while the former
had produced nothing but small branches, except a
trifling increase the summer after it was scarified.
This experiment certainly furnishes abundant matter
for reflection ; probably the attentive reader will like-
wise find instruction in it : it is, at any rate, a striking
proof of the quick growth of the Black Italian Poplar
in a situation generally considered as improper for
the species, viz. on a dry hill, the soil of which is not
more than a foot deep with a strong clay bottom.


perfectly compatible with each other;
and, hence, where they are not all at-
tended to, less or more, according to
situations and circumstances, we are ful-
ly justified in asserting such a place is


It is true that, in some cases, these
properties are not alike requisite ; for
instance, in low sequestered situations
ornament is of little consequence, nor is
shelter of much, so far as the surrounding
lands are concerned ; but even there, the

trees should shelter each other. The

short rule, therefore, will be to consider
how far the above essentials are necessary
in any given case, and to regulate the
species of management accordingly.

Suppose, for instance, a plantation,
upon an elevated scite : — there, we are
certain, shelter is necessary, in a twofold
point of view, both to the trees, and to
the adjoining grounds. And it may fre-


quently be wanted to serve other pur-
poses ; as whe?e it is wished to conceal
the outhne of an estate, a park, lawn, or
field, or even that of the plantation itself;
-^to hide disagreeable objects; or make

a cover for game, &c.^ Here we have

three distinct reasons for preserving shel-
ter; and, therefore, one would suppose
different management to be adopted, than
where only one of them existed in a very
slight decree. Instead of which, under
the present system, the hill and the valle}'',
the clump and the screen, are planted ex-
actly alike, and similarly treated after-;

There is something in a plantation, pro-
perly sheltered, so extremely captivating,
that it strikes alike the taste of the man
of refinement, and the mere rustic. The
first can always explain the reason of his
pleasure, while the latter can probably
do little more than feel it :— still their
sensations prove the same point ; — for the


peculiar taste of each is gratified, in some
degree ; which leads to the obvious con-
clusion, that good taste is nearer akin to
utility than is generally imagined. It is
indeed next to impossible, that the mind
accustomed to consider the difference be-
tween right and wrong, can be truly sa-
tisfied with any thing that does not, in a
considerable degree, answer the purposes
for which it was first intended. When a
plantation, or a screen, requiring the fore-
go! ag properties,. has got into such a situ-
ation, that the wind and the eye meet
with but little obstruction in traversing it,
from one side to the other, much of its
beauty and utility is gone ; arid, tlipre-
fore, good taste disowns it.

Now, as not only general taste, but the
nature of the thing itself, points out the
utility of shelter, it is, certainly, to be re*
gretted, that due attention is not paid to
make it permanent, in every place where
recpiired, so far as the soil will produce


the means. — If I were asked the abstract
question, " Which way can you most be-
" nefit plantations, at the least expence T'
the answer woukl be — " By shelter/^
— To effect it, in the best possible man-
ner j a planter should have a number of
suitable plants, to^row under the princi-
pal ones, namely, sorts that will not only
grow when so situated, but spring afresh
upon being cut down or beheaded ;* as,
by means of such, the shelter may be pre-
served, so as to be permanent.

But we are not to expect them to
thrive sufficient!}', to answer the purpose,
without some small degree of attention.
If they were cut down three or four years

* The sorts proper for this purpose are the Beech,
Birch, Oak, Hornbeam, Horse Chesnut, Mountain
Ash, Barberry, Holly, Box, Privet, &c. The Silver
and Spruce Fir are valuable for the purpose, by hav-
ing the leaders only displaced repeatedly. The de-
tailed method of planting such shelters may be found
in Thi Profitable Planter.


after planting, and the other trees suffered
to grow over them, they would be so far
smothered, as to grow weak, and conse-
quently do little service. It would, there-
fore, be better to let the whole grow to-
gether, for about six years; when the
cutting of the underwoods down would
be a sort of thinning for the others; by
which time, the roots of the former would
hav,e got such a degree of strength, that
if any tolerable attention be afterwards
given to pruning and thinning the latter,
the underwoods will grow sufficiently, to
answer the desired purpose.

It -will be obvious, that attempting to
grow too many principal trees, must de-
range the idea of obtaining underwood ;
— indeed it may be demonstrated, that
such means not only do so, but defeat the
intended purpose. Strength of stem is,
as has been observed, essential to the
thriving of every tree ; which it cannot
have except its head has tolerable free


Space ;— oi" course, as soon as the branciie&
begin to interfere with each other consi-
derably, it is time to thin or prune a
plantation, but more commonly both.

The error of planting too thick is ex>
tremely common, and that as frequently
leads to another; namely, the neglect oi
thinning ; as by the time it becomes ne-
cessary, the thinnings can only be fit for
hedge-wood, of the fire ; and, therefore,
in such cases, it is seldom done either in
proper time or manner.

The difference between planting at
three and four feet apart, is as 4844) to
2722 ; and still it remains to be shown,-
(for it has never yet been done), in what
beneficial respect the former exceeds the
latter ; except on exposures and very bad
soils, for a few of the first years, and pro-
ducing the sort of thinnings we have de-
scribed ; vvhich of course mustbecharoed
for exJia^sting the soil ; and expeace of


taking away, before any real profit Can
arise from them. Nor can we thin trees,
of three feet apart, to leave them regular,
tit nearer distances than six feet; of course,
three would be taken down, for one left.
This would be doing by far too much,
and therefore, the better way is to do it
irregularly ; and repeat it either the next,
or the following year at furthest.

To treat upon distances here, may at
lirst sight be considered as stepping aside
from the subject, but certainly it cannot
be altogether irrelevant to guard the
reader against a capital and common er-
ror, in the very outset of planting. The
real friends of the business can neither
recommend, nor overlook what unneces-
sarily enhances the expence or leads to
future mismanagement ; because both
operate directly as discouragements.

It has been said, that no parts are equal
to plantations for producing a largo


quantity of the most valuable timber;
and the matter is not difficult to prove ;
as there we have always plenty of subjects,
placed in proper situations, or at suitable*
distances to work upon, which is never

the case elsewhere.— ^The thinnings may

be of considerable value, when the trees
are only four feet apart ; we can then have
rails, spars, &c. At a further thinning,
such value is again increased ; which
circumstance will be repeated, as the
plants continue to increase in size; be-
cause a foot of thick, is of more value than
one of small wood : the former is likewise
much more saleable.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to make
an estimate of the quantity of timber
which may be produced from a certain
quantity of good land, in a given time;
but it is evident, that such circumstance
will be affected by the depth, for two
reasons : — the first is, the increased quan-
tity which the roots have to work upon ;


and the next, the different quantities of
moisture. On thin soils, a tree will often
be much stinted, in that respect, in the
principal growing season, which can never
happen in deep ones ; certainly, on the
latter, the plants will grow largest upon
a given surface. — The subject is here
brought forwards, to furnish some hints
for fixing the ultimate distances of trees.

The current opinion upon this point,
is, that, to grow large, they should be not
less than forty feet apart; and if we are
to take the idea, with the current practice,
or rather the prevailing neglect attached
to it, there may be good reason for such
ideas; but, certainly, nothing which I have
yet seen, has given reason to suspect, that
any tolerable sized tree could require near
so large a space, in a good deep soil; yet,
undoubtedly, if allowed so much, a head
would soon be formed to occupy the
whole; but there is no reason whv the
business of vegetation miuht not be as


Ivrell carried oh by a conic top, as a flat
one; pruning naturally produces the for-
mer, while it increases the height ; and,
therefore, exposes more surface to the
atmosphere, than neglect. — It may be
observed too, that provided the leader be
kept somewhat clear, we have as yet no
rule by which to know what height a tree
may attain on a good soil.

It can be no matter how fast it towers,
provided a proper degree of strength be
taken alono; with it ; and there can be no
danger of that, where the head is never
suffered to remain long, either close in
itself, or crowded by others. On the
whole, we think forty feet distance seems
to rest on no better foundation, than an
opinion, entertained in consequence of
observing the large spreading heads, that
are made by trees nearly in a state of
nature ; which is generally four times more
than necessary ; and therefore, have little
doubt but twenty-five feet distance, would


be preferable to forty; — the former would
contain about seventy trees upon an acre,
the latter only twenty-seven.

Perhaps, nothing relating to pruning
requires so much experience, as the ma-
nagement of thinning, or distances ; — and
it is among the advantages which planta-
tions have over other situations, that,
where it is judiciously attended to, much
of the work of the pruner is superseded.
If the plants stand too thick, they will
rise quickly, but slender; if too thin,
they will rise but slowly, and produce
spreading, bushy heads; these are the
extremes of the case, and all our art lies
in steering between them,

In judging wh^^t strength is proper for
3^oung trees, regard must be had to situ-
ations. In some they are liable to be
much agitated by the winds ; in others,
very little. In a thick plantation, they
may always be trained much weaker than


in single trees, or hedge-rows. Generally,
when a tree is not overtopped by others,
has a clear space all round it, and is so
stiff a-s not to be nmch affected by the
winds, it may be said to be strong enough ;
but of that the eye will be the best judge.

When trees have been neglected, and
are grown too weak, by standing close
together. Thinning is the only present re-
jfuedy, and should be done graduaUi/ ; for,
if the plants have long sheltered each other,
to remove that shelter all at once, wo-ulcl
let in the wind, and otherwise s-tarve them,
so as to stint their growth for several years*

It has always been thought difhcult to
explain clearly how trees are affected by
sudden exposure, that have previously
been sheltered. Undoubtedly, when the
wind gets among slender plants, it not
only bends and twists their stems, but
sprains their roots, so far as in some degree
to sprain, break, and disorder the sap-


vessels. — We may observe too, that the
bark of trees, which grow sheltered, is
thin ; and hence, the sap-vessels are near
the surface ; of course, many of them may
suffer from exposure. — AVe know, besides,
that heat is absolutely necessary, not only
to put vegetation in motion, but to keep
it so; and therefore, its increase will always

be effected by the degree of heat.- We

may observe, also, that furious winds never
fail to damage the leaves of trees, in pro-
portion to their flexibility.— And, there-
fore, in this warfare, the youngest natu-
rally suffer most ; which is peculiarly
unfortunate, because they are the princi-
pal agents in forwarding the business of
vegetation. On the whole, it is presumed,
much of the damage done by sudden ex-
posnre, may be naturally traced to the
above causes. But whether such be the
case or not, the effect is exactly as stated,
and the means of prevention the same ;
namely, thinnings and afterwards j?r//w/?/ov


When plants stand thin, so as to have
short stems, with spreading bushy heads,
the remedy is the business of Pruning
only. Cutting off all the largest sido
branches, and encouraging but one leader,
as has been directed for young plants,
will, if repeated periodically, soon show
the advantages of such means in a very

striking point of view,-^ Sometimes

persons are perplexed in choosing leaders
for trees ; — one may be the straightest,
and another the strongest: — in this case,
the point should be decided by consider-
ing, that we want one the most capable
of attracting the sap sufficiently; for if
that be done, it is of very trifling conse-
quence, whether the leader stands only
half upright, or perfectly so; as, by growing
freely, it will soon cease to bend; and,
therefore, we usually choose the strongest.

In pruning large neglected plants, for
the first time, and frequently one or two
further, we do not attempt to make good


forms, but to- put them in a condition to
grow into such; and that can never be
effected otherwise than by pruning, and
uniformly admitting air sufficient to per-
mit them to grow stiff, but not enough to
cause them to grow bushy.

Plantations of deciduous trees are too
thick, when many of the lower branches
die annually ; and too thin, where ?ione of
them are found in a declining state. The
stem may be sufficiently fed, though the
side branches grow but slowly.

It is impossible to be too particular in
pressing upon the owners of plantations,
the propriety of calling in the aid of so
useful, industrious, powerful, and cheap
an auxiliary, as Air. Too much, or too
little of this article may be ruinous; while
the due quantity, introduced, and kept
properly in action, by judicious thinning
and pruning, may so far inliuence the for-
mation of the trees, as to reduce the latter



operation more than one half; and, at
the same time, materially forward the
growth of the most valuable part of them.
We may be sure such increase is consi-
derable, when they are not only stiff, but
towering fast ; while very few branches
require to be displaced. It is to be un-
derstood, that the benefit of air chiefly
applies to the heads of trees ; as we could
never discover that a moderate share of
underwood, growing among the stems, did
any damage, by reducing the quantity of
air, but the contrary. It is admitted,
that such must, in some degree, exhaust
the soil, but this is abundantly overba-
lanced by the advantages before noticed.

If the training of timber were really as
troublesome and expensive as some per-
sons believe, still there is a partial mode
of doing the business, which may be
practised to very great advantage. The
method is to select, and mark sucli trees
as are wished to stand longest, before the


first pruning takes place. This, however,
must be understood to apply, principally,
to very thick plantations, as no doubt is
entertained, but that trees, at four feet
apart, would all pay for such attention ;
as, when pruned, they might stand to
grow tolerable poles, — but those who
choose it, may, however, attend to the
selected plants only; tinning out or taking
off the heads of others, from time to time,
in the way that has been directed.

As it would be tedious to thin the heads
of Firs, in the same manner as deciduous
trees, there is so much the more necessity
to attend carefully to the matter of dis-
tances; for, where they are properly ma-
naged, the former may be trained with
less trouble than the latter; because, in
consequence of growing with closer heads,
the lower branches do not enlarge so
freely, in the first place ; and are, like-
wise, for the same reason, subject to decay
much sooner ; and besides, they do not


often form separate heads. To these we
may add the circumstance of their sap-
vessels being so large, that the ascent of
the sap is not so much obstructed by the
branches. — If the first pruning took place
when the plants were about eight feet
high, it might then be necessary to dis-
place two, or at most three tiers of the
lower branches ; and two years further,
two sets more of the same description :
after which, intervals of three years might
elapse between the prunings ; never dis-
placing more than two tiers at once, ex-
cept more should prove dead.*

* In the " Transactions of the Society for the En-
couragement of Arts, SicJ* Vol. XXIV. p. 68, we have
a paper on the advantages and method of ^^ Pruning
Fir Trees, ^"^ by ^^ Mr, Salmon, ' surveyor and wood-
agent to his Grace the Duke of Bedford, which clearly
evinces the propriety both of pruning and cutting
close. The opinion of a person so intimately ac-
quainted with the application of timber, cannot fail
to be conclusive on these points. Still I think his
theory, both with regard to the quantity of tiers of
branches to be taken off at once, and the periods to


It will be observed, that this method is
calculated to grow the trees with a long

elapse between the prunings, is highly objectionable.
For long observation has convinced me that taking a

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Online LibraryWilliam PonteyThe forest pruner; or, Timber owner's assistant: a treatise on the training or management of British timber trees; whether intended for use, ornament, or shelter; including an explanation of the causes of their general diseases and defects, with the means of prevention, and remedies, where practicab → online text (page 8 of 12)