In the north of Europe great quantities of tar are procured from the Scotch pine. Torches are made from the roots and trunk.
Varieties of the pine are grown in “little woods” for hop-poles.
Pinus sylvestris (the “Scotch Pine”), though a native of Scotland, has only been planted and cultivated in Great Britain for about a century.
On the subject of “thinning and pruning” in plantations planters–like doctors–differ. An amusing story was sent to Mr. Loudon by the Duke of Bedford, in reference to his grandfather, who was an advocate for vigorous thinning in the pine plantations.
“The Duke perceived that the plantation required thinning, in order to admit a free circulation of air, and give health and vigour to the young trees. He accordingly gave instructions to his gardener, and directed him as to the mode and extent of the thinning required. The gardener paused and hesitated, and at length said: ‘Your Grace must pardon me if I humbly remonstrate against your orders, but I cannot possibly do what you desire; it would at once destroy the young plantation; and, moreover, it would be seriously injurious to my reputation as a planter.’ My grandfather, who was of an impetuous and decided character, but always just, instantly replied, ‘Do as I desire you, and I will take care of your reputation.’ The plantation was accordingly thinned according to the instructions of the Duke, who caused a board to be fixed in the plantation, facing the wood, on which was inscribed, ‘This plantation has been thinned by John, Duke of Bedford, contrary to the advice and opinion of his gardener.‘”
The Willow (Salix caprea, etc.). The species of willow are so numerous that we shall not attempt to give a list of them.
Willow-wood wears well in water, and has been used in shipbuilding and carpentery, and especially for small ware, cricket-bats and toys. Full-grown willows of all kinds are picturesque and very graceful trees. The growth of the tree kinds when young is very rapid.
Willows are largely cultivated in “little woods” for basket-making, hoops, etc. Shoots of the Salix caprea of only a year’s growth are large enough to be valuable for wicker-work. It appears to be held by cultivators that the poorer the soil in which they are grown the oftener these willows should be cut over. “In a good soil a coppice of this species will produce the greatest return in poles, hoops, and rods every five, six, seven, or eight years; and in middling soil, where it is grown chiefly for faggot-wood, it will produce the greatest return every three, four, or five years.”
Horses and cattle are fed on the leaves of the willow in some parts of France.
Willows are often “pollarded.” That is, their tops are cut off, which makes a large crop of young shoots spring out, giving a shock-headed effect which in gnarled old pollards by river-banks is picturesque enough.
The “little woods” of willow on the river Thames and the Cam are well known. They are small islands planted entirely with willows, and are called osier-holts.
Osier-beds of all kinds are very attractive “little woods.” One always fancies one ought to be able to make something of the long pliable “sally-withys”–as the Wiltshire folk call willow switches. Indeed, as a matter of fact, the making of rough garden-baskets is a very simple art, especially on the Scotch and German system. Let any ingenious little prowler in an osier-bed get two thickish willow-rods and fasten them at the ends with a bit of wire, so as to make two hoops. These hoops are then to intersect each other half-way up, one being perpendicular, to form the handle and the bottom of the basket, the other being placed horizontally, to form the rim. More wire will be needed to fix them in their positions. Much finer willow-wands are used to wattle, or weave, the basket-work; ribs of split osiers are added, and the wattling goes in and out among them, and at once secures them and rests upon them.
This account is not likely to be enough to teach the most intelligent of our readers! But one fancies that a rough sort of basket-making might almost be devised out of one’s own head, especially if he had been taught (as we were, by a favourite nursemaid) to plait rushes.
[Footnote 1: A corf is a large basket used for carrying coals or other minerals in a mine.]