These are the Sears, Henry and Co. tree recommendations for your landscape, presented by The Heirloom Orchardist. The following tree descriptions are gleaned from books and periodicals intended originally for our plant-loving ancestors. Many of these classic trees were newly introduced in the 1800’s.
Here, we provide an opportunity to purchase specimens of several heirloom tree varieties, as well as high-quality prints of the colorful artwork depicting each tree, as provided in the 1893 Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog.
Heirloom Austrian Pine
“The Austrian Pine has acquired much popularity, and is generally planted in this country for ornament. It is perfectly hardy in the most northern States, and adapts itself to a variety of soils. Its ornamental character is of that description which appears best at some distance. On close inspection its foliage appears coarse, stiff, and ungraceful; but seen farther off, a well-grown tree standing singly, is a picturesque and agreeable object in a landscape. It is well adapted to the formation of screens or windbreaks…” - Forest Trees, for Shelter, Ornament and Profit, by Arthur Bryant, 1871
"Perfectly hardy; a strong and vigorous growing evergreen, attaining a large size; fine for wind-brakes." - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
Heirloom Weeping Birch
“The new Weeping Birch is one of the finest drooping trees. The old one is nearly as erect as a poplar, until quite old …but this new one is almost as pendulous as a willow, even while young. - The Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste, by Andrew Jackson Downing, 1850
“The most beautiful of these (weeping trees) is the cut-leaved Weeping Birch. The pendulous character of the branches is thoroughly nature-like, and is only carrying out to its logical conclusion the ideal of the whole birch family – namely, a certain feminine slenderness and grace. It also has the whitest bark of any tree in cultivation.” - The Garden Magazine, Thomas McAdam, March 1907
"One of the most elegant and desirable of all the ornamental trees. Stands Minnesotta climate without injury; foilage distinct from any other variety; its habit of growth makes it one of the most graceful and striking of all our lawn trees. This plate represents the tree as it stands in winter, with its silvery white bark and dropping branches."- Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
“The Catalpa never, or rarely, takes a symmetrical form when growing up; but generally forms a wide-spreading head, forty or fifty feet in diameter. Its large and abundant foliage affords a copious shade, and its growth is quite rapid, soon forming a large and bulky tree. In ornamental plantations it is much varied on account of its superb and showy flowers, and is therefore deserving a place in every lawn.” - Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, by Andrew Jackson Downing, 1844
“The first tree of this species, which was introduced into New England, is said to stand in front of the late residence of Major Babcock, in Washington Street, Hartford, in the state of Connecticut. It is represented as being of a large size, and when in bloom, appears like one solid mass of elegant flowers. It is believed to exceed fifty years of age.” - The Trees of America, Native and Foreign, Daniel Jay Browne, 1846
“A hardy flowering tree of medium size and rapid growth. Very popular in the west.” - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
“The Hawthorn is most agreeable to the eye in composition when it forms the undergrowth or thicket, peeping out in all its freshness, gay blossoms, or bright fruit from beneath and between the groups and masses of trees; where, mingled with the hazel, etc., it gives a pleasing intricacy to the whole mass of foliage. But the different species display themselves to most advantage, and grow also to a finer size, when planted singly, or two or three together, along the walks leading through the different parts of the pleasure ground or shrubbery. The berries or haws, as they are called, have a very rich and coral-like look when the tree is completely covered with them in October.” - A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Andrew Jackson Downing, 1844
“The thorns are among the most beautiful of all flowering trees, and thrive on dry soil. They have an abundance of bloom in May and June.” - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
Heirloom Silver Maple
“The Silver Maple is a classic heirloom tree that was quite popular in the 19th century. Unfortunately, recent inappropriate placement of this tree has resulted in its bad reputation. Although weak-wooded, it’s a glorious tree that should be used where fast growth is desired. Plant it at a distance, away from power lines, sewer lines, and buildings.” – The Heirloom Orchardist
“The Silver Maple is a tree to count upon. It is a lazy man’s tree, for it comes vigorously from seed, and bears transplanting, even when there are radical changes in soil and in climate to be met. It is a rapid grower, soon giving ample shade. But rapid growth implies brittle, weak wood, as a rule. The habit of a tree must be considered when choosing a place to plant it. It is unwise to plant Silver Maples close to a house, as they have a great horizontal spread, and the long, weak limbs are easily broken in ice storms.” - The Tree Book; A Popular Guide to a Knowledge of the Trees of North America, by Julia Ellen Rogers, 1905
“A silver maple with remarkably beautiful and deeply serrated foliage, of rapid growth; shoots slender and drooping, giving it a very graceful appearance. Should be in every collection.” - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
Heirloom Mountain Ash
“The European Mountain Ash is an elegant tree of medium size, with an erect stem, smooth bark, and round head. The snow-white flowers are produced in large flat clusters, in the month of May, which are thickly scattered over the outer surface of the tree, and give it a lively appearance. These are succeeded by numerous bunches of berries, which in autumn turn to a brilliant scarlet, and are then highly ornamental.
It is remarkably well calculated for small plantations or collections, as it grows in almost any soil or situation, takes but little room, and is always interesting.
We have seen the Mountain Ash mingled with a group of Hemlocks, from among the deep green foliage of which, the coral berries of the former seemed to shoot out; their color heightened by the dark background of evergreen boughs.” - A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, by Andrew Jackson Downing, 1844
“A handsome and ornamental tree, with large and deeply-lobed leaves; distinct and fine. The tree is covered in the fall and early winter months with bright scarlet berries; conspicuous in summer and winter.” - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
Heirloom Norway Spruce
“Of all introduced evergreen trees, the Norway Spruce has been more generally planted for landscape purposes than any other. For many years it was almost the only evergreen offered by nurserymen for general planting, and it had many qualities which made it desirable for this purpose. It is of rapid, symmetrical growth, keeping its foliage on the lower as well as the upper branches, and developing cones of large size and beautiful form, which add to the attractiveness of the upper part of the tree.” - Our Trees, How to Know Them, Clarence Moores Weed, 1918
“The beautiful feathery appearance of (the Norway spruce) foliage is very striking, but the extreme regularity of its form rather detracts from the beauty of a landscape when it is too often repeated; it is easily known by its long pendulous cones, as well as by its formal shape.” – The Book of Trees, published by John Parker, 1837
“A lofty, elegant evergreen tree. Branches droop when the tree attains the height of fifteen or twenty feet.” - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
Heirloom Purple-Leaf Plum
“You who are fond of the rare and beautiful, buy a plant of Prunus Pissardii next spring. Its foliage is purple, which color is held more decidedly during the season than that of any other colored foliage plant; and the leaves remain unharmed until after frosts. The Rural New Yorker confidently advises its readers to try this plum, though the fruit itself is not worth much.” - Rural New Yorker, reprinted in the Canadian Horticulturist, 1885
"A new and distinct hardy ornamental shrub, or small sized tree, valuable for planting near other shrubs with variegated foliage, forming a pleasing contrast." - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893
“The Salix babylonica is our old well-known Weeping Willow. From long usage this willow has come to be associated with either water or the sadness of life. In the one case, indicative of a marshy region or stream of water, in the other, of the last resting place of friends once on earth.” - Handbook of Practical Landscape Gardening, by Franklin Reuben Elliott, 1885
“This forms without any trimming an exceedingly graceful tree with glossy foliage and with perfect umbrella head; unique and beautiful in form; a vigorous and luxuriant grower, thriving in all soils.” - Sears, Henry and Co. Nursery Catalog, 1893