Shigemasa’s Birds and Flowers

Birds with cherry blossom (Vol 1) from Kacho shashin zui by Kitao Shigemasa (1805).  All images courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute via archive.org.

Magnolia, wisteria, winter flowering jasmine, Japanese quince – many of these species were introduced from Japan into European cultivation by explorers and plant hunters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Now familiar and available to everyone, and growing in gardens by their thousands, it’s hard to imagine that these plants would once have been rarities.

In Kacho shashin zui, an intriguing collection of early 19th century Japanese woodcuts, the branches of these flowering shrubs and trees form settings for some spectacularly beautiful birds.  According to the British Museum, Kacho shashin zui translates as ‘Lifelike depictions of flowers and birds’.  However, a quick internet search suggests that today the Japanese word ‘shashin’ can also relate to film, indicating a snapshot or photograph.

The composition of these woodcuts does indeed give them a photographic quality – they possess the immediacy of a close up shot.  Typically spanning two pages, birds are shown perching on leafy twigs and sprays of blossom the edges of which are cropped by a rectangular black border.  This has the effect of drawing us into the image, focusing our attention on the birds.  In a striking image of a jay hanging upside down in a gingko tree, only one of the leaves is shown in its entirety, the rest are cut through by the frame of the image.

The creator of these woodcuts, Kitao Shigemasa, is a precise observer of the forms of plants.  The shape of leaves, textures of bark, angles of branches and the way flowers are held on the stems reveal very accurately the character of each plant.

Kitao Shigemasa (1739 – 1820) was a print maker based near modern-day Tokyo, who, in a long career, produced illustrations for more than 250 books.  The three volumes of Kacho shashin zui referred to here are from the Smithsonian Institute’s collection – and one of their delights (as well as the stunning woodcuts within) is to open their plain covers and experience the digital books opening left to right – links are below.

There’s always something very special about blossom appearing on bare branches, and, as spring officially begins this week, it’s the perfect time to appreciate the emerging flowers of cherries and magnolias in our parks, streets and gardens.

A jay perches on a gingko (Vol 1)

Kerria japonica

Citrus

Begonia (Vol 2)

Oak (Vol 2)

Magnolia stellata (Vol 2)

Wisteria (Vol 3)

Winter flowering jasmine (jasminum nudiflorum)

Peony (Vol 3)

Further reading:

Vol 1 Kacho shashin zui

Vol 2 Kacho shashin zui

Vol 3 Kacho shashin zui

Kitao Shigemasa (Wikipedia)

The Trade of the Gardener

The Gardener from Little Jack of all Trades published by Darton & Harvey 1814 (all images via archive.org)

Stories about the real world and real lives were considered as interesting and exciting as pure fiction in children’s books of Georgian England.  The trades were a popular subject – what people did and how things were made were described and illustrated with woodcuts, bringing these occupations to life for the young reader.

One such example is Little Jack of all Trades (1814) from Darton and Harvey, publishers of many children’s books from the later eighteenth century into the Victorian era.  Author William Darton begins by likening workers in the various trades to bees in a hive, where everyone has their specific role to play within a larger inter-connected structure:

‘all are employed – all live cheerfully and whilst each individual works for the general good, the whole community works for him.  The baker supplies the bricklayer, the gardener and the tailor with bread; and they, in return, provide him with shelter, food and raiment: thus, though each person is dependent on the other, all are independent.’

I was delighted to see that the book includes a profile of a gardener, who appears alongside other practical tradespeople such as the carpenter, blacksmith, cabinet maker, mason, bookbinder, printer and hatter (to cite but a few examples).

The gardener in the illustration is handing a large bouquet of flowers to a well-dressed woman – most probably the wife of his employer.  Our gardener is a manager – his two assistants behind him are engaged in digging over the soil and watering a bed of plants, while we learn his specialist skills include grafting and pruning.

In the background a heated greenhouse extends the season for the production of fruits and other crops (smoke from the building’s stove is visible rising from the chimney on the right of the picture).  All the tools of the gardeners’ trade remain familiar to us today:

‘the spade to dig with, the hoe to root out weeds, the dibble to make holes which receive the seed and plants, the rake to cover seeds with earth when sown, the pruning hook and watering pot.’

From a present day perspective, it’s interesting that Darton’s description of the gardener makes the connection between gardening and well-being:

‘Working in a garden is a delightful and healthy occupation; it strengthens the body, enlivens the spirits, and infuses into the mind a pleasing tranquillity, and sensations of happy independence.’

William Darton (1755 – 1819) was an engraver, stationer and printer in London and with partner Joseph Harvey (1764 – 1841) published books for children and religious tracts.  His sons Samuel and William Darton were later active in the business.  A full account of the evolution of the company with its various partners and offshoots is explained on the British Museum website – see link below.

Darton and Harvey’s books for children always contain plentiful illustrations and, while stylised, are packed with details of clothes, buildings and interiors, conveying a powerful sense of working life in the early 19th century.

Today in England the status of gardening as a skilled trade has been undermined and eroded – so it’s pleasing to see the gardener in this book taking his place alongside other trades as an equal partner.  I’ve included below the text for the gardener’s profile and some images of other tradespeople from Little Jack of all Trades, together with a link to the book at archive.org.  I hope you will take a look at your leisure.

Little Jack of all Trades published by Darton & Harvey 1814

Further reading:

Little Jack of all Trades

Biography of the Darton family publishing house from The British Museum

Pruning the Brogdale Bramley

Bramley’s Seedling apples on the tree at the National Fruit Collection, Brogdale (photo Wikimedia Commons)

Venturing out on my first horticultural visit of the year, last Saturday I headed for Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection just outside Faversham in Kent.  February being an ideal time to prune apple trees, my purpose was to attend a pruning demonstration, whereby a large Bramley apple tree left unpruned for the last six years would be re-shaped.

Bramley’s Seedling is still one of the UK’s best known cooking apples.  The original tree was raised in 1809 from seed planted by a young girl Mary Ann Brailsford in her Nottinghamshire cottage garden.  By the 1840s the cottage (and apple tree) were owned by one Matthew Bramley, a butcher, who allowed cuttings to be taken for commercial propagation by local nurseryman Henry Merryweather on condition that the trees bore his name.

The Bramley apple tree produces delicious fruit, but has some special requirements for successful cultivation.  They are vigorous trees, needing a large space to grow well and are triploids meaning that they need two separate apple varieties nearby to ensure successful pollination.

The Bramley apple tree that greeted us at Brogdale was a confusing prospect – tall, asymmetric, with an over-abundance of sprawling branches.  It was clear that pruning was required, but how to begin with such a tangle of growth?

Our guide, the horticulturalist and fruit tree specialist John Easton encouraged us to stand back from the tree, walk around it and examine it from every angle.  We should also try to imagine the tree as it might appear from above – ideally up to five major branches would radiate out like the spokes of a wheel.

John identified two main problems with the tree.  There were large branches shading the centre of the tree, preventing new shoots from developing, (which would eventually form a framework of new branches).  The tree also had too many lateral shoots, causing the tree to be very congested.

We were then asked to suggest which large branches should come out, and after some deliberation, these branches were marked with tape at their junction with the trunk of the tree.  John emphasised the importance of sticking to a decision about removing branches as a loss of confidence half way through the process could result in a tree that was unbalanced.

Using both a small hand held chainsaw and a pole mounted chainsaw, Martin (John’s assistant for the day) started to remove branches.  John then used a pruning saw and secateurs to thin growth on the branches that we’d decided to keep and raise the level of the lowest of these so the crop would not be splashed with soil and the grass beneath could be mown easily.  Under John’s guidance Martin next removed a vast quantity of 5 year old upright shoots from the centre of the tree, leaving those remaining with enough space to develop and bear fruit.

The pruned tree still had a wide spread, and while it might be tempting to tidy away the tips of the branches to make the tree neater, John explained why this should be avoided in a Bramley.  As a partial tip-bearer, fruit is produced at the ends of the branches, and also on short spurs that appear along the fruiting laterals.  As new, upright shoots develop the weight of the apple crop has the effect of ‘bringing down’ the branches which are quite flexible.  But if the ends are removed this has a stiffening effect on the branch and interrupts the growth pattern of tree.

Finally, John explained the current thinking about the treatment of watershoots, which spring up in great numbers on the main branches and sometimes the tree trunk, where the sap flow is at its greatest.  Rather than remove them all (for aesthetic purposes) he suggested removing a third entirely with a saw, cutting a third back to around three inches with a secateurs and bending in the final third to curtail their upward growth.  He explained that the roughness of the saw cut damaged the tree cells more than a cleaner cut with secateurs, and stopped re-growth more effectively.

Ideally apple trees should be pruned on a three year cycle with a maximum of one third of the growth removed at any one time.  John emphasised the importance of knowing when to stop – although there were more laterals that he could have removed, the danger of damaging the tree after the major work he had carried out was too great.  And so it being time, as John put it, to ‘walk away from the tree’ we finished our day.

A tangle of branches – the tree before pruning.

Having decided which branches to remove, these are marked clearly with tape.

Fruit tree expert John Easton (on the ground) and Martin (on the ladder) discuss which branches are to be removed.

Martin uses a pole chainsaw to take out a vertical branch.

John uses a pruning saw and secateurs to thin fruiting laterals closer to the ground.

Expert cut to thin out growth on a fruiting lateral.

Bark of the Bramley tree in the early February sunshine.

The Brogdale Bramley after pruning.

A fraction of the mass of material from the tree after pruning.

Blossom of the Bramley’s Seedling apple, National Fruit Collection, Brogdale (photo Wikimedia Commons)

Bramley Tree Cottage in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, where the first Bramley apple tree was raised from seed by Mary Ann Brailsford.  Photograph: Alan Murray-Rust Wikimedia Commons

Further Reading:

Brogdale Collections – home of the National Fruit Collection including over 2000 apple varieties

The Bramley Seedling Apple – the history of this much loved tree on Wikipedia

Celebrating Karl Foerster

1952 catalogue

Karl Foerster 
9th March 1874 – 27th November 1970

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of plantsman, writer and designer Karl Foerster.  As well as breeding hundreds of perennial plants, Foerster was instrumental in pioneering a planting style that was both naturalistic and sustainable using hardy plants suited to local soil conditions and climate.  His iconic nursery and garden at Potsdam-Bornim near Berlin which he managed from 1910 until 1970 is open to the public as a monument to his life and work.

Thanks to the European Nursery Catalogue Collection which has digitised over forty of Foerster’s catalogues, we have a fascinating record of the range plants he offered for sale, and glimpses of his garden.  His plant lists reveal a mixture of species plants and a range of perennials still very fashionable today, such as heleniums, day lilies, grasses and geraniums.

The Potsdam-Bornim garden (link at the end of this post) estimates that around a third of the plants Foerster developed are still in cultivation.  One of his favourite flowers was Phlox paniculata and he once remarked that a garden without this plant was ‘a mistake’.  He started breeding phlox in the 1930s and his nursery catalogues record pages of varieties, from palest pink to deep red tones.  ‘Düsterlohe’ with its rich purple flowers is still a bestseller.

Some of the catalogues contain planting plans showing customers how they might arrange plants purchased from Foerster.  The plans indicate how many plants of each variety should be used and suggests placing them together in blocks to enhance the effect of their contrasting forms and textures.

After training at the Schwerin Palace Gardens and the Royal Gardening School near Potsdam Foerster established his first nursery at Berlin-Westend in 1903 and re-located it to Potsdam-Bornin in 1910.  The garden produced potatoes and vegetables during the second World War, but in 1945 the Soviet military administration gave permission to operate as a nursery once more.  Foerster’s daughter Marianne oversaw the continuation of the garden from the 1990s until her death in 2010.

Foerster’s catalogues list plants developed by other famous nurserymen such as Georg Arendts in Germany and Bonne Ruys (father of the designer Mien Ruys) in the Netherlands.  Their names reveal a network of influential horticulturalists and designers exchanging plants and ideas.  Foerster’s influence can still  be detected in the work of designers today – here in the UK Beth Chatto’s garden and plant catalogues seem to share the same spirit with their plant selections, as do the palettes of plants used by Dan Pearson and Sarah Price.

The grass Calamogrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ was named after Foerster as a tribute to his work.  With its upright plumes turning a pale straw colour in winter, this plant is still a key component in contemporary planting schemes and it seems appropriate that the plant named for him remains so popular.

Foerster attached great importance to the garden as a haven for nature and his company logo, a stylised daisy-like flower surrounded by three butterflies, underlines this.  Fifty years on, Foerster’s philosophy of planting is more relevant today than ever, with our current challenge to create gardens that are friendly to wildlife and the environment.

Karl Foerster pictured in his 1964 catalogue.

Peony from the 1972 catalogue

Planting plans from the 1972 catalogue

Planting plan for shade, showing the canopy of two trees and stepping stones through the planting

Foerster’s logo – a daisy surrounded by butterflies

1972 catalogue

1957 catalogue

Brightly coloured phlox from the 1957 catalogue

Front Cover of the 1972 catalogue showing Phlox paniculata ‘Eva Foerster’ in the foreground with ‘Aida’, ‘Flammenkuppel’ and ‘Fullhorn’.

Doesn’t this planting remind you of Beth Chatto’s garden?

I like the German word for water lily – Seerose.

Perennial grasses from Foerster’s 1972 catalogue: Miscanthus sacchariflorus ‘Robustus’, Cortaderia selloana, Pennisetum compressum, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch, Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Stricta’

Chrysanthemum x hortorum ‘Schwytz’, Ligularia hybrid, Helenium ‘Feuersiegel’ and Erigeron ‘Wuppertal’ from the 1967 catalogue

An order form from the 1967 catalogue

The garden at Potsdam Bornim

Molinia altissima from the 1967 catalogue

Further reading:

European Nursery Catalogue Collection

Karl Foerster (Wikipedia)

Potsdam-Bornim (Garden Visit)

Potsdam-Bornim website

Bringing in the Green

Bringing Home Christmas from The Book of Christmas by Thomas Kibble Hervey. First published in 1836, this 1888 version is made available by the University of California Libraries via archive.org

Our understanding of Christmas and New Year celebrations in late Georgian England (and earlier) owes an enormous debt to The Book of Christmas by Thomas Kibble Hervey (1799 – 1859). Published in 1836 Hervey’s survey of the festive season examines in detail everything from the food people ate and the carols they sang, to a multitude of annual local events.

Bringing evergreen branches inside to decorate our houses in wintertime is still a much loved tradition.  Hervey allocates several pages of his book to these decorations and their importance in seasonal celebrations:

‘One of the most striking signs of the season, and which meets the eye in all directions, is that which arises out of the ancient and still familiar practice of adorning our houses and churches with evergreens during the continuance of this festival.’

The origins of this ancient custom and its symbolism of renewal are rooted in European folklore, and over time evergreen decorations became incorporated into Christian festivals.  The Puritans briefly rejected these decorations in churches owing to their heathen origins, but Hervey observes that the practice, despite ‘outcry and prohibition’, had once again become as popular as ever.

The illustration for this section of the book shows a country man on his way to market with a cartload of evergreens.  These, according to Hervey, would be used to decorate mantel-pieces and windows, and wreaths would be made for lamps, Christmas candles and for use as table decorations.  He also mentions displays of greenery in markets and shops, observing that, ‘every tub of butter has a sprig of rosemary in its breast.’

Material was gathered both from hedges and ‘winter gardens’ and could include holly, rosemary, bay, mistletoe and ivy – but was not restricted to these plants.  Yew and cypress are mentioned as well as box, pine, fir and even myrtle where it was available.

A fourteenth century song he describes is interesting for mentioning holly and ivy as Christmas decoration.  The song confirms the precedence of the holly, which is brought inside while ivy is confined to outdoor use:

 ‘Nay Ivy!  Nay it shall not be, I wys;
Let Holy have the maystry, as the manner ys.

Holy stond in the halle, fayre to behold;
Ivy stond without the doore: she is full sore a cold.’

Written before the Christmas tree became popular in England, Hervey relates a popular custom from Germany and Sicily in which

‘.. a large bough is set up in the principal room, the smaller branches of which are hung with little presents suitable to the different members of the household.’

The British Library cites the popularity of his book as a factor in the revival of Christmas celebrations in the 1840s and their continuation through the Victorian period.  Robert Seymour’s accompanying illustrations are a fascinating record of home and street life in the mid 1830s.  Hervey’s enthusiasm for the festive season is infectious – even if Christmas is not your favourite time of year, I do recommend a dip into this book – links below.

The Book of Christmas features illustrations by Robert Seymour

Robert Seymour records in minute detail the decorations at either end of a gun displayed above the kitchen mantelpiece, .

Evergreen sprigs decorate the mirror and light fitting in this drawing room.

This grandfather clock has been decorated for New Year celebrations.

Further reading:

The Book of Christmas (1888)

The Book of Christmas (1836) The British Library publishes some illustrations from the original version of the book – plus links to other Christmas related publications.

Thomas Kibble Hervey Wikipedia entry

Robert Seymour Wikipedia entry

Inside the Labyrinth at Versailles

The Labyrinth of Versailles (1693) images courtesy of the Getty Research Institute, via archive.org

Amongst the boundless literature concerning the gardens at Versailles, this book from 1693 (first published in 1677) documents the labyrinth from a time when it housed a series of hydraulic statues, illustrating stories from Aesop’s fables.  As visitors followed pathways bordered by high hedges, at intervals they encountered fountains containing brightly painted representations of Aesop’s animal characters.  Jets of water spurting out from their mouths were intended to suggest conversations between the animals.

In the 17th century Aesop’s fables became popular across Europe as educational and moral stories for children.  As the English philosopher John Locke observed, they are ‘apt to delight and entertain a child, yet afford useful reflection to a grown man.’  Locke also observed that children responded to books of these fables better if they contained pictures.

The thirty nine Aesop themed fountains were the project of Louis XIV, installed in the early 1670s for the entertainment of his six year old son, who is said to have learned to read from inscriptions of the stories that accompanied each of the scenes.  Eventually falling into disrepair, they were removed in 1778 by Louis XVI to be replaced by a fashionable ‘jardin Anglais’.

Sebastien Le Clerc’s engravings for the Labarinte de Versailles are remarkable for their architectural precision, visible in the proportions of the hedges and trellis, and the elaborate stonework of the fountains, giving a real sense of what the garden looked like.  Trained as an engineer, Le Clerc (1637 – 1714) was considered such an excellent draughtsman he was persuaded to become a full time commercial artist.  An outline of each story is provided by Charles Perrault (1628 – 1703), pioneer of the modern fairy tale, and a poetic version of the fable by Isaac de Benserade.

Visitors to the labyrinth are also depicted by Le Clerc, (together with their many dogs), but as a gardener myself I was intrigued to see that several engravings include gardeners as they go about their work maintaining the attraction.  A foreman appears to be directing them as they use various tools to trim the hedges including a sickle and a pair of shears, while the clippings are raked up into wheelbarrows to be taken away.  It’s a reminder, also, that in today’s photographs of grand gardens, people are almost always absent.

One of the interesting qualities of rare books like this one is that they sometimes bear the marks of their users – and this example from the Getty Research Institute has certainly seen some rough treatment from a child at some point in the past.  Some pages show pencil scribbles and one of the pages appears to have been torn out.  But was this book intended for children?  Just as Aesop’s fables appeal to both adults and children, perhaps it served a dual purpose – as a souvenir for adults, and as entertainment for children of very wealthy parents.

This plan shows the location of the Aesop themed fountains in the labyrinth.

This list of the thirty nine fables shown in the labyrinth has been embellished with a child’s scribbles in pencil.

Here follow some details of the gardeners at work in the labyrinth:

An axe and short handled mallet are being used here.

Does this little dog belong to the gardeners?

Here a gardener rakes around the feet of a visitor who seems reluctant to get out of the way. What is the gardener next to the wheelbarrow saying to him?

A gardener uses the wheelbarrow as a seat from which to rake the pathway.

One gardener uses a long handled sickle to cut the hedge.

Here the gardening team is out in force, one sweeping the gravel while another cuts the hedge with shears. Meanwhile a dog drinks from the fountain.

Further reading:

Labyrinte de Versailles from the Getty Research Institute, available via archive.org  The stories have been recorded in French, if you wish to listen to them.

The artist and engraver Sebastien le Clerc 1637 – 1714

Wikipedia the Labyrinth of Versailles

The Wikipedia page about Aesop’s Fables is well worth reading Aesop’s Fables

The Woodland Companion

The Oak from The Woodland Companion by John Aikin (1815). Digital version courtesy of The Library of Congress

Amidst today’s alarm at our state of disconnection with nature, there’s a tendency to assume that in the past everyone possessed a detailed knowledge about the natural world.  So it’s rather comforting to learn that in the early 19th century John Aikin (1747 -1822) decided that a tree identification book was needed to assist the many children (and adults) that didn’t know an oak tree from an ash.

The Woodland Companion, first published in 1802, begins with a frank assessment of the nation’s woeful lack of knowledge about trees:

‘The confined knowledge which young persons, and even those of advanced age, are usually found to possess of the noblest products of the vegetable creation, the trees which compose our woods and decorate our parks and pleasure-grounds, suggested to the writer that a brief description of them, in the form of a pocket-companion of the rural walk, might be acceptable.’

Like all the best pocket book guides, each tree in The Woodland Companion is accompanied by a detailed illustration of the leaves, flowers and fruits.  Aikin describes the size and shape of the trees and typical situations where they might be found.  He also takes time to inform us about the uses of the timber, revealing a world before mechanisation where wood was a material fundamental to every aspect of life, from architecture, transport, agriculture to the home.

After a career as a doctor, John Aikin (1747 -1822) took up writing in his retirement and was adept at producing material that a popular audience would enjoy.  He published many educational works about science, biography, poetry and the highly successful stories for children Evenings at Home which he wrote with his sister Anna Laetitia Barbauld.  The images used in The Woodland Companion were first commissioned by Alexander Hunter for his illustrated edition of John Evelyn’s Sylva (published in 1776 and re-printed several times).

I’ve included some of these fragile foldouts below with some details from Aikin about the trees and their uses.  There’s a link to the text at The Library of Congress at the very end of the post.

‘In our days, beech is a common material of the turner and cabinet maker; the former using it for his larger ware; and the latter, for common chairs and other articles of furniture.  It is, indeed, almost the only English wood employed by the London cabinet-makers.  Its lightness causes it to be chosen for the handles of tools; and it is split into thin scales for band-boxes, sword scabards, and the like.  The dried leaves of the beech make a very good stuffing for mattresses.’

The chesnut:  ‘Among the mast-bearing trees this may be reckoned the most valuable, since its nuts, by their sweet and farinaceous quality, are rendered good food for man, as well as for other animals.  The chesnuts cultivated for their fruit are usually grafted ones, called by the French marronier;  and in many parts of the south of Europe they afford great part of the sustenance of the poor, who make bread of their flour.  In this country the fruit of the chesnut is small, and seldom comes to maturity; it is therefore left to the hogs and squirrels.’

‘The wood of the elm is hard and tough, and useful for a variety of purposes.  It is particularly serviceable for occasions which require its being kept constantly wet; as in the keels and planking beneath the water-line of ships, mill-wheels and water-works, and especially for water-pipes, the great demand for which is the cause of its frequency about London, and of the practice of training it without branches to a tall straight trunk, which may admit of boring in long pieces.  It is likewise used for axel-trees, naves, gate-posts and rails, floors, dressers, blocks &c. and it is very fit for the carved and ornamental works belonging to architecture.’

The ash ‘may be peculiarly termed the husbandman’s tree; for it is one of the principal materials in making ploughs, harrows, waggons, carts and various other implements for rustic use: hence a proportional number of ash-trees should be planted in every farm.’

The sycamore: ‘It is not uncommonly planted in streets, and before houses, on account of its shade.  It also has the property of being less injured by the neighbourhood of the sea, and the dashing of the salt spray, than almost any other tree; and hence is often set in rope-walks in maritime towns.  It comes early into flower, and usually bears a vast profusion of pendent light-green bunches or catkins, which make a handsome show.  The flowers smell strong of honey, and afford much pasture to bees.’

The lime: ‘No tree is so much employed for avenues, and for bordering streets and roads.  Some of the straight walks of ancient limes, which modern taste has hitherto spared, are beautiful specimens of the pointed arch made by the intersection of branches, which has supposed to be imitated in the Gothic architecture of cathedrals.’

The horse chesnut: ‘This tree, which is originally a native of the East, has not very long been naturalized in England.  Its introduction here has been solely owing to its beauty, in which, in the flowering season, it certainly excels every other tree of its bulk that bears our climate.’ 

The hornbeam:  ‘It thrives well on a cold stiff clay, on the sides of hills, bears lopping and transplanting, and is capable of resisting the wind.  It is, however, principally cultivated as a shrub and underwood, and is excellent for forming tall hedges or screens in nursery grounds or ornamental gardens.  The wood of hornbeam is very white, tough and strong.  It is used for yokes, handles for tools, and cogs for mill-wheels, and is much valued by the turner.’

‘Hazel charcoal is preferred to any other by painters and engravers, for the freedom with which it draws, and the readiness with which its marks can be rubbed out.  The nuts of the hazel are a generally agreeable fruit.  They abound in a mild oil, which may be extracted by expression, and is used by painters for mixing with their colours.’

Further reading:

The Woodland Companion

John Aikin (Wikipedia)

Alexander Hunter (Wikipedia)