ARBORICULTURE (Lat. arbor, a tree), the science and art of tree-cultivation. The culture of those plants which supply the food of man or nourish the domestic animals must have exclusively occupied his attention for many ages; whilst the timber employed in houses, ships and machines, or for fuel, was found in the native woods. Hence, though the culture of fruit-trees, and occasionally of ornamental trees and shrubs, was practised by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the cultivation of timber-trees on a large scale only took place in modern times. In the days of Charlemagne, the greater part of France and Germany was covered with immense forests; and one of the benefits conferred on France by that prince was the rooting up of portions of these forests throughout the country, and substituting orchards or vineyards. Artificial plantations appear to have been formed in Germany sooner than in any other country, apparently as early as the 15th century. In Britain planting was begun, though sparingly, a century later. After the extensive transfers of property on the seizure of the church lands by Henry VIII., much timber was sold by the new owners, and the quantity thus thrown into the market so lowered its price, as Hollingshed informs us, that the builders of cottages, who had formerly employed willow and other cheap and common woods, now built them of the best oak. The demand for timber constantly increased, and the need of an extended surface of arable land arising at the same time, the natural forests became greatly circumscribed, till at last timber began to be imported, and the proprietors of land to think, first of protecting their native woods, afterwards of enclosing waste ground and allowing it to become covered with self-sown seedlings, and ultimately of sowing acorns and mast in such enclosures, or of filling them with young plants collected in the woods - a practice which exists in Sussex and other parts of England even now. Planting, however, was not general in England till the beginning of the 17th century, when the introduction of trees was facilitated by the interchange of plants by means of botanic gardens, which, in that century, were first established in different countries. Evelyn's Sylva, the first edition of which appeared in 1664, rendered an extremely important service to arboriculture; and there is no doubt that the ornamental plantations in which England surpasses all other countries are in some measure the result of his enthusiasm. In consequence of a scarcity of timber for naval purposes, and the increased expense during the Napoleonic war of obtaining foreign supplies, planting received a great stimulus in Britain in the early part of the 19th century. After the peace of 1815 the rage for planting with a view to profit subsided; but there was a growing taste for the introduction of trees and shrubs from foreign countries, and for their cultivation for ornament and use. The profusion of trees and shrubs planted around suburban villas and country mansions, as well as in town squares and public parks, shows how much arboriculture is an object of pleasure to the people. While isolated trees and old hedgerows are disappearing before steam cultivation, the advantages of shelter from well-arranged plantations are more fully appreciated; and more attention is paid to the principles of forest conservancy both at home and abroad. In all thickly peopled countries the forests have long ceased to supply the necessities of the inhabitants by natural reproduction; and it has become needful to form plantations either by government or by private enterprise, for the growth of timber, and in some cases for climatic amelioration. This subject is, however, dealt with more fully under Forests and Forestry (q.v.); and the separate articles on the various sorts of tree may be consulted for details as to each.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)