This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
But few persons have experienced the devastations committed by these pests of the country in an equal manner with myself. The nursery being exactly opposite to a large game-preserve, for many years it was overrun with them, and being in my youth what is called a "good shot," their destruction formed a large share of my amusements. In severe winters, from fifty to sixty brace of the former, and as many couples of the latter, would fall before my gun by night and day; for in the clear, moonlight, frosty nights, the ground covered with snow, it was, according to my ideas, capital sport to lay them low; but what trouble they gave, for besides this watching by night, all the apple-trees were smeared with lime, and soot, and train-oil, to prevent their ravages, often without avail. And then Plums and Apricots, Brooms and Laburnums, Picotees and Pinks, Carnations and Roses, and 1 know not what, all came in for a nibble, bringing on disease and death. What a number of remedies were tried, and how few were of any efficacy; only one of them deserves recording.
A few years ago, a friend in Suffolk pointed out to me what he called his "Brimstone Flags," and assured me that, if placed round any trees or borders containing flowers subject to the ravages of hares, they were a sure protection. The following winter I adopted this very simple remedy, and after having sundry pieces of old cloth, about eight or ten inches in diameter, placed in a cleft at the top of sticks two feet long, I had half a dozen pounds of sulphur melted in an iron pot, and every "flag" dipped till it was covered. When cold, they were of a fine bright yellow. In December, just before the approach of frost, they were placed (the sticks stuck into the ground) round the quarters containing apple-trees, about six feet apart. The effect was marvellous. The hares, I have no doubt, thought the trees tabooed, and carefully avoided transgressing. It was interesting to observe by their footsteps in the snow, how carefully they had kept from a very near approach. A well-beaten track, about a yard from the line of flags, testified as to the delicacy of their olfactories.
The triumph was complete; but alas! gardeners should never triumph, for after two or three winters only moderately sharp, came the long, severe one of 1846-7. The frost in December 1846 was very fierce; thermometer at 15°; the hares were hungry, and rushed through, and in one night destroyed more than 500 fine apple-trees: ever since that night my confidence in flags has flagged.
There is now a cheap kind of wire-netting sold by Richardson, Tunbridge Place, New Road, I think at 1d. per foot. This is the best article of the kind I have seen, as it requires no paint, and if placed round clumps or beds of flowers, it is a sure and certain protection. I have recently bought 600 yards, with which I have fenced round all my quarters of apple-trees. I may as well mention, that it need not be more than two feet wide, placed upright, or a little sloping outwards about three inches from the ground, for they will not creep under; and fastened with twine to light stakes, it will not disfigure the flower-garden; and of all the preventives from the ravages of those very pretty animals, rabbits and hares, there is nothing to be compared to it. Thomas Rivers.