This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
It has been alarming and amusing to watch your progress towards putting together an idea that originated with the junior member of our firm, J. B. McKee, during the summer of 1881, and for which we ordered Munn & Co. to apply for a patent for us, as a part of the correspondence enclosed with this will show. But, it not being mechanical, they, in their greater wisdom, could see nothing in it, and honestly advised us to keep our money, and not make the application.
The idea originated in a felt want, and was suggested by trying with barbed wire first, then with hedge, to erect a barrier against marauders along an exposed line of our fruit farm at Cynthiana.
Wire or hedge alone seemed inadequate, when it suggested itself to unite the two. This appeared to his imagination the most beautiful, the most impenetrable and the cheapest barrier ever reared to protect private property. I copy the following description from some old notes made at the time of making the application, June 21, 1882; and now give our pet invention to the American people.
Thoroughly prepare the ground as for a hedge fence, then erect a wire fence on posts, either permanent or temporary, along the line, using wire smooth or barbed, fine or heavy, many or few strands, as exigencies may require. Then plant a line of hedge plants immediately below the line of wire, and as the plants grow, weave them in with the wire with a wooden fork and hook, held in the hand, spreading and interlocking, and trimming as is found necessary, until the desired object is attained, when the posts may be removed, and the screen, fence, or barrier, kept trimmed as taste or necessity may dictate. The ground should be prepared first; posts set next; then set hedge plants; then put on the wires. As the plants grow during summer, pull and push the tops through like basket-work, using for the purpose a little homemade tool with hook and fork.
The wires make a practical fence at once, and at the same time protect the line of hedge plants while growing, enable the operator to spread and flatten the plants, fill up missing spaces, keep the plants in an erect position, bind the whole thing together. In a few years they are so interwoven, supported, and held in place by the living plants, that no man will ever know when they ceased to do duty. Posts may be removed after a few years, or may be made of wood that will soon decay and get out of the way; as after four years of good growth they will be entirely unnecessary. The hedge plants must be trimmed and kept in order just as an ordinary hedge fence.
Thus may be erected of the most delicate plants, and finest wire, an ornamental screen to protect the flower-bed from the children, chickens, and rabbits through the farm fence; protection and screens for the fruit garden, orchard, ornamental pleasure ground, corral for wild cattle, or prison wall. In the various gradations, different and widely varied plants and material may be used. Small, beautiful evergreens may be made to conceal the terrible barb, that will command respect from man or beast; or the gnarled, thorny Osage may be run up to such a height, and made of such strength and thickness as to command respect from the most relentless robber. It may be made so strong as to require the united effort of a worker in wood and iron to get through, or special appliances to get over it, and if inlaid with a shotgun, neither will be tried, except in rare cases. And now, in giving this perfection of fence to the world, but particularly to the horticultural brotherhood, we sincerely desire the press to copy it, or give such notice of it that it will be forever impossible for it or any part of it to be hedged round with a patent by anybody.
Let it be free to all to use in all or any of its various forms for all time, is the sincere wish of the inventor.
Dr. Warder would have put this together thirty years ago, when he constructed the Osage hedge around Spring Grove cemetery, using two slats nailed on posts to hold straggling limbs in place and to flatten the plants and mould them into symmetrical shape, if he had had the use of the modern barbed wire. His plan of constructing hedge is described in " Hedges and Evergreens," and was seen in process of construction many times by the senior member of our firm when a boy at school. Cynthiana, Ky., Feb. 6, 1884.
[A very interesting chapter, and yet we do not think the plan proposed by Mr. McKee as good as the one recommended by the Gardeners' Monthly. The cheap and temporary posts, made a secondary consideration, we should make the first; and they should be very light, mere stakes. We should not take the trouble to weave the branches in among the wires; there will be enough side branches grow through to support the wires. Nor, for a plan of this kind, is it essential to get expensive barb wire, although that, of course, would make the plan more perfect. An Osage orange hedge is very nearly protective in most cases. A few strands of any kind of wire, extending laterally through it, especially at the bottom, is enough to perfect it. - Ed. G. M].