Checking on my existing plantations before making a start on this year’s trees, it has been entertaining to note the efficacy of my tree guards. I now have several areas of hedgerow planting underway, and one lies in the thick of a rabbit stronghold. Despite having protected every little hedging plant with its own transparent plastic spiral, it seems that determined assaults from the local rabbit population has overcome every single hawthorn. I would have thought that the guards were proof against even the most determined offensive, and the height to which the rabbits have reached conjures up images of stilts or piggy-backs. The nature of spiral guards is such that they can be compressed from above like a spring, and it looks like several have been pulled down in this way to allow access. As much as I would love to attribute this damage to hares, I am yet to clap eyes on a single hare on the Chayne – they’re certainly present, but at such low densities that they’re essentially gone.
I am not heartbroken about this damage – the plants will all recover, but if guards alone are not enough, perhaps I should be harder on the local rabbit population. It is interesting to see that while the hawthorns have all been hammered, the blackthorns and guelder rose plants are totally untouched – these rabbits seem to have refined palates. By comparison, several elder trees have emerged since this area was fenced off from livestock, and these seem to be so foul-tasting that they are prospering without any guards at all.