How productive simple misunderstandings can be! My note 67 caught the eye of Mrs B of Kew, who was prompted by the discussion of netties to ask about netting shrubberies to protect them from grazing animals.
Well, Mrs B, that’s not precisely what is meant by a nettie, but your question remains worthwhile.
The practice had been recommended as Chinese by Chambers: ‘Sometimes too they make use of strong wire fences, painted green, fastened to the trees and shrubs that border the plantations, and carried round in many irregular directions, which are scarcely seen till you come very near them’.
Now several authorities make it clear that such an arrangement could not have protected a ‘layered’ theatrical design from the sheep, because all the trees tall enough to have taken the net would have been planted along the spine – the back – of the bed.
But I suspect that Mason designed his great flower garden at Nuneham with grazing in mind for the plants that are most conspicuous in Sandby’s drawings are the Swedish Junipers, many of which survive today. These stand in the grass, in front of the borders and beds, at odds with the principles of graduated theatrical planting, but well-placed to have nets hung off them, particularly because in the summer their numbers were bolstered by orange trees, brought out from the Orangery and plunged into the grass.
The point might also be made that Thomas Hale also recommended using covers supported on hoops to protect the flowers against May frosts.
So, yes to netting, and think again about erect forms of plant brought to the front of the bed. Were they to be used as posts?