Plant support

by Adam Pasco

I always have a dilemma in April, choosing the right plant supports for my tall border perennials...

Adam Pasco tying in plant supportsI always have a dilemma in April, choosing the right plant supports for my tall border perennials, delphiniums in particular. Last year I used lots of home-grown sticks leftover from pruning my silver birch. Pushed firmly into the soil around clumps early in the season, they looked natural, and were soon covered by growth. However, by the end of the season their bottoms had rotted away. So what now?

Should I choose man-made materials or use natural ones? Are the metal and plastic plant supports available in garden centres really worth the investment? Some are extremely well made, but at a price. And others don't really look in keeping with my natural-looking flower border. In fact, they can stick out like a sore thumb, especially if the plants don't quite cover them.

Canes are OK, but again they don't look natural, especially when new. You also need to be a whizz with the green string, linking them together to support plants, tying in stems as they grow ever taller. And then you have to be careful not to bend over and catch the tip of a cane in your eye when weeding. It's fine advising people to pop a plastic bottle or similar cane topper in place, but these look even more obtrusive. But I suppose that's the point of them, as if you don't see them you'll do yourself some damage, and that's what we're trying to avoid.

Large-flowered dahlias and chrysanthemums often need something even stronger. I normally hammer thick wooden stakes into the ground around clumps, then join them with twine to hold growth upright. Again, not very natural looking.

So back to my silver birch. Unfortunately it doesn't need any more pruning, and with its new growth it's too late to lop off branches. Perhaps a local coppice wood is selling hazel twigs and poles. That would be one answer, and a natural one too. I'll try and search some out.

So, just what is the best support for tall-growing plants?

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/04/2009 at 10:00

If you wrap some plastic around the end of the birch sticks before pushing them into the soil it will prevent them from rotting.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/04/2009 at 10:23

Hazel branches are great. The squirrels in my garden are forever leaving nuts to sprout and provide me with new bushes. If I didn't coppice them I would have no garden - only a hazel grove.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/04/2009 at 16:34

I bought plastic coated plant supports from B@M store in Kilmarnock for £1.00 each. Great buy and for the first time have remembered to put them in before my plants start falling over. Hope to get a better display this summer.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/04/2009 at 01:33

i totally forgot high winds last week and my favorite delphinuim lost all the shoots but hey i got 5 more in my garden

Gardeners' World Web User 14/04/2009 at 09:52

If you're desperate for upright plants then: Pea and bean netting laid down in two layers, the first one March attached to canes about 15 cm high and the second one in April/May about 30cm (where needed) for the plants to grow through: it's soon hidden. For my mind, why not just let them flop? I appreciate that rules out those with unnaturally large flowers and brittle stems, but if you're growing something like that, hiding staking doesn't help as it will look unnatural anyway.

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