Yes, you read that right – we’re talking about underwear for the garden this week. The importance of good underpinnings can’t be overestimated, and spring is the time of year when you need to be getting them in place. The right supports for your plants will not only make them look good, but by keeping each plant upright and in its place, everyone gets their fair share of sunlight, air and water – so each plant can do its job and make your garden sing.
Plant supports should be unobtrusive, unless they’re decorative in themselves, such as an attractive obelisk for climbing roses or clematis. Many of the perennial plants that we depend on for summer colour really benefit from staking, and over the next couple of weeks as the new spring foliage emerges is the best time to put stakes in place. Leave it too much later and you risk breaking stems – it’s easy to forget just how fast the rate of growth tends to be in April and May – stems and shoots seem to elongate magically almost overnight. It’s not until a summer storm arrives and stems are flattened that you wish you’d got the stakes in place earlier.
I find ‘lock and link’ type stakes – shown in the photo – good because you can join together as few or as many as you need to surround different sized plant clumps, so they’re very versatile. You can get these from your local garden centre or online, and they’ll last for years. I like the rust effect versions that Agriframes produce – see agriframes.co.uk – with a barn at the end of my garden, I’ve decided to embrace the rust effect, so I’ve picked it up in some garden features such as the water bowl and obelisks. The rust effect blends in with everything else and is barely visible even in winter, so I’m inclined to leave them in all year – one less job to do in springtime!
Twiggy pea sticks, or short lengths of birch or hazel if you can get them work really well too – small ones are invaluable around now for propping up the heavy blooms of hyacinths.
Sedum and penstemons benefit particularly in my garden from support, as will peonies, echinacea, achillea and anything that seems likely to flop. You don’t want everyone standing to attention like soldiers, so plants with wiry stems like nepeta and hardy geranium can be allowed to weave themselves in and around the staked plants for a relaxed effect – without the flop!
This article was first published in the Galway Advertiser on 02/04/20.