Many of us think of staking as a chore, but it’s better to get backache early in the season than heartache after a summer storm. There isn’t one overall method of staking, but there are general rules for them all.
Always stake plants early, well before any flower buds appear, as this gives ample time for the foliage to grow through and around the support.
Jute twine (green is best as it ‘disappears’ among the leaves)
Ensure supports are stout, straight and with the thickest end set firmly in the ground away from the plant’s root ball.
Single bamboo cane
One cane per plant is the only way to support single flower spikes, such as dahlias, delphiniums, larkspurs and hollyhocks. Dahlias will reach around 45cm tall three weeks after planting, which is when to start staking. Use one cane behind each plant and three-ply jute. Cut an arm’s-span length of twine and make a clove hitch in the centre to slide down the cane. With the left-hand end of the string, starting with the nearest, make interlocking loops around each stem until the front of the plant is reached. Do the same
with the right-hand string. Bring the two ends together with a granny knot, then take the ends through the plant, tying in any central stems, and secure to the cane at the same level as the original clove hitch. Again, check the growth of the plants over the next two to three weeks and repeat the process at a
higher level if necessary.
It is a time-consuming method, but it keeps the plant moving naturally within its circular support, and it is also a godsend for rescuing unstaked plants that have fallen victim to the elements. Once the staking is complete, trim off loose ends of string. When the border is in its full flush, canes should be invisible – if not, cut off their tops.
These are invaluable for controlling the arching stems of shrub roses and plants such as buddleias and tree peonies – anything with weak stems and heavy flowers. The long supportive legs are hammered into the ground until the hoop is at half the height of the rose’s full seasonal growth, allowing the stems to spread naturally over it. The rusted hoops blend into the garden over winter, but it is important to check their stability each year and that they are at the appropriate height as plants mature.
This is the most versatile method of supporting multi-stemmed perennials up to 1.7m tall – and the most pleasing to the eye. Pea sticks are young twiggy branches of birch, hornbeam and hazel,
which are woven into structures to contain tall asters, campanulas, monkshoods, sprawling geraniums, herbaceous clematis and peonies.
Cut the thick end of the branches to a point and push them into the soil around the plant or plant group every 30cm. Bend the tops to form a frame roughly three-quarters of the height of the plant. Randomly weave the twigs together, making a rock-steady and airy structure. You should do
this in February and March, and you need to know the various heights of the perennials, either by keeping a note from the previous year or by researching the dimensions for newly acquired ones.
One drawback is that pea sticks become hopelessly brittle by the end of the year. They can also be difficult to find. A few garden centres might have them in February, or find a local coppicer who will probably be grateful to have an outlet for their ‘waste’.