Plant Support Rings and Plant Stakes
Plant Supports – Enclosure Varieties
Tall, floppy-stemmed plants can be supported by enclosing the stems in a cylinder of wire mesh. Galvanized mesh 20cm (8in) square is ideal and can be bought in a green plastic-coated form for an unobtrusive appearance.
Cut enough mesh to make a cylinder just wide enough to enclose the whole group of plant stems. Insert three tall canes vertically in the, inside the cylinder. Tie each cane to the mesh at several points. Depending on the width of mesh used, and on the ultimate height of the plant, you may need to add a second cylinder above the first. Ensure that the two cylinders are overlapped and tied to each other.
Galvanized metal-link support stakes are suitable for most border plants. These consist of a vertical cane-like rod topped with a hoop socket. Proprietary models invariably come with one cross bar —which slots simply into the socket — for every upright. By slotting several together, you can construct chains — staggered or in straight lines — rings or combinations of the two to suit almost any planting scheme. Various heights of rod are available and, with some brands, it is possible to secure two or more rods on top of each other to increase their height.
Galvanized steel wire supports are also available for single stems and for small groups of low floppy stems, such as those of perennial pinks. They are springy and can be pressed open to allow stems to be slotted inside a horizontal loop at the top. Some types are adjustable in height in order to cradle heavysuch as those of tuberous begonias.
Plant Support Rings
Metal or plastic plant support rings — rather like a car steering wheel — are excellent for herbaceous border plants which send up new growths each year. Some have a central claw-like clip through which a standard bamboo cane is pushed, so holding it in a horizontal position at almost any height. Other types of plant support rings will need three canes tied around the wheel edge for support. Plant support rings must be inserted in place in the border early in the season so that stems can grow up through the ring and conceal it.
Traditionally used for supporting vegetable peas, pea sticks are often available from garden centres and nurseries. They are usually the trimmings from small trees and hedges that have been cut back Almost any tree or shrub can provide suitable twigs, but hazel, chestnut and oak are the most durable — avoid those which are brittle and break clean with a sharp snap.
Use pea sticks to support bushy plants up to 60cm (2ft) tall which tend to be floppy, or which may be exposed to wind damage — mainly annuals and herbaceous perennials. They must be inserted in spring while plants are small. Choose a day when the soil is fairly workable — pea sticks have to be pushed into the soil and cannot be hammered in. They will break if you have to apply too much pressure.
Insert two or three pea sticks as near to the centre of the plant as possible, pushing them deep enough to remain firm. If the plant is known to sprawl, or flop badly after rain, insert a few extra pea sticks around the perimeter.
At the expected height of the base of the flowers, break the tops of the pea sticks and bend them inwards. Intermesh them to form a firm top to the frame.
Plant Stakes / Wooden Stakes
Upright shrubs, standardand young trees need sturdy stakes, especially in exposed gardens. Bamboo canes are not strong enough. Instead use wooden stakes of at least 4cm (1-1/2in) diameter — preferably about 6-7.5cm (2-1/2 – 3in) diameter for trees. Treat the lower part of the stakes with a non-toxic wood preservative.
When planting a tree or standard rose, insert the wooden stake or plant stake at the back of the planting hole, using a club hammer if necessary, before positioning the plant’s root ball — never knock a plant stake into the ground once the plant is firmed in as you may damage its roots. Select a plant stake which is long enough to stand level with the first horizontal branches once inserted in the ground.
The main stems or trunks must be tied firmly to the plant stakes. There are several proprietary tree and rose ties available, the best being made of durable plastic or webbing straps with rubber buffers. Loop the strap, at about 10cm (4in) below the branches, round the stem or trunk and through the buffer, which provides a cushion between the two. Pull the strap tight and fasten it against the plant stakes, not against the tree trunks.
Tall trunks, or those which are not very straight, may need two or more straps at intervals to prevent the trunk from rubbing against the stake.
Self-locking straps are also available. Design varies according to manufacturer, but most consist of a plastic chain or ratchet arrangement which can be pulled taut like a buckle, but which cannot easily slip undone.
An alternative method is to wrap hessian — sacking — round the plant stake several times, and then wrap it round the trunk and tree stake so there is a protective cushion between the two. Tie the girdle in place with one or two pieces of strong string or wire.
Straps and cleats should be checked frequently — at least twice a year, and always after gales. Retie any that have worked loose and slacken off those which become too tight as the trunk swells with age.
Never tie a woody stem or trunk to plant stakes using wire alone — it will almost certainly cut into the bark, constricting the flow of nutrients up the wood from the roots and so stunting growth.