Plant Supports – Supporting and Training
Supporting and Training
In exposed situations, prevailing winds can do a lot of damage to any floppy or top-heavy plants —whether annual, perennial, bulbs, shrubs or trees. A few are unable to support themselves even in the most secluded spot. Others give a longer-lasting and more pleasing show when propped up, but can be left to scramble if you prefer.
In all cases, if you do have to support a plant, make sure the materials aren’t unsightly — regiments of bamboo canes or wooden stakes standing above theruin any planting scheme.
Simple Plant Ties
There is a wide range of plant ties available — make sure you choose the right one for the type of plant you want to support.
Soft green twine is an ideal tie for soft-stemmed plants. It can be cut to any length and is quite strong when new — though it generally rots after one season. The colour also blends well with foliage. Rolls of twine usually contain about 30m (100ft).
Raffia is a good alternative to twine for tying indoor plants and small outdoor types, but it lacks the strength for supporting larger outdoor plants. Synthetic plastic raffia is also available; it is somewhat stronger.
Wire-cored plastic ties are available in cut pieces of suitable length for tying individual stems to a stake, or in a continuous reel form. These are strong and durable, but can cut into soft stems. Wire split rings are useful for holding thin woody stems to a cane. Stretch the ring apart, loop it round the stem and support, then squeeze it back into a closed ring. They can cut into the stem or pull open in windy conditions, however, so are really only suitable for indoor plants.
It is now even possible to purchase velcro plant ties.
Bamboo canes are the most familiar supports for soft-stemmed border perennials, biennials, annuals and the taller bulbs,. They are natural in appearance, quite strong and long-lasting, readily available in various lengths from garden centres, and quite cheap. Use them to support single stems or groups of plants from 60cm (2ft) to about 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) in height.
Canes should be tall enough to reach just below the flower spikes, so check the ultimate height of each plant before staking. Remember that you will need an extra 15-30cm (6-12in) for pushing or knocking into the ground.
For a single-stemmed plant, insert one bamboo cane firmly in the ground as close to its base as possible without damaging the root or crown. Tie the stem to the cane with raffia, twine or wire rings. These ties should be tight enough not to slip down the stem or cane, but loose enough not to cut into the stem. As the stem grows, add further ties at 15-23cm (6-9in) intervals up the cane.
For a group of stems — often produced by border perennials —insert three canes at equal distances around and close to the stems, tilting the canes slightly outwards. Knot twine to one cane about 15-23cm (6-9in) above ground, then loop the twine round the other two canes. Pull the twine taut and tie it again to the first cane. As the stems grow, tie additional lengths of twine round the canes at about 23cm (9in) intervals above the first.