Are you fed up with floppy flowers? Are you disappointed when your delphiniums fall sideways? Perhaps it is time to think about plant supports rather than waiting until the peonies are dashed to the ground in a sudden heavy downpour.
Place the peony rings around the plant when the first deep-red shoots emerge from the ground in spring. For finer foliaged plants there are metal rings with a grid across and with three or four legs. These give good support as the plant grows.
Homemade half domes of chicken wire serve to gather in the floppy growth of some shorter favourites such as perennial geraniums and should be in place over the emerging plant early in spring.
Buy a large bundle of the longest bamboo stakes you can find (they can always be cut to size) preferably stained dark green or black so that they will disappear among the foliage and along with the stakes get a good big ball of garden twine. Don’t buy the straw-coloured ones; again, try to find a dull green colour. If you are looking for a present for a gardener in early spring there could be nothing more likely to bring a smile to their face than these two items.
Use several stakes around and even in among the plant, so that the twine may be woven through and not merely “cinched around the waist” of the plant, a very unnatural and rather amateurish look. Support your plant as naturally as possible.
When staking delphiniums, be sure to use stakes long enough to support not only the flowering stem but also to extend alongside the flower itself; it is sad to be left with tall standing stalks topped with broken-off flowers.
When you are pruning branching shrubs keep the twiggy bits – which some call “pea sticks”. They are great poked in amongst lax growing plants which will grow to cover them from view. Should you have thrown out your twigs, keep an eye on what the neighbours might put out on your garden refuse day!
Certain tall later flowering plants will benefit from the “Chelsea chop” - the removal of about a third of their height. This is done before the bud set, around the time of that British flower show, at the end of May or the very beginning of June. Growth will be sturdier (less staking) and flowering somewhat delayed. The cut may be of the whole plant or sections so that the blooms will be staggered. Summer phlox, yarrows and asters are good candidates.
Submitted by Jennifer Wingate, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society