Stick ‘em up

Staking perennial plants with cat's cradle of string and sticks - ©Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos, Design: Helen Yemm

Staking perennial plants with cat’s cradle of string and sticks – ©Jonathan Buckley/GAP Photos, Design: Helen Yemm

At a time when new shoots are pushing through the earth, you could be forgiven for thinking that gardening in spring is a spectator sport. Far from it. Yes, Mother Nature knows exactly what she’s doing time-wise, but because we’ve interfered by breeding gravity-defying plants with bigger, showier top-heavy blooms, it’s essential that we intervene to prevent an almighty flop come summer. Delay till later in the year, and while fighting and snapping among the tangle of stems, you’ll regret it.

Staking herbaceous perennials is a bit of an art. Randomly dotted bamboo canes and haphazardly tied emergency twine can look a bit of an eyesore, so how about refining things a little? Peasticks are ideal supporting partners – birch and hazel are traditional sources but any twiggy, pliable stems will do. Push them into the soil surrounding weak-stemmed show-stoppers such as centaurea and scabious, arching them inwards to form a cage. Foliage will quickly hide the sticks, but they can look rather attractive in their own right, in our view. Wire cages are also handy for clump-forming sizeable bloomers. Herbaceous peonies, for example, often develop gargantuan flowers that struggle to support themselves, especially when weighed down with rain. Autumn asters are another lofty group that benefit from mesh cages. Push them over the clumps so that you can raise them up as the shoots grow. Bamboo canes do have their place, of course – they’re especially handy for single, top-heavy stems such as dahlias and delphiniums. Just make a tidy job of it.