How to Choose Flower Supports
A beautiful perennial border is the result good plant choices, careful siting and something you don't usually see: flower supports. Even the best-planned perennial borders need a little infrastructure. And with the right supports, anyone can add get that "master gardener" look. The key tools are support grids, rings, metal linking stakes, bamboo stakes and poles. If you have a few of each kind on hand, you'll be ready for the season's challenges.
There are two approaches to flower support: preventive and remedial. Preventive staking is required for the "known floppers," such as double peonies. The key is to get these supports in place before the plants grow tall enough to need them. That way, the plant grows through the support and the whole thing is integrated—and pretty much invisible. Ring-style supports are good for plants that need a lot of support, such as peonies. The rings serve to keep the clump tidy without making it look trussed up.
Remedial supports come in handy when you've forgotten to plan ahead, or when plants flop unpredictably. All you need is a little creativity and a variety of supports, such as linking stakes, stem supports and, of course, a plenty of garden twine.
It's important to set up ring-style supports before the plants have grown very tall. There are several styles, including some with interior rings or grids.
Plants that benefit: Tall cosmos; dinnerplate-style dahlias; delphiniums; phlox; Alcea (hollyhocks); Platycodon grandiflorus (balloon flower); Helenium autumnale; Filipendula rubra; Gaillardia grandiflora (blanket flower); Malva alcea 'Fastigiata'; Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne'; Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's root); Cimicifuga racemosa; thalictrum
Curved Link Stakes are perfect for plants that have flopped. They're also ideal for keeping plants from leaning into a pathway or controlling vigorous plants that are smothering less-vigorous neighbors. These stakes can be used anywhere. You can encircle the clump or weave a line of stakes through the center, providing extra support to the core.
Plants that benefit: Use these stakes anywhere you see a need. Just add or subtract sections to suit your purpose.
Single-Stem Supports are for plants that need support when they're in bloom. They also come in handy when a plant puts out a bloom spike that is a little weak, or flops into surrounding foliage. Zinnias, for instance, are usually fine without support. But, every once in a while, a plant will develop a weak stem or get toppled by strong winds. In cases like this, stem supports provide a quick rescue.
Plants that benefit: Oriental and Asiatic lilies (shorter cultivars), gladiolus, bearded irises, Nicotiana alata, zinnias, Belamcanda chinensis, eryngium (sea holly), digitalis (foxglove), verbascum
Stakes and poles
Bamboo Poles are ideal for tall plants, such as delphiniums, hollyhocks, dinnerplate dahlias—even sunflowers. In general, these tall plants support themselves — until you get a big storm. Once these have reached 4 feet or so, stake them with 5-foot bamboo poles and Re-Usable Plant Ties. If done carefully, the staking isn't noticeable, and the plants will stand up to summer storms.
Use bamboo poles for tall perennials and annuals (over 5 feet). You can also create a grow-through grid for tall plants, such as a clump of hollyhocks: Surround the clump with several bamboo poles. Then, use twine to create a grid by connecting the poles, criss-crossing and encircling the clump. The bamboo stakes can be used to provide reinforcement for prized blooms or add support wherever it's needed.
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