During the hot, sunny May weather as we have been heading towards mid summer’s day and maximum daylight hours, the plants in Clumber’s Walled Kitchen Garden have been growing apace.
In our herbaceous borders, taller growing perennials and annuals such as delphiniums and sunflowers need staking, otherwise stems can break and flop over onto the ground or onto neighbouring plants.
Staking is best done before plants have made too much growth, ideally in early spring.
The traditional technique has been to use bamboo canes and string, especially good for supporting plants with long stems and tall flower spikes, such as delphiniums and hollyhocks.
Take care not to tie in plant stems too tightly and use a figure of eight arrangement so that the string buffers the stem from the cane and prevents rubbing.
At about 400feet/122metres in length, our double herbaceous borders are believed to be the longest in any National Trust garden and staking individual plants would be a very time consuming process.
We use pea and bean netting, which has 6ins/15cm squares, supported with wooden or metal stakes, which hold it about 30ins/76cms above soil level.
This is put in place in April and the plants grow up through it. This is a very quick, efficient and comparatively inexpensive way of providing support, but it does have disadvantages.
The green netting is not particularly attractive and is highly visible until the plants have grown through it and covered it up and it can also prove difficult to get in amongst the plants to weed and dead head.
Another traditional staking technique is to use birch brash which we cut from trees on the park.
Lengths will vary according to the plants being supported, from 3ft/1metre or so to 6-7ft/1.8- 2.1m for taller plants, such as our climbing French and runner beans and our sweet peas.
This looks more natural and attractive, although it has confounded a few of our visitors, who have asked “What were the plants that have died?”
Some excellent products are also available through garden centres or mail order.
Grow through supports consist of a wire grid ring and sturdy legs, in different lengths and diameters to suit whatever is being staked. This is placed over individual plants.
As shoots lengthen, they grow through it. They do provide excellent support, provided they are put over early enough.
If you are delayed getting your supports in place, then link stakes are a good choice; these are cleverly designed L-shaped metal legs with a twist which forms a loop above the leg.
They can be joined together to form a supporting circle around the plant.
If all of this staking sounds like too much of a chore, low growing perennials such as hardy geraniums and hostas can be planted amongst shrubs, which will provide the height.
You could also limit the number of taller perennials so that you still have the spectacular impact of sunflowers, heleniums and stately delphiniums, but with less work.