Staking especially important this year
Gravity and wind can be a garden foe for tall plants or plants that have a tendency to flop over. They will flop over in wind, rain and when they blossom. The result is their blossoms are twisted and dirty, and the plant is often lying on other plants. This year is especially bad because we have had much rain and few warm days. When a day has been warm the plants may grow several inches during that time. The growth they do make is often spindly and cannot support itself. Plant research is always trying to improve stems and stocks of plants so that they can support themselves better. However, when many of these plants bloom, the blossom is just too heavy, especially when there is a heavy rain, and the stem or stock can not support the blossom. While staking is important every year for a well-groomed garden, it is especially important this season.
Gardening centers and big name stores have grids, green stakes and ties you can purchase for staking plants. However you can use bamboo or wood stakes or straight sticks. A ball of green twine will last for years and will blend well with foliage. A trellis is needed to support vine type plants, but a sturdy branch will also work, look more natural and be well hidden as the summer progresses. It all depends on how much time, money and creative effort you have to put into staking.
Plants that are tall, such as delphiniums, lilies, holly hocks and tall grasses will need support because strong winds or rain will level them and they will be unable to right themselves. Depending on the height of the mature plant, stakes which are 4 or 8 feet long may be needed. Tilt four to six stakes at an angle to form the shape of a vase to make the staking appear more natural. The plant may need three or more sets of ties around them for support as they grow. So staking tall plants early has advantages.
Clumps of flowers like coreopsis or asters can be supported by shorter stakes with twine wrapped around the perimeter of the stakes and stems, allowing the plants to bloom and retain a natural shape. Peonies can also be supported like this with longer stakes. However in the case of peonies, they will require at least a couple more twine wraps as the plant grows taller. You can buy open rings or a ring with a grid which has four legs for support. These rings or grids need to be put on the peonies as the plant is emerging in the spring. You slowly raise the ring or grid as the plant grows through this space.
Plants such as Asiatic lilies and tall sedum do not need staking until the buds form and are about to bloom. The heads or blossoms become too heavy for the stock to support. In the case of a single stem support of a plant like a lily, loop a short length of string (old nylons also work well because they are soft) around the stem. Then twist the string before tying it to the stake. The knot that is formed by twisting the twine (or nylon) will prevent the stem from rubbing against the stake.
Clematis look best if they have some type of trellis or support system to climb up, cover and blossom. If your trellis is large and you want your clematis to cover it evenly, you will need to guide the shoots as they emerge. Loop string around the young shoots and tie them in a fan like pattern to the trellis. Keep watch on the shoots and continue to tie them gently to the trellis the first few weeks of growth. At this point they will do well on their own.
Sun-loving plants that are growing in partial shade will be inclined to lean toward the light. While they will grow, their growth will not be a vigorous as if grown in the sun. These may also need some support because their stems are not as ridged as when they are grown in the sun.
When you plant (bulbs such as lilies, tulips, daffodils, amaryllis, hyacinth, corms such as gladiolus and crocus, and tubers such as dahlias), plant them deep, at least 8 inches, so that as they grow, they will have a good foundation to hold them in place. It may take longer for them to emerge, but they will have a good support system.
Staking plants is nobody's favorite garden chore, and if you do it well no one will notice it. In the long run, your plants will do better, your garden will display itself better throughout the whole season and there will be a sense of order to all your work, rather than a mass of chaos.
Kyle Schulz is a Wadena County Master Gardener from Sebeka, and the regular gardening columnist for the Wadena Pioneer Journal.