The days are lengthening and there is some warmth to the sun (when it shows it’s face) and some of the earlier flowering herbaceous perennials are poking their heads above ground level! It won’t be long before growth is rampant and we’d wished we had added supports to our plants! So, before that happens, I suggest using plant supports for those plants you want to keep upright or at least not completely blocking pathways and flopping over lawns causing the grass to dieback. However, before you reach for the bamboo canes and chicken wire or string, consider that plant supports should be beautiful so they add to the design of your garden, not detract from it.
There are a variety of plant supports out there to buy - some made from metal with a variety of finishes - black, galvanised that go rusty, green; others from recycled or natural materials; Some are quite ornate, others simple in design. All of which are far more appealing than the age old bamboo canes and chicken-wire, which unless you have a very large herbaceous perennial border hidden from view of the house, you might want to avoid.
Metal plant supports will last longer than natural materials and the more ornate ones can add a certain elegance to the garden both in winter and before they get completely smothered by plants. Recycled materials, such as old metal fences or bicycle wheels add a certain creativity to your borders before the plants are in fully growth.
For those of you who prefer more sustainable, natural materials, Obelisks, which are useful for climbing plants, and plant supports made from willow are a lovely addition to your garden. There a number of willow suppliers in Scotland (see below for link) and the UK as a whole, some of whom make willow structures.
I met Rob Eves, a lovely supplier of willow and willow structures in Edinburgh last weekend. He makes Willow obelisks among other living willow structures to order for a very reasonable price. Alternatively, you could have a go at making your own either on a course or DIY. Try using instructions such as those from Gardeners World or the BBC Gardening Blog (see links below) (see), though you could substitute the bamboo canes for the local and more sustainable willow of similar thickness, just add tape over the end you intend on pushing in the soil to stop it from rooting or use hazel or dried willow for the straight supports.
And then there are pea sticks, useful for lower growing herbaceous perennials, such as Astrantia, Nepeta etc. Just push some branches taken from winter pruning of trees into the soil, interlocking the twiggy growth. Not only will these structures provide support for the plant for the season ahead, depending on their design, they may also provide some protection from animals or the odd football!
Whatever plant support option you choose, they will be covered in no time with lovely fresh foliage, giving the appearance that your plants are exceptionally well behaved!
Willow suppliers in Scotland: https://willowscotland.wordpress.com/willow-growers/
Guidance for DIY Willow supports:
BBC Gardening Blog http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/gardening/2011/04/supports-for-herbaceous-plants.shtml
Gardeners World http://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/diy/how-to-make-willow-plant-supports/
More information about Pea stick plant supports: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardeningadvice/7803592/Pea-sticks-the-best-support-for-your-plants.html
Rachel Bailey, a garden designer and gardener in Scotland.