Staking Perennials

Staking Perennials

Part of Ep. 1002 Spring Games

Learn how perennials are staked in Great Britain.  Jeff Eppings demonstrates the pea staking method at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison.

Premiere date: May 22, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
One of the greatest joys I have as a gardener is learning from other gardeners. Today's tip actually comes from the gardens of Great Britain. We're at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison with the Director of Horticulture, Jeff Epping. Jeff, I understand you took a wonderful trip to England and brought back some great ideas for us.

Jeff:
You bet. Lots of wonderful gardens. One of the things we saw throughout all the gardens that we visited was a method of staking perennials called pea staking. And basically, it's just taking some of your prunings from the previous winter. And we're just going to use Corylus or American Hazelnut. But it doesn't have to be just this. You can use something like birch or anything that has fine twigs, because as the plants grow up through the twigs, you want them to have some inner support, if you will. So, you don't want them to be very coarse, something like a Catalpa, or something, because then you don't get much twiggy-ness to hold it together.

Shelley:
Okay, also use young branches, maybe that we're pruning off, too, so we've got all these side shoots coming off.

Jeff:
Exactly. These are the tips of the branches that we're using. So, you prune off the bottom branches of it, so you can push it into the ground. And I always like just putting an angle on that end cut.

Shelley:
So it pushes in a little easier.

Jeff:
Exactly. And what you want to do, then, is just surround the perimeter of the plant with the sticks. And then, you snap them at the height that you want them to make a right angle.

Shelley:
So, you're not snapping it off, you're just kind of bending it over.

Jeff:
Exactly. That's why it's important that you get prunings that aren't real, real old. Because, if they're real dry, you probably will snap them right off. But then, you just kind of go around the plant and intertwine the twigs together a little bit.

Shelley:
You're just kind of weaving them over and under. Now, is this the normal time of year that you do this for the Yarrow?

Jeff:
We'd probably do it a little earlier. But of course, as most gardeners-- I should not speak for every gardener-- But there's always a million things to do in the spring. And ideally, you'd do it just as the foliage is starting to emerge from the ground. You can even do it prior, if you really had some time.

Shelley:
And had your act together and were coordinated.

Jeff:
Right. But, quickly, the foliage will grow through.

Shelley:
And that's the whole idea, that we're going to be hiding the structure as the leaves come up through it.

Jeff:
Exactly. And that gives it its support. But, you know, it's a natural material.

Shelley:
Yeah, I like that.

Jeff:
And so, I don't have a problem looking at it as long as it takes, whereas I really have a problem when you're using plastic, and metal...

Shelley:
Twine.

Jeff:
And all those things.

Shelley:
Well, my plants always look strangled because I'm always running out there late to do it, because I didn't do it in the springtime. What I like, too, is there's no investment here. If we're good little gardeners, we have some prunings laying around.

Jeff:
That's right, and you're recycling material. And at the end of the season, you just pick it up with the rest of the plant when you're cleaning up in the fall, take it to the compost pile. Now, if you have a lot of little branches that are hanging out where they might not get covered up, you can just go through and prune those off.

Shelley:
What kind of perennials would this really work for?

Jeff:
Those things that traditionally flop over like the Yarrow, Monarda or Bee Balm is a good one. Phlox is one that we have a lot of problems with. Anything that flops. And if it's a taller perennial, you can move these pea stakes up a little bit taller to give it the support where it needs it, you know, sort of the center point. The possibilities are endless, really.

Shelley:
It's a great idea, thanks Jeff. What I really like is the way it looks even now. Even this is interesting to look at, very enjoyable.

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