Several things on my annual maintenance list which I spent the warm Spring charging through was to look at the supports for the plants and redo the rickety parts. While I’m not a fan of getting plants that need staking and tend to avoid them, we still seem to have ended up with a few, which I can’t do without now.
In the first instance we have the rose towers and rose arches for the climbers and as these supports are made of tubular metal, they don’t need any attention, some have a few screws missing where they worked loose, but the plants on them are now so large and established that it’s the plant pinning the support to the ground, not the other way around. On the walls we have vine eyes and galvanised wire. I learned quite a while ago that wooden trellis-type supports just don’t last. They rot and fall to pieces or the plant grows so large and heavy that it’s eventually no match for the trellis. When the support fails, it brings down the climber with it.
Right from the outset I used vine eyes and metal wire, that way the house acts as the guarantor for the support staying up. I’d be upset if the climber came down, but probably more upset that the wall came down with it. The Banksiae rose, wisteria and jasmine do fine on these and the wire is almost invisible, especially when covered over with these vigorous climbers.
For Clematis (the ones that manage to somehow stay alive in my garden), I tend to have these planted close to trees and shrubs that they scramble through them. I don’t have clematis on a traditional wooden trellis against a wall or in pots. The closest thing I have to that is a Clematis Montana growing on the white fence we have in the front garden, and that fence is made from PVC so it won’t rot either. Some of the clematis needs a helping hand to reach the lower branches before they scrabble up into a tree canopy so I use a narrow strip of chicken wire held taught with a pair of bamboo canes in the ground and tied to the tree at the top, just under the lowest branches.
We have loganberry and blackberry that just do not stop so I use thick tree stakes, spaced wide apart and vertical in the ground with vine eyes at the top. I only string in what I need to with twine or bamboo, like some kind of bizarre set of pylons. When these berries run beyond the range of these stake supports (10m), I throw the ends up into the fruit trees and they grow along the tops.
I used to have a large stand of bamboo that I spent the best part of one hot summer removing by hand with a mattock. All those bamboo stems were cleaned up and repurposed as canes. I’ve not bought bamboo canes for years now. I use this surplus for the supports to hold back some crocosmia from covering a grass path and to also hold up a crescent of delphiniums.
I re-did both these supports this year and paid a little attention to the cosmetics as these supports are visible for a few months until the plants cover them over. I wasn’t intending to make them “pretty”, they kind of turned out that way as I put them together. I had plenty of bamboo on hand to work with and because I still have a few smaller stands of bamboo remaining (that I keep thinned), I can also pick and choose fresh new stems that are very flexible and which I put tight curves on if I need to.
Supports can be treated as things to try and hide or disguise, but I think they can look good and give a glimpse into a sort of “behind the scenes” view of a border.