Put supports in now to avoid being caught out

Birch hoops support the herbaceous plants.
Birch hoops support the herbaceous plants.

Stiff breezes are not entirely welcome as April unfolds.

Early soft growth on perennials is an easy target for damage, recently introduced plants are at risk, and pollinating insects are occasionally grounded.

Herbaceous perennial growth has taken-off during recent mild weather so rather than risk a damage limitation situation, where we’d be out in a gale putting plant supports in place, it was time to act, and branches from a recently-pruned birch tree provided the ideal material.

Canes are strong and useful for staking taller plants, such as delphiniums. With the aid of ‘green-twist’ they hold the plant firmly in position. However, on smaller plants they’re difficult to disguise, detracting from the overall appearance.

Metal supports are more expensive, but longer lasting, and when well-positioned, they vanish beneath plant foliage.

But birch branches are favoured because they look natural when woven into the shape of your choice.

Placing them at the correct height is important. First, establish how tall the plant in question grows, then set the supports just below the anticipated blooming level.

Get them in place now and accept that more framework than flowers will be visible for a short while, but that vanishes as the season unfolds.

Sweet peas, with their clinging tendrils, are almost capable of climbing any structure erected for them, but for top quality blooms that win shows, cane supports are best.

The basic cultivation method involves removing the tendrils nature gave them and tying each main stem in as it grows.

More than border ornamentals benefit from such support. Garden peas and runner beans demand it.

Get the respective pea sticks and cane wigwam into position when you sow or plant out and they will do the job, no tying required.

The peas climb almost instinctively, but the occasional runner bean plant might need an introduction to its close supporter. This being the case, remember that it climbs the cane in anti-clockwise fashion.

Act now and avoid a situation where you’re closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

If your garden is on an exposed site and you wish to make it less labour-intensive, consider growing dwarf versions of ornamentals, fruit or vegetables.

Browse relevant catalogues and discover smaller cultivars of shrubs, such as lavatera that lend themselves to container culture. Dwarf versions of delphinium, foxglove and other border perennials are also worth trying.

Broad bean The Sutton has long been grown on the vegetable plot because it keeps its head down and crops reliably, no stakes required. Block planting of sweet corn Sundance, which is low growing, does encourage wind pollination, but the power of the group also keeps everyone standing without help. The ultimate in this is fruit trees – apples, plums, cherries, pears, et al, are all available on dwarfing rootstocks.