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The Brian Davis Gardening Master Class News Letter
                     April 2017 No 90

     

                                                                                                      *****************


              Did You See And Read Chapter One, Two and Three Of ‘Be A Confident Gardener’ 

                          If Not Request A Free Copy By e-mail briandavishort@aol.com 
                             You Will Find Chapter Three at the End Of This News Letter

                                                                                           

                                                                                                Plant of the Month

                                                                                      



















This charming spring flowing as a number of varieties in shades of Pink, Blue and White that are produced in abundance in April and sometimes May. Flowers that show them selves against the dark green heavily lobed small foliage.
The foliage may turn a yellow brown in autumn and the flowers might produce seed heads on un-pruned flowering shoots. However there is a problem because if the flowering shoots are not pruned hard back after flowering the plants will not produce strong flowering shoots for the following spring.
Try to purchase well established plants in 15cm (6in) deep pots. Plants of this size establish them selves much better and soon grow away.
Propagation is by semi-ripe clematis cuttings taken in June and for more information e-mail Brian for advice leaflet



Rules Of Watering
 
With A Possible Hose Pipe Ban Always Possible In the Near Future These Notes May Be Of Help
Few gardening guides allocate space to watering but in my understanding watering is as important as any other gardening technique if not more. Correct watering improves the whole well-being of the plant and plays a major role in propagation, establishment after planting, absorption of plant food, growth production and even resistance to pest and disease attack. Many plant problems can be directly or indirectly referred back to inadequate watering or the over-supply of water.


Water and the soil
The role of soil moisture; as a microscopic film of moisture controls the plants’ clock and how the rise and fall of the temperature triggered the start of growth in the spring, flowering in summer and finally the autumn close down and storage of food for the following spring.
The water-table, sometimes referred to as groundwater, is as important as direct rainfall, for it is this underground water reservoir that releases a continuous supply of water to the upper levels of the soil.  Water, or more correctly moisture, is forced up through the lower levels of the soil through the gaps between the soil particles.  This movement is called the capillary action of the soil; the depth and range of water movement can be extensive. Should the water-table fall, due to drought, water extraction or, in some cases, disturbance due to building excavations, the flow can be interrupted and the plants will react unfavourably and become root damaged, although the results may not be seen for months or even years. Alternatively poor drainage or excessive water from winter rain or snow may lead to a build-up of too much groundwater; the water-table will rise, the plants’ roots will suffocate due to lack of oxygen and the plants will slowly die.
 Apart from not physically damaging the water-table and, to some extent, controlling it by good planting practices and providing drainage, there is little else the gardener can do to control the movement of the water-table, as it depends on factors beyond our control.


Soil water and its effect on acidity and alkalinity
The soil moisture controls the acidity and alkalinity of the soil; since there is such a vast amount of water in the soil, it is almost impossible to change or control for any length of time the acidity and alkalinity of a given soil – that which exists in a particular locality will always be the norm.
The effect of water on the plant
It is worth spending a moment to look at the various roles water plays in the growth and overall structure of a plant.
We have seen already how the soil moisture and the water-table contain and carry plant foods, and that they enter the plant through   its root hairs. Once inside the plant, water takes on other roles:
   1  Water acts as a transport system, moving plant food to where it is required through numerous interlocking plant cells which make up a series of ‘tubes’.
   2 .By Water filling the individual cells of the roots, stems, leaves and flowers keeping the plant rigid, enabling each part to perform its individual role.  Botanically this action is said be keeping the plant turgid. Once turgidity is lost the plant cannot function and  may die unless the supply of water is restored.
   3.  Water in the leaf and green stems of plants supports the green cells called chlorophyll; by using sunlight, plant foods and carbon      dioxide from the air, these produce the energy in the form of sugar that allows the plant to grow and develop.  In the process, plants           release into the atmosphere the oxygen which we breathe.
  4.  The water in the plant cells helps produce and carry the various natural enzymes that act to combat attacks from pests and diseases; if the plant is deprived of part of its water supply, this natural defence is reduced or lost and infestation levels of attach are experienced. Water is thus the first defence against attack.
  5  The amount of water in a plant controls its internal temperature.  By controlling the flow through pores in the leaves and stem – called stomata and lenticels respectively – the plant responds to temperature changes, and also wind changes, releasing water when it has too much and conserving it when it has not. If due to the action of direct sunlight, the temperature rises too high in the leaves of certain plants such as golden or variegated shrubs or, say, Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), the water in the leaf cells will boil and the cells are destroyed, causing brown leaf  scorch. To a certain extent we can prevent this by choosing for hot spots plants which have leaves with thick, heat-resistant skins.   Those that cannot withstand the heat should be planted in the shade or semi-shade to protect them and keep them out of direct sunlight.
  6.  Water swells the roots of vegetable plants, providing us with foods such as potatoes, carrots and other root crops, and also the leaves of leaf crops such as lettuce and cabbage.  Without water, plant fruits would not swell and fruit such as Apples and Pears would not exist.
  All in all, water is of paramount importance to the plant and it is essential that we should manage it well.  Too much water can flood    the cells and make them inactive by suffocation or the drawing-out of oxygen from the plant cells – many a house-plant has been  killed by over watering.  Poor soil preparation can lead to a build- up of excess water and so is often the cause of plant failure.



Humidity

Humidity produces a cool, moist environment or atmosphere, and many plants require such growing conditions to help them to control their internal temperature and the loss of water from their leaves and stems. Control or provision of humidity can, with many  plants, be very important to their well-being; Cacti, which require  low humidity, and Orchids which require high humidity, are good  examples.Plants that need high humidity in the environment surrounding them do so for a number of reasons:

   1.To act as an external leaf or stem-cooling agent.
   2.  In some plants, such as large-leaved water-associated plants like Hosta’s, to act as a secondary supply of water; in a few, such as succulents and Orchids, the primary source.
   3  A few plants are able to extract plant food from the humidity in  the air – Bromeliads and Orchids are prime examples.
   4.  Many plants use the humidity to wash their leaves and keep their leaf and stem-breathing pores open so that they can control     temperature and moisture levels.
   5  In propagation, humidity is the principal element that keeps cuttings alive until they can produce their own roots; if the  humidity is lost the cuttings will dehydrate and die.
   6. On the other hand, excessive, prolonged high humidity can kill seedlings and newly rooted cuttings by suffocation.
   7. High humidity and temperature are the ideal environment for some fungus diseases such as damping-off, botrytis and a whole range of moulds and rots which may attack and kill plants. On the other hand, other fungus diseases will be killed in such conditions.
   8. With plants growing indoors or in greenhouses, or conservatories, one of the main problems is low humidity, and attempts must be made to rectify this.
  9. Damping the floor of the greenhouse or conservatory every few hours in hot weather is a very good practice.  Even having a full watering-can stored within the greenhouse at all times can help raise the humidity level.
  10.  Greenhouses and conservatories can have internal water storage tanks under the benching which will increase the humidity.
  11  The installation of a humidifier can also be considered in a conservatory where other forms of damping down might be difficult.
  12. Small fountains in the more ornamental sun-rooms and conservatories are an attractive and useful aid in increasing   humidity.
  13. Creating sufficient humidity indoors can sometimes be difficult but a container of water in close proximity to house-plants can often provide the level required. Growing them or occasionally giving them a rest in a humid bathroom can help the plant to clean its breathing pores and take advantage of the high humidity levels found there.
Occasionally, too, it is necessary to control humidity carefully    because some plants are particularly sensitive to humidity at certain     times in their growing cycle.


Drought

 That drought weather conditions can have an effect on the water content in the soil is obvious, but one point that is not generally    understood is that certain plants react to drought more dramatically than others, and it is wise to keep a careful watch on those worst         affected and supplement their water when necessary. Many shrubs such as Viburnum’s, Deutzias and Buddleja, and even  some trees like Beech (Fagus) and many large-leaved perennial plants have, in the main, surface root systems that react quickly to dry conditions, sometimes dramatically and to the detriment of the overall health of the plant. It is good garden management to supplement their water supply and provide them with organic mulch that will act as a store of water in times of scarcity.

 Wind

  Wind can also deplete the soil and deprive plants of water.  In nature, many plants growing in dry, windy areas have small, thin or leathery leaves that are able to withstand the wind; in others the  leaf surface is covered with a layer of hairs to protect the breathing cells or stomata from direct exposure to the wind. The wind affects the water content in the soil and in plants as follows:
   1.  The wind passes across the soil surface and as it does it draws off and evaporates the soil moisture. Although this is detrimental, it can also be an advantage to the gardener, drying out wet soils  prior to winter and spring cultivation.
   2.  The wind passing over the surface of leaves can also draw out moisture; if the water content is too much reduced, the plant’s  turgidity may be lost.
   3.  If the wind is interrupted by a solid object such as a wall, the wind hitting the windward side of the obstruction is accelerated up the side of the wall and is joined by wind passing over the top, and the combined force is then directed downwards on to the lee side at  up to twice its original speed, causing physical damage to plants and increasing the potential or water loss.All these effects can be reduced by providing or planting wind   breaks that filter the wind but do not block it, so reducing the flow of wind over soil and leaf surfaces.


Shade

Shade reduces the loss of water from the soil by reducing the amount of direct sun hitting it and thereby lowering the temperature. So plants that do not like strong sunlight – such as golden, variegated or large-leaved plants, which can suffer from  leaf scorch – are much happier in part or full shade, depending on their individual needs. Particular problems can arise if shade is provided by a tree, rather than by a fence or building, as its roots may well deprive other plants of water and induce false drought conditions by drawing off water for itself. In addition, its canopy of foliage can lead to rain  being directed away from the soil directly under its branches.
 Many plants associated with water, such as Hosta’s and Astilbe,prefer light shade as long as the soil has a continuous supply of  water and is high in organic material.  This is a situation not easy to   produce artificially, but if it exists or can be created, it is one of the      best of all planting positions.
 In such conditions foliage and flowers are large, bold and interesting due to the constant supply of water, whereas in dry, sunny conditions the reverse is often found.



Watering and pollination

 There are some plants that are aided in their pollination by rain – Phaseolus coccineus (Runner Beans) and Pyracantha (Firethorn)  are good examples – and it has long been garden practice to spray  the flowers with water in the evenings when they are fully open to ensure that pollination takes place. The pollen grains that make fertilization possible are floated in the water and so are able to reach the female element of the flower.

Rules of good watering

 To supply water to the plant in the most beneficial way without causing damage we need to remember the following rules:
   1.  Never water plants in strong sunlight as this can set up a magnifying-glass situation, where the sun passing through the droplets of water on the surface of the leaves can scorch or burn. In these conditions, the water will in any case be evaporated before  it can be absorbed by the soil. This is not to say the area around the plants should not be kept humid; this is best achieved with a 2- 3 inch (5-8 cm) deep organic mulch applied in winter or early spring.
   2.  Whenever possible, use stored rainwater rather than mains water as the former is normally free of calcium, which may affect    acid-loving plants. Tap water also contains chlorine, which can cause  problems with some plants.
   3.  Always attempt to water with a watering-can fitted with a long spout as this slows down the flow and prevents soil erosion or   physical leaf damage.  The use of a watering-can rose to give a fine  spray of water is also beneficial. If watering with a hose, then a   fine spray adaptor should be used rather than an open end or jet.
   4.  Never water directly on to the centre of plants such as Begonias which grow from a corm root system, as water on the corm could  rot it.

   5.  In winter water pot-grown plants as little as possible, if at all.  This does not mean that the plants should be allowed to dry out completely, but they should be just moist enough to keep them alive.If this is done, many more container plants, both indoors and out, will survive the winter. Soil water freezes in cold weather, denying  water to the plant and freezing out oxygen; less water will mean     less solid freezing and will keep the potting compost more loose and open in structure.
   6.  When watering containers both indoors and out in summer, water little and often rather than allowing them to dry out and then          watering them excessively.
   7.  Before potting up plants or sowing seeds, ensure that the water in the potting compost is a room temperature, as cold water may      damage plant roots and kill seeds and seedlings.
   8.  Always water house-plants form the bottom by placing water in a saucer and leaving the plant in it for say twenty minutes; if all the          water has been taken up by the soil, put more water in the saucer and wait for an additional ten more minutes. If after the first or second watering any water is left, tip it away; do not allow plants to stand in water for any length of time.
   9.  When spring approaches, water every other day. Once summer has arrived, watering once a day may be necessary, reducing the   frequency to every other day in the autumn.
  10.  With seeds and cuttings, water as little as possible and always use a watering-can with a fine rose.
  11.  When watering newly planted plants – either in the garden or in containers – that have been grown in a pot or root ball, direct the      water on to the soil where it will soak the pot root or root ball, as  well as on to the general area.  The reason for this is that for a week or two, particularly in the spring, the plant’s roots may not grow out beyond the original root area and watering around the general  area can leave the plant itself dry, even to the point where it may die.


Hand-watering versus sprinklers

Certainly using a sprinkler at times of drought – assuming there is not a hose-pipe ban – over large areas has its advantages, but there  is little control of the application of water to an individual plant. With water metering the use of sprinklers, with their high wastage, becomes less attractive from a financial point of view.
If sprinklers are used then care must be taken not only to avoid over watering but to avoid using them at times of the day when leaf        scorching might occur.  Care is also needed to ensure that areas or individual plants are not missed by the sprinklers. On the other hand, piped self-watering drip or trickle watering – where water is supplied automatically from the mains water supply or from a pump – has real merit, and the purchase and setting-up of a permanent system for containers or hanging-basket plantings, or a temporary system for newly planted areas, is worth careful consideration. Hand watering of individual plants with can or hose is time  consuming, but gives the best control.


Testing for dryness

Knowing when to water has always been a problem.  Gardeners must use their instincts and careful observation to decide when  watering is needed. With small pot-grown plants, the weight of the pot is often the  indicator used. Larger pots are more difficult, but with terracotta   pots the colour of the pot itself can be a useful pointer: the darker the pot, the wetter it is. With other pots visual inspection of the plant itself is needed, to observe how it presents itself just before becoming dry and drooping or losing its turgidity. To complicate the situation further, today’s potting composts dry out at different speeds, some extremely rapidly. There are a number of electronic moisture meters available; these are expensive, but they can be useful.  Small paper or card indicators, purchased from garden centres, show the water content of the potting soil in a pot; these could be used to help you build up your knowledge of how your plants look when they are in need of water.
 Placing a small, say 1 in (3 cm), square of newspaper on the soil surface is also a good indicator.  If it fails to become wet, watering is normally required.


Conserving water

 Many of the ways in which we can reduce the need for watering have been practised by gardeners for decades, and many are covered in other chapters, but it is worth reminding ourselves of these techniques in the context of water conservation.

          1.  Adding good amounts of organic material to the soil at planting time is one of the best ways; as well as encouraging root development it gives rechargeable water storage below the surface  where evaporation by wind and sun is reduced.
          2.  Also, with spring planting, use the technique of water  ‘puddling’: before the planting hole is finally refilled, water is poured into the planting hole and then covered with soil to protect it from evaporation.
          3.  Mulching with organic material has always been used by  gardeners to conserve moisture and has the added bonus of providing the perfect environment for root development. It produces a root system that is strong and able to make the best use of moisture and plant foods.
          4.  Shading areas either permanently or temporarily cuts down water loss.  Non-woven, chemical-free, polypropylene fibre, which  in gardening is primarily used for frost protection, can provide good temporary shading when used on newly sown grass seed; it  keeps the moisture in while letting rain through, and has the added advantage of preventing bird damage.
          5.  When planting indoor and outdoor containers or hanging baskets, mix in water-retaining polymer granules as recommended by the manufacturer. These will retain large amounts of water and, when required, make it available to the plant.
          6.  Use broken-up polystyrene packaging as drainage, for it not only gives good drainage, but acts as a reservoir of moisture from     which the roots can draw later water and plant food as required.
          7.  Sink a 9-10 in (23-5 cm) long, 1-2 in (3-5 cm) diameter tube vertically into the ground, 12-15 in (30-40 cm) away from a newly  planted tree, shrub or conifer; water can be poured into it straight to where the new roots are likely to grow. A plastic lemonade bottle with the bottom cut away and the cap removed, inserted upside  down into the soil alongside the newly planted plant, is excellent   for this.
          8.  Many proprietary storage systems and reservoir products are becoming available for watering newly planted trees, shrubs and       conifers, and for installing in tubs and containers. Many tubs and hanging baskets now have these built in.
          9.  Try to purchase a watering-can with a long spout as this is designed to slow down the flow of water and use less, as well as   preventing damage to the plant and the potting compost. The use  of a watering-can rose will reduce wastage.
          10.  If using a sprinkler or a self-watering system, purchase a good-  quality, non-kink hose and fit it with good fittings so that no leaks    occur.
          11.  Consider using a trickle hose rather than sprinklers, as this  directs water closer to the plants and therefore is more economical        with water and less likely to miss a plant.
          12.  With large-scale watering, consider installing under-ground piping and computer-controlled sprinklers and other self-watering devices.
          In some areas a licence is needed to use water in the garden, for  which a fee is charged; most water companies now insist on a non-   return valve being fitted to taps where hose-pipes are used to prevent return flow and possible contamination of the mains water supply. These are available from garden centres and shops.





                                                                     
 
 
 
Be A Confident Gardener 
 
CHAPTER THREE 
(If you missed Chapter One and Two  
request it by e-mail briandavishort@aol.com) 
 
Staking, Tying 
and Supporting Plants 
 
Correct staking, tying and supporting of plants is important for successful establishment and for prevention of physical damage from wind, rain and snow – and also the secondary damage which occurs when pest and disease attacks enter the plant through damaged tissue. 
Movement of a plant at ground level is also to be avoided because, if the stem is not secured where it comes into contact with the soil, a glazing process can take place which causes a build-up of moisture leading to rotting at ground level and ultimate death.  In addition, when the glazed area dries out it can form a concrete-like wall, which may lead to further rubbing and chafing of stems, and this again can leave the plant open to fungus attack and rotting. 
Sadly, in these days of mindless destruction, staking does not prevent damage to trees in public places by vandals. 
 
Staking materials 
There is a wide range of stakes from the proprietary to the DIY; the final choice will be dictated by the type and size of the plant being staked. 
 
Split green canes 
These are available in lengths between 12 in (30 cm) and 30 in (80 cm) and are used for supporting bulbs when in flower, taller-growing annuals, biennials and perennial plants. 
 
Bamboo canes 
These can normally be purchased from 2 ft (60 cm) tall up to 8 ft (2.5 cm), and sometimes even up to 10 ft (3 m). 
 
They are sold in different thicknesses and I would choose the medium to thick because as well as being stronger they often last longer.  No one garden centre or nursery will offer the full range and it is a case of shopping around to find the height and thickness required.  From time to time they may be out of stock on a national basis, as they are grown in the Middle and Far East and they may be out of season or the crop may not have performed well.  One good point about bamboo canes is that when the bottom of the cane, which is in contact with the soil, rots, the damaged section can be cut away and the cane, although shorter, can be reused. 
Always be very careful, when inserting new or reused canes, that they do not break and cause physical injury.  A cane cap should be fitted to the top of canes used in the garden to avoid potentially serious eye injury to the unwary gardener. 
Bamboo canes are primarily used for supporting perennial plants, some newly planted shrubs and small trees, or for special plant training such as fan-training fruit and other climbing plants on walls.  They are also commonly used to support runner beads, both in rows and arranged as tripods. 
 
Bean poles 
Hazel poles 8 ft (2.5 m) tall and ½ - 1 ½ in (1-4 cm) thick are cut in the late winter from hazel coppices and sold in bundles containing twenty to twenty-five poles; they are generally used as supports for Runner Beans and other annual climbing plants either in rows or arranged as tripods. 
 
Plastic-coated wire and metal poles 
Whether in the form of imitation stakes or canes, in a range of lengths from 3 ft (1 m) to 8 ft 2.5 m) and normally coloured a sickly green, or proprietary interlinking systems or special Y-shaped stakes, these offer good support for perennial plants and small shrubs, but even though metal they do need care when handling to avoid accidents. 
 
Wooden tree stakes 
All garden centres and nurseries offer wooden tree stakes in a range of different lengths from 3 ft (1 m) to 8 ft (2.5 m), as well as a choice of thicknesses from 1 in (3 cm) for Dahlias and standard Roses up to 3 in (8 cm) for trees. 
Normally for an average-sized tree I would recommend a thickness of not less than 1 ½ in (4 cm) and have no preference as to square or round, or whether they are peeled or still have the bark attached, or whether they are hard or softwood, although the hardwood often lasts longer. 
Always check for knots in the wood as this is the main potential weakness – strangely many retailers do not do this when receiving deliveries.  I always avoid creosoted stakes because of the risk of soil contamination, but find those that are green tannalized acceptable. 
 
Tying materials 
It seems that whenever industry produces a new or waste product that might be used as a tying material, particularly if it is coloured green, it is offered to gardeners without any tests being done or consideration being given to the damage it may do to a plant by strangulation. 
With the possible exception of perennials, all plants require ties that can expand, can be adjusted or will rot within a year to prevent damage. 
 
Recommended soft tying materials 
Three-ply fillis string (untreated) 
Raffia, although this is more expensive than fillis string 
Small and large adjustable rubber or flexible straps, ensuring the size is adequate 
for the tree and that all are supplied and fitted with a buffer to avoid rubbing 
between the tree and stake; whenever possible, purchase the straps loose rather 
than pre-packed, as they are often cheaper. 
 
Tying materials to avoid at all costs 
Polypropylene string 
Binder twine 
Wire 
Plastic tying material that does not stretch as the plant grows 
Rubber and plastic ties of the interlocking chain type 
 
Fillis and other soft strings and twines that are treated with creosote or green tannalized to prevent rotting 
Modern tights and stockings produced from material that does not rot 
 
Figure-of-eight knot 
Over the years I have tried a number of different knots and ways of attaching plants, other than trees, to their supports, but the safest and most effective way has always proved to be the figure-of-eight knot where the fillis string is looped around the cane, support wire or individual anchorage point, crossed over itself, looped around the front of the plant and secured and tied with a reef knot, allowing just enough slack to prevent restriction and strangulation. 
If the plant is being attached to horizontal or vertical wires or to canes, slipping will be reduced by making a second loop around the wire or cane. 
These ties are intended to rot and need replacing from time to time, so regular checks should be made to ensure that the plant I secure and is not being damaged by movement caused by the weather. 
 
Tree staking 
Tree staking – for a least the first five or ten years – is one of the most important aspects of plant support.  Whatever the size of the newly planted tree, support should always be given at planting time; it should never be left until later. 
There is much controversy over whether stakes should be short or the full length of the tree stem being staked, and the subject needs to be clarified.  In my opinion the research that was publicized in the gardening press did not take into account the full diversity of tree growth and speed of root establishment in ornamental species. 
Certainly there may be a case for using the short-length staking method on fast-growing indigenous species such as Fraxinus (Ash), Acer platanoides (Norway Maple), Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore) and possibly the slower-growing Quercus (Oak) but most ornamental species are much slower to establish and they need secure staking to avoid damage.  Also, in many cases the cellular structure of the stems is less resilient to bending, and breaking can occur in high winds. 
Many trees are grafted either at ground level or as top-worked trees, and in both cases the graft union can be a weak point, often breaking or being damaged in such a way as to let moisture into the graft union, and this leads to rotting and possibly to death.  Therefore I advocate full-length staking in all but a few species. 
The first step is to purchase a suitably sized stake plus two plastic or rubber adjustable tree straps of an appropriate length for the tree being staked, not forgetting the buffers that will fit between the stake and the tree to prevent damage by rubbing. 
For trees with a clear stem, the stake should be tall enough to be driven 15-18 in (40-50 cm) into the ground and, when driven in, to reach to just below the lowest side branch; where the branches are ‘feathered’ from or near ground level upwards, the stake should be at least three quarters of the full height, plus 15-18 in (40-50 cm) for driving in. 
Whenever possible the stake should be driven in on the west or prevailing-wide side, so that the tree blows away from the stake for the majority of the time, thus helping to reduce the risk of rubbing.  With those trees that have a clear stem, extra care should be taken to ensure that the top of the stake is just below the first branch and not in any way touching it.  To achieve this the stake may need reducing in height with a saw after it has been driven in.  Failure to do this is one of the major errors made by today’s professional and amateur gardeners, giving rise to unnecessary damage to young trees. 
If the tree is bare-rooted it should be turned so that the stake can be positioned safely between the roots. 
With container-grown trees the stake is pushed carefully into the pot’s soil ball; if a root obstruction is encountered it is withdrawn, the pot turned and the process repeated until the stake can pass down through the root all before being driven in. 
Damage to the top of the stake can be prevented by placing an odd flat piece of wood over the top of the stake before driving it into the ground with a sledgehammer. 
The two tree straps are now fitted, the first just below the top of the stake and the second halfway between the first and ground level.  The straps are pulled tight, with the buffers in place between the tree and the stake.  A nail is driven into each stake through the strap just behind the buckle to prevent the strap from slipping down as the tree moves in the wind.  The straps will require adjusting at least once a year and it is a good idea to nominate a specific date or anniversary to do the work so that it is not forgotten. 
If a tree has been planted for some time without staking, the stake can be gently driven into the soil on the windward side, but if the roots obstruct the passage of the stake it should be repositioned and the process repeated until a clear passage is achieved.  Always try to position the stake as close to the tree as possible.  Once in position two tree straps should be fitted as described. 
 
Staking large trees 
The staking of trees when planted as large specimens or at extra-heavy sizes presents a different problem, as it is difficult to drive a stake through the consolidated root ball without causing damage.  Also, the stake, once in place, is rarely strong or firm enough, and as trees of this size are substantially more expensive, getting it right 
is important.  Without suitable staking, the rate at which trees of this size become established can be slowed down. 
Unfortunately, due to the increased strength required, the arrangement of the supports can often appear unsightly, but they must be used.  There are a number of methods used incorporating wires and stakes driven in at angles in a number of configurations.  My own preferences is to stake the trees for five years or more as follows.  Two 6 ft (2 m) long round or square stakes with at least 2 in (5 cm) diameter tops are positioned at least 18-24  in (50-60 cm) away from the tree on either side and, if possible, on the windward side. 
They are then driven in at a slight angle, sloping into the prevailing wind, to a depth of 15-18 in (40-50 cm).  The angle acts as a lever or balancing action against the weight of the tree and the force of the prevailing wind. 
A strong, flat, wooden crossbar, ¾ in (2 cm) thick and 2-3 in (5-8 cm) deep is nailed between the two stakes as high as is possible without interfering with the lower branches.  Using plastic or rubber adjustable tree straps, or possibly two joined together by one of the buckles, the tree is secured to the crossbar, with a buffer placed between the tree and the crossbar to prevent rubbing.  The strap is then secured at the buckle end to the bar with a nail to prevent sideways slip.  From time to time the straps should be inspected and loosened if required to prevent restriction. 
 
Staking trees blown over by the wind 
Sometimes, in severe weather conditions, quite substantial trees are blown over by the wind and all too often a tree, which has taken so long to reach its current size, is condemned.  By using the staking method for specimen and large trees, they may be saved.  It is important that the work is carried out within a few days of the first damage and that the following additional work is done. 
Before the tree can be righted, thought will be needed as to how, once the new support stakes are in place, the tree is to be brought to the upright position.  Manpower, winches and possibly a tractor may have to be used and care must be taken to prevent accidents to both the tree and those working on it; it is best to have skilled assistance. 
To aid the uprighting, soil should be removed from under the roots on the side away from the direction of the fall.  This will release the root and reduce soil resistance, and the tree will be more easily brought to the upright position. 
Once the tree has been uprighted, the soil is replaced, but first any stray roots are cleanly cut off to prevent rotting. 
Due to the loss of roots broken or damaged by the fall, the tree will be at a disadvantage when the leaves open in the following spring, and the roots may not be able to provide all the moisture required.  For this reason, it is best to remove all grass and weeds in a circle of not less than 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m) diameter around the base of the tree.  This circle needs to be very lightly forked over; in mid to late spring a dressing of Growmore fertilizer should be applied as recommended on the packet. 
In addition, as the canopy of leaves in spring opens and prevents rain from reaching the soil circle, it may be necessary to give water.  Further spring feeding and additional watering may be required for a number of years after the initial damage. 
It is also beneficial to consider reducing some of the side shoots to cut down the demand on the foliage.  To do this the side shoots – not the main branches – should be removed or shortened, to reduce the overall total growth by one third, so balancing the root/foliage ratio.  I would not advise reducing the length of the main branches as the tree may be slow to produce a new main framework and will appear stunted for many years. 
Normally the supports will be required for more than five years and it is often better to wait until the stakes rot before removing them. 
 
Staking perennial plants 
Finding a cost-effective and labour-saving way of supporting medium and tall-growing perennial plants needs thought if their displays are to be enjoyed to the full.  The softer, less rigid shrubs will also benefit from appropriate staking.  In all cases the supports must be effective without being visible and there are three methods I like.  Whichever method you use, it is important to provide the staking in the spring, when the plants are young, allowing them to grow through the support to disguise it. 
 
Pea sticks 
These would always be my first choice, with three to five pushed into the ground in a circle around the outer edges of each plant, trimmed and cut off just below the expected ultimate height. 
The only drawback to this natural-looking support is that at the end of the year the pea sticks have to be discarded as they do not keep from year to year.  Sometimes they may be difficult to obtain and a number of garden centres or nurseries may have to be contacted before supplies are found.  Alternatively a local forester or sometimes a coal merchant may be able to supply them. 
 
Wire-formed grids 
Round, wire-formed grids can be reused.  Although not so easy to raise as the plant grows, they do hold and present plants in the most attractive way.  They are normally 24-30 in (60-80 cm) wide and are available in galvanized or green, plastic-covered wire.  Plastic types are available but to me these look unsightly and they may be weaker. 
 
Linked sticks 
Linked sticks are reusable and, with an interlocking system, configuration of sticks can be used and they can also be raised the plants’ growth matures.  Other, similar, Y-shaped support sticks are available and these are also useful. 
 
Supporting plants on walls 
Supporting plants on walls is important, as only a very small number of climbers and wall shrubs are self-clinging and even those that are may need help occasionally.  In addition, the aim in growing a plant against a wall is to form a fan-shape to cover as wide an area as possible.  In a moment we will look at the range of supports available but first we would consider a number of basic points. 
Selecting the right support and ensuring it covers the area required for a specific plant is important; so often a plant is provided with trellis where a wire system or individual anchorage points would be more suitable.  Worse still, no support at all is given or a hotch-potch of nails and oddments of wire and string are used.  This rarely presents the plant well, and it may lead to structural damage to the plant, allowing disease to enter through the lesions. 
The support and its fixings must be strong enough to carry not only the weight of the plant itself, but also the extra weight caused by rain and snow. 
The environment created behind the support and the plant will be dry, sheltered and often warm, making it an ideal breeding ground for pests and diseases.  This can be prevented by ensuring that the supports are always secured with an air space of at least 2 in (5 cm) between the wall or fence and the support.  The trellis-type of support is best attached by securing upright, e in (5 cm) thick wooden battens to the wall, not less than 5 ft (1.5 m) apart, using screws and Rawlplug fixings as required.  The trellis can be fixed to them and an air space is thereby provided behind. 
In some cases it may be necessary to provide access to the wall or fence for maintenance and the choice of support should take this into account. 
Finally it should look attractive or, better still, not be readily visible when covered by the plant it is supporting. 
 
Trellis 
The range of trellis and the materials from which they are manufactured is almost endless.  Wire, either galvanised or plastic-covered, and natural, preservative-treated or painted timber, either flat, round or square, are the most common.  Some are ridged, others concertina-ed in square, diamond or oblong trellis patterns; others are artistically designed, which is pointless because if the plant is planted and looked afte correctly it very soon covers the trellis completely. 
If a trellis is to be used, the DIY approach might be better.  Battens 1 x 1 in (3 x 3 cm) thick purchased from the local timber supplier will make a strong support for a plant. 
Some of the strong, off-the-peg trellis, and certainly the DIY types, can be provided with hinges along the lower edge and fixings at the top, so that in the even of access being required to the wall, it is a simple matter to undo the fixings and allow the trellis to fall forward with the plant still attached to it.  Once the maintenance is finished the trellis and plant are simply reinstated in the upright position. 
 
Wires 
Horizontal wires, and sometimes vertical wires as well for Clematis, are my personal choice for the support of most climbers and wall shrubs.  They are cost-effective, strong, can be added to as required, need little or no maintenance, last for many years and if fixed and arranged correctly can do little damage to the plant.  Above all they present the plant in the very best growth formation, showing it off to the full advantage. 
Use PVC-covered or galvanised straining wire of 2.5 mm thickness for horizontal and vertical wires.  Secure horizontal wires to the wall using 4 in (10 cm) screwed vine-eyes, screwed into size 10 Rawlplugs, using a size 8 masonry drill bit to make the hole. 
On wooden fences 3 in (8 cm) screwed vine-eyes can be screwed directly into the fence post.  The vine-eyes should be not more than 6 ft (2 m) apart in a straight line.  Over long distances it may be necessary to use straining bolts at one end to tighten the wires. 
Fix the first wire 18 in (50 cm) above ground level and subsequent ones every 18 in (50 cm) up the face of the wall.  It may be necessary to adjust the distance between the lines of wires to fill the total height of the wall.  Where there is a mortar course between bricks, this can be used as a guide to the horizontal line of the wires. 
This arrangement is ideal for all climbing plants except Clematis; for these, vertical wires should be attached in addition every 12 in (30 cm) along the horizontal wire, making a network arrangement which will aid climbing and encourage a spreading habit. 
If a cane is not supplied with the young plant, provide one to lead it to the first wire.  Tie the plant to the wire using the figure-of-eight knot (p. 56), with an extra turn around the wire to prevent sideways slipping. 
 
Individual anchorage points 
Many plants, particularly wall shrubs, when grown against walls or fences, do not require trellis or wire supports and individual anchorage points can be considered. 
There are two methods I like to use, depending on the size of the plant being secured.  With both methods, young plants will require the initial use of bamboo canes as supports until they are tall or strong enough to be secured to the individual anchorage point.  These canes are best fitted to an anchorage point to prevent movement. 
The simplest and most secure method is to use screwed vine-eyes. 
Careful consideration should be given to positioning the fixing before the hold is made; holding the plant to the wall first to mark the best position is advisable, making sure that the strongest part of the plant is chosen for the fixing point. 
Once the vine-eye is in place it is a simple matter to tie the plant to it using a fillis string figure-of-eight knot. 
A size 10 masonry drill bit and Rawlplug will be required to fix the screwed vine-eyes to the mortar course of the brickwork.  With wooden fences the vine-eyes can normally be screwed straight into the posts.  If the vine-eye is being fixed to a post, a large nail can be hammered in an inch or so and then withdrawn and the vine-eye screwed in. 
For larger, heavier plants, stronger individual anchorage points will be required and for this I recommend the use of adjustable rubber or plastic tree straps, fixed as follows.  First identify a suitable fixing point or points, depending on the size of the plant, trying to secure the plant by a strong main branch.  Using a power drill with a size 10 masonry drill bit for brick walls insert a size 10 Rawlplug, ready to receive a size 10 1 ½ in (4 cm) long screw.  For wooden fences it may be necessary to make a starting hole with a nail or old screwdriver into the post. 
Carefully pierce a hole just behind the buckle in the tree strap; before passing the screw through the hole, pass it through a ½ - ¾ in (1-2 cm) wide metal washer, which is positioned between the head of the screw and the tree strap to prevent the screw head from being pulled through.  Fix the screw and secure the plant with the tree strap in the normal way, remembering to position the buffer between the plant and the wall or fence to prevent damage by rubbing. 
Should the plant’s stem girth be more than the length of one tie, two can be joined together.  This method only needs occasion checking to prevent strangulation and will support the plant in the roughest weather. 
 
Training supports for special purposes 
Rows of free-standing ornamental and fruiting plants 
Posts can be wooden or metal and are driven in, or better still, concreted in place, 6-8 ft (2-2.5 m) apart.  The height of the posts will depend on the plants to be supported but as a guide a fan-trained Apple, Pear or Plum will need 10-12 ft (3-3.5 m) high supports, whereas horizontal trained trees will cover a height of up to 6-8 ft (2-2.5 m). 
Most cane and vine fruits require 6-8 ft (2-2.5 m) supports.  The height of supports for ornamental trees will depend on the species. 
Fencing-gauge wire is stretched between the posts and fixed securely at 18 in (50 cm) intervals from the ground until the required is reached.  Some bracing of the posts and stretching of the wires may also be required on long distances. 
 
Fan-trained plants 
When plants are fan-trained on walls and fences, outdoors or under protection, the following additional supports is necessary. 
First horizontal wires are fixed to the wall or fence as suggested previously to act as supports for 6-8 ft (2-2.5 m) canes.  The length of the cane will depend on the plant being trained and on the size of the wall, but as a rule the longer the better.  The number of canes used will depend on the number of fan-trained shoots required or expected; each can is attached to the support wire using fillis string and the figure-of-eight knot with the extra twist to stop slipping, in a fan shape. 
The plant is then tied to the canes using the fillis string, tied with a figure-of-eight knot with the additional turn around the cane to prevent the knot slipping.  Normally these cane supports are required for most, if not all, of the plant’s productive life. 
 
Supports for pleached trees 
Pleaching or horizontal-training of selected trees requires purpose-built supports to aid their early and subsequent training (see also Chapter 8.) 
Often a ‘bodge-up’ of canes or timber battens is provided; although the following, more secure, supports will cost more, it should be remembered that they will be required for at least ten years and that the plant screen will form more quickly. 
Dull olive-green or black painted angle-irons, as used for fencing and tennis court surrounds, positioned 8-10 ft (2.5-3 m) apart in a straight line, braced at the ends and corners and at least 8 ft (2.5 m) tall, are ideal and may only need some additional holes 18 in (50 cm) apart through which the support wires will be passed and secured.  As always, fillis string and the figure-of-eight knot are used to attach the branches of the trees to the wires and the individual trees, positioned at the centres between the angle-iron posts, will also require staking.  These stakes should be attached to the horizontal wires. 
 
Supports for walkways 
A number of proprietary manufactured products are available for this purpose and in the main they are all suitable.  Having your own produced by the local blacksmith is also a possibility.  The tunnel framework should be constructed from metal strong enough to act as a training support;  it should also be able to carry the weight of rain and snow, and this is not always the case. 
The walkway will differ in every garden, as will the shape of the support itself, so to lay down hard and fast rules is difficult, but the following points should be considered. 
Adequate headroom should be provided; often no allowance is made for the downward growth of the plants covering the walkway and this growth, as the height of the season, can be in excess of 24 in (60 cm). 
As the plants that are to cover the framework will require fixing points at regular intervals it is important to ensure that these are provided either on the main structure or as additional wires stretched between. 
Although the framework will eventually be covered with growth, for some time it will be a very visible object in the garden, so the colour it is painted is important – my own choice would be matt olive-green.  the size and architectural appearance of the support should be considered; some very bad errors can be made. 
Every design will be different but the following specification may be of value: 
Metalwork should not be less than ½ - ¾ in (1-2 cm) in diameter. 
The main supports in the line of the walkway should be no more than 8-10 ft (2.5-3 m) apart. 
The main supports spanning the pathway should be at least 8-10 ft (2.3-3 m) apart. 
The height of the centre of the main supports should be no less than 9-10 ft (2.7-3 m). 
The distance between supports and additional training wires should be 15-18 in (40-50 cm). 
The main supports should be concreted into the ground to a depth of at least 15-18 in (40-50 cm). 
See also Chapter 8. 
 
Tripods and archways 
Many plants can be grown up tripods and over archways but care must be taken when producing your own or purchasing off-the-shelf products that they are strong enough; many models are not.  Also, there is often a lack of securing points for the climber and additional wires may have to be added to ensure that good plant coverage is achieved. 
 
Wiring in conifers 
As the wiring of conifers is principally for support, I feel it is right to place it here, rather than in the chapter on pruning. 
Many conifers as they mature start to spread, particularly after heavy snow, and wiring is required to bring them back into an upright shape. 
There is no particular time that this should be done, but as the damage is caused in the winter, this is the time usually chosen, often as a first-aid operation. 
First, gather together the branches of the damaged conifer by encircling the tree, approximately 6 ft (2 m) from ground level, with a strong rope which has a loop in one end, through which the other end can be passed to form a noose.  Pull the rope tight, but not overtight, bringing the branches of the conifer together to approximately the same diameter as they were before they spread. 
Take a discarded piece of hose-pipe, preferably dark coloured, long enough to surround the tree, and pass plastic-coated 2.5-3 mm wire through the middle, leaving enough spare wire at either end to secure it once it is in position.  Carefully place hose and wire approximately 4 ft (1.2 m) from ground level around the conifer, tucking it in as much as possible behind the outer foliage to conceal it; once it is in position secure the ends of the wires. 
Additional wires and hose will be required every 4 ft (1.2 m) up the conifer until it is fully tied in and secured.  Depending on the height, it may be necessary, after the lower two wires are in position, to reposition the rope higher up until the conifer is completely secured and brought back to its former shape. 
Occasionally there will be an odd side shoot that cannot be pulled in; if it is not of a major size, it should be removed. 
This method works well with the following species: 
 
Chaamaecyparis lawsoniana varieties (Lawson Cypress), Libocedrus decurrens (False Cedar), Thuja plicata varieties (Western Red Cedar) and Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ varieties (Irish Yew).  It can also be used on the upright-growing Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ (Lombardy Poplar Cherry, Flag-pole Cherry) to good effect. 
 
 
 
Copy Right Text and Images Brian Davis 2017 





        

    
  

Clematis macropetala