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Make a plant support for herbaceous plants

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Sally Smith Sally Smith | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 15 April 2011

Oriental poppies

Papaver orientale ‘Princess Victoria Louise’

Oriental poppies are a particular weakness of mine, gorgeous big blousy blooms, I know they don't flower for long but every year I wait with anticipation for the fat buds to split and reveal the papery petals within. They produce masses of weighty foliage that flops forwards and one windy spring day is all it takes to batter the brittle emerging stems and buds of these and other tall herbaceous plants. It's definitely worth the effort in April to get them staked and tied in to protect and keep them to their allotted space in the borders.

Asters, plume poppy, delphiniums, rudbeckia and phlox all benefit from support, and you can make your own that are cheap, re-usable and made from home grown or collected sticks from winter pruning. The simplest staking is to use twiggy sticks, bend them over clumps of plants and they will grow strongly through the tangle, there's no need for tying in.

For something a bit more stylish and re-usable, try some lobster pots. Here’s my step by step guide for making your own lobster pot plant supports.

Materials you will need

  • 8 straight and flexible rods of willow or cornus
  • 1.5m long large plant pot - 45cm diameter
  • Secateurs
  • Garden twine or long pieces of ivy
  • Strips of phormium leaves

Step 1

  • Insert 4 rods into a plant pot filled with compost or into turf in a circle (bicycle tyres work well!)
lobster supports

Insert 4 rods into plant pot filled with compost or into turf in a circle

Step 2

  • Form the rods into a cross by inserting the tip of each rod next to the base of the opposite rod , pushing it to the base of the pot to hold it firm.
  • Prepare lengths of binding material 1-2m long for wrapping - garden twine, clematis, de-thorned bramble, strips of phormium leaves or ivy are all materials I have used.
  • The rods are bound together by a simple god’s eye weave at the top that will eventually spiral down to hold the structure together.
a god’s eye weave

To make a god’s eye weave, keep wrapping around each rod, anti-clockwise

Step 3

  • Add 4 more rods
  • Work these into a dome as before, crossing over beneath the existing crossed rods
making a lobster pot support

Left: Work the new rods into a dome as before | Right: Continue weaving the god’s eye to bind in

Step 4

  • Continue weaving the god’s eye to bind in and then start to form a spiral down the structure, bind the rods together firmly.
    Keep the weaving spacing open to allow room for plant stems and leaves to grow through.
how to make a lobster pot support
  • Remove from the pot.
  • Trim off the weaker of the two stakes and even up the lengths of the others, making it easier to insert into soil.
Left:Encourage leaves and flower buds through the gaps as they grow upwards | Right: A bit battered but still usable after a couple of years

Left:Encourage leaves and flower buds through the gaps as they grow upwards | Right: A bit battered but still usable after a couple of years

As the plant grows, shoots will grow between the rods and the weave, thus being supported by an attractive structure. The lobster pot will disappear amongst the foliage by mid-summer and may be re-used as long as the willow and binding remains firm. They won’t last forever of course but if removed at the end of the season, given a quick brush down with thinned linseed oil, they’ll do for 2-3 seasons at least.

Sally Smith is an organic gardening teacher now working freelance after working at Garden Organic for many years and heading their advisory team. Weaving living willow structures and basket making is a passion and skill that Sally brings to her gardening.


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