How to - Techniques

Three ideas for plant supports

Karen York
Photography by
Emilie Simpson (illustrations)

From stakes to obelisks, prevent your plants from toppling and flopping

plant-supports-obelisk.jpgUsing tuteurs and obelisks
Tuteurs (from the French for “trainer”) and obelisks are tower-like forms used to support climbing plants. These structures can be strictly functional as in a teepee of poles tied at the top, but most are decorative too, bringing a sculptural and often colourful element to the garden year-round. Styles range from curlicued Victorian through classic Edwardian to rustic country, and materials include wood, willow and metal (usually powder-coated steel). You can purchase them or build your own from plans or a kit.

To choose the right obelisk, it helps to know how the plant climbs.

Tendrils: Plants with little tendrils have a hard time grabbing wide wooden supports; look for thin crosspieces for them to cling to, or opt for a willow or wire obelisk.

Tendril examples: Sweet peas, passionflower

Twiners: These climb by wrapping either their stems or their leaves around the support. Leaf twiners prefer narrow supports; stem twiners are less fussy and will grow vigorously on just about anything.

Twiner examples: Clematis, honeysuckle, pole beans, hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus), morning glory, moonflower (Ipomoea alba), thunbergia

Clingers: These plants put out clinging roots from their stems. Aptly called holdfasts, these roots attach very firmly so they can be a long-term proposition. Ivy is effective when trained to the obelisk shape to resemble a conical evergreen.

Clinger examples: Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei cvs.), climbing hydrangea, ivy

Scramblers: These are primarily climbing roses, which don’t attach themselves and must be fastened to the support. For more blooms, train rose canes at an angle rather than tying them straight up. Make sure your obelisk is well-anchored and is tall enough for what you want to grow.

Scrambler example: Climbing roses

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