At first, I was hesitant to bring up an issue as humdrum as staking, but Michele’s post on the glories of gigantic plants emboldens me. And, yes, you can’t have seven-foot oriental lilies without stakes. (Though I think I have seen this in commercial lily fields—maybe they’re holding each other up.) I also have to stake or otherwise support hollyhocks, David Austen roses that aren’t supposed to be climbers but come pretty damn close, and—once or twice—tall columbines.
And what of it? I have one friend who says she won’t have anything in her garden that can’t stand on its own two feet, but that would far too limiting an edict for me. With partial shade everywhere, stalks are thinner and taller than they would be in full sun. That’s just the way it is, and staking is often the way to deal with it. (Of course, with vegetables, stake and hoop-like apparatuses are always required.)
I like to take it as a challenge. How many lilies can I attach to the same stake, so the stalks surround the stake, thus hiding it. Where can I buy the tallest stakes? (I still haven’t found one that will handle the eight-feet-plus henryi.) My stake collection now includes metal with hoops, metal with crooks, tall plastic, and tall bamboo.
Yet, I am sure there are those who find the whole idea of staking flowers distasteful, and I can understand why. Stakes are, at best, a necessity, but like ties (I prefer the green ones that come on a spool), trellises, hoops, and other means of keeping plants where you want them, they allow a certain level of control. I like the ability to arrange flowers while they’re still in the ground. Sometimes, too, the plants themselves act as stakes—you can weave tall plants among each other so that a precarious balance is upheld. In an urban environment defined by many vertical structures, tall and climbing plants make sense—at least they do to me.
Above you see an adolescent trumpet lily (Golden Splendor) overshooting a vigorous clematis (Mme. Julia Correvon). Later today, in response to Craig’s comments, I’ll be posting some of the enormous perennials of Buffalo.