Whole lotta staking going on


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.

Previous articleShoe Update:
Crocs are Multi-Colored but Red at Heart
Next articleGigantic perennials weeds (see comments) of Buffalo
Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I don’t stake plants myself, except for new trees, but I’m a big promoter of tying plants up, limbing plants up, whatever it takes to achieve the order Elizabeth talks about. I think maintaining order is CRUCIAL, especially making sure there’s access throughout the borders for the gardener.

    And hats off to any gardener who’s willing to stake individual columbines in order to grow them under less than optimal conditions. To hell with low maintenance, right?

  2. I can see with limited space and lots of time, staking makes sense. But I’m not short on space so tomatoes are about the only thing I stake and I do a lousy job of that. I actually like the look of a peony dragging its blossoms on the ground after a good rain. Or that floppy rue winding it’s way horizontally across the tops of its shorter neighbors.

    Order? Control? In a garden? Don’t kid yourself.

  3. For the first time ever, I’ve staked my Chinese Lanterns (invasive bastards) with a peony hoop and they’re standing ram-rod straight. I like the look of the plant and can’t wait to dry this batch, cause the last couple years’ worth of dried lanterns look a bit like the lanterns have been carrying on with Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick.

  4. I’m with Craig on the peonies, but I can see myself staking a few key lilies now that I’m actually growing them.

    I’m surprised at having to stake hollyhocks, though. Mine–even the 7 feet tall ones–are completely upright. Maybe because of our windiness here makes them stronger in stem? Anyone know?

  5. Ha. If you saw my garden, you’d know that I would never dream of aspiring to order.

    But I think there is such a thing as controlled chaos.

    Kim, something happens to the hollyhocks every summer that causes them to topple. They do have a lot of rust, if that helps. I kind of hate them.

  6. Elizabeth, I stake because you cannot have tall dahlias or lilies without stakes, and I want to have them.

    Now, can I persuade you to do a clematis round-up? Yours is so lovely! I am always looking for varieties that will actually grow and flower profusely and not get that weird wilt. Sweet autumn clematis is the greatest of all climbing plants, in my opinion–but the rest, in my garden, are just disappointing.

  7. Being the anti-gardener I am, my parents once suggested i staked my flowers, and I quickly said “I don’t believe in that” simply because they had suggested it.

    As I evolved as a gardener I realized the value of staking, and can I just say, OMG, living in Portland, ORegon, I must stake in order to keep alive the amazing things that grow here?!?!?! My parents may mock me, but I shall now proudly stake, and stake freely!!!!

  8. “…David Austen roses that aren’t supposed to be climbers but come pretty damn close…”

    That’s all of them, isn’t it?

Comments are closed.