Well done to the rare un-staked! – Herbaceous Perennials that stand up for themselves…

by Ciaran Burke

Sanguisorbia tenuifolia ‘Pink Elephant’

I love gardening but there are some jobs that are laborious and feel like a waste of one’s good time if they have to be done too often, cutting the grass is one such task, staking herbaceous perennials is another. The former job is reduced by having less grass areas and more plants, and in my own case my wife is quite keen to mow the grass. With grass area reduced the planting area increases and so too do the number of herbaceous perennials that find their way into our borders where they mingle with shrubs, trees and bulbs.

Many herbaceous perennials have a tendency to flop, even more so in the west of Ireland than in other parts of the world. The frequent strong winds play havoc with Delphiniums and combined with high rain fall that encourages lush soft growth, many plants that are recommended in books by authors from parts of the world that enjoy hot summer days do not perform well without staking in our garden. Many plants that for them do not require staking end up as a sorry tattered, broken and flopping mess in a Mayo garden. We have to choose carefully, only the sturdiest growing perennials are going to remain upright and un-bowed.

Verbascum flavum, V. ‘Elin’ and Persicaria polymorpha in our garden 6-July-2012

It is not that I am totally adverse to doing any staking, I have no problem each spring to insert a couple of metal herbaceous plant supports around a fine clump of bluish leaves of Thalictrum flavum. Each year it taunts me, making me think that at last I have managed to get it right, then a day of wind and rain in the middle of June shakes it and throws it around. Despite my endeavours it always ends up looking like a drunkard slumped over a bar on the morning after while its bent flower stems lie wet and bedraggled over its carefully placed plant supports. So it was with great joy that I found Thalictrum ‘Elin’ at Camolin Potting Shed nursery a few years ago. I was ensured it would stand tall and proud over 2m high without the need to stake it, and it is true. Some stems wave and even waver, but they do not break and the whole clump is a breezy cloud of white stamens and tiny pink petals on strong and wiry dark stems.

Thalictrum ‘Elin’

There are others that stand well in our garden; Sanguisorbia tenuifolia 1.5 metres of drooping fuzzy infloresences, Verbascum chiaxii ‘Album’ conical heads of pink centres white flowers above sturdy leaves; the beautifully scented nocutrnal flowering Hemmerocallis citrina whose blooms open in the evening carried on dark almost black stems and the giant white fuzz of white flowers that is Persicaria polymorpha which is 2m high and wide, resolute and defiant even in a howling storm.

Sanguisorbia tenuifolia ‘Alba’

Verbascum chiaxii ‘Allbum’

Hemerocallis ‘Elin’

Persicaria polymorpha

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: