It was never in my life plan to have peonies. They came with the house I bought a few years ago.
For those unfamiliar with these flowers, they’re colorful, fragrant perennials that typically grow 3 feet or taller.
What’s not to love?
They’re glorious in the spring, but at some point in the middle of the summer, things start to go awry. They slowly begin encroaching on the walkway in front of my house, which is not a big problem until ... the flop.
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Call me a control freak, but I just don’t like seeing my flower bushes flopped over the front door. I deserve better, and so do they.
Last year, I tried creating supports for my flowers with wooden stakes, but wasn’t very satisfied with the results (it looked like a school science project gone wrong). So this was one of the first things I asked Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith about when we were considering ideas for this gardening series.
She said this can be issue for tall zinnias, dephiniums, foxglove, hollyhocks, amaranthus, roses and sunflowers — any flower more than a foot tall can have trouble keeping its big fat head up. Also, winds and rain can topple plants.
“People generally hate staking. I don’t know why,” Debbie said. “They stake tomatoes and peas and beans but they expect flowers to be more independent? Flowers need a little help from a friend, too.”
What she showed me was this: There are several different kinds of supports you can use, depending on how big the plants are. They come in different materials, including metal, wood and bamboo. A variety of different sizes are available, and you can also get linking stakes (allowing the linking of stakes along a row of flowers).
Pro tip: This is something to plan in the spring, not midsummer, because supporting the plants as they grow helps keep them upright and prevents the problem. A ring-style support grid might be a little unsightly to start with, but it’s much less noticeable once the plant is full grown.
But there are plenty of flower supports available to help them when they’re beginning to lean — or in full flop — including curved and wrap-around stakes. You can put in individual stem support stakes as well.
In this week’s video, Debbie demonstrates both the curved and grid stakes. There’s some bonus information about peonies.
I bought two different metal supports this year (curved stakes for my leaning plants, and a grid for a smaller plant). I went to three stores to see what was out there and found that Zamzows had the largest selection (size, style and quantity). The cost was $6 to $7 for each.
Next week, we’re going to dive into composting with Dave Hopkins, a master composter with the University of Idaho’s Ada County Extension Office.