Beyond string theory: keeping flowers growing straight and true

It's complex, but there are more ways than one to give your flowers the support they need

I'm not convinced that normal people know quite how much string goes into gardening. String – which, together with nails and weird little wire inventions – holds a plant in exactly the place you want it to be, rather than where it fancies growing. You adore the delicious bounty of that blossoming flowerbed? You wouldn't know to look at it, but it's held up by serried ranks of Great Egg Race-style structures, carefully constructed to blend into invisibility from a distance.

There are a number of plants, especially midsummer ones, which you pretty much can't even grow without structures such as this. Delphiniums, for example. These classic blue spires, the embodiment of English-garden style, can barely survive a normal summer's rainfall without catastrophic effects, let alone 2012's downpours. Picture-book piles of sky blue cannot be achieved without a major undertaking behind the scenes, just to keep it upright.

OK, some people get by with wigwams of hazel twigs or bamboo canes and more of that string. But those of us without boy-scout skills find ourselves seeking out ever-fancier steel-based objects.

Celebrated delphinium growers Blackmore & Langdon's recommends slightly flexible inverted cones of wire, coated in green plastic, each of which can be placed early in the growing season over a single plant.

But you could also chase something rather more English country garden-ish, such as wooden plant structures. Harrod Horticultural has a pair of wax wood obelisks with a twisting, vine-like design, that would look lovely covered with roses (£54.95, harrodhorticultural.com).

It also does properly formal timber pyramid obelisks in muted Farrow & Ball-ish tones, for an eyewatering £119.95 each. Super-pricey, but super-classy.

Another type of support, possibly more appealing to minimalists, is a simple steel arc on two elegant legs. These are available in "rustic" uncoated metal that will quickly rust to an attractive finish. Then there are twists, a sort of snail-shell curl at the top of a single metal stem, to hold up single flowers such as foxgloves; and umbrellas, which are tall poles with a wirework tray at the top to let climbing plants such as honeysuckle accumulate and trail down their fragrant flowers.

My favourites are the "grow-through" type, three or four legs holding up a mesh for herbaceous plants. In summer, peonies and lupins make the most of this generous support. But the steel structures themselves also have a delicate simplicity that can add a profound calm to an empty January flowerbed, as well as a sense of promise for warmer days.

The only question, really, is how you'll bear seeing your gorgeous new supports covered up by stupid old plants. Console yourself with two innovations from my favourite supplier. First, a twist of olive-coated steel to hold your cup of tea (£5, plantsupports.co.uk). How much more genius could you get? Well, I'll tell you: an 8mm powder-coated steel bar to hold your ball of string. Because in a garden, you can never have too much string.

The best supporting act award goes to...

Conical Delphinium Support

The ultimate expert recommendation from the UK's greatest delphinium nursery. And while you're at it, check out their mouthwatering selection of plants. £5 each, blackmore-langdon.com

Globe Topiary Frame

I love these planetary orbs: topiary with a touch of astronomy. Leander has probably the most creative selection of shapes. £32.50, leanderplantsupports.co.uk

Border Buddy String Dispenser

With a neat loop on top so it can easily be pulled out to travel round the garden with you. Delightfully, it comes with string. £13.94, plantsupports.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower