Natural plant supports in the herbaceous borders at Polesden Lacey

A view of the herbaceous border at Polesden Lacey

Have you been wondering what the unusual structures in the herbaceous borders are? Gardener Julia explains the team’s project to create new garden support structures from natural materials.

Supporting plants in the right way can make an enormous difference to the success of a border, from the architectural structures themselves to the final show of flowers during the summer and autumn months. The perennials in the herbaceous borders at Polesden Lacey often put on strong lush growth in the spring that makes them vulnerable to collapse, especially after heavy rains or strong winds. 

We have many lovely examples of delphiniums, rudbeckia, phlox, salvias, sunflowers and verbascum which have long stems and large flowers requiring additional support. Staking them early in the season prevents the plants from smothering each other or drooping over the grass edge and damaging the turf. 

The structures form cages around the plant, through which they will grow
A close up of a natural plant support structure in the herbaceous border at Polesden Lacey
The structures form cages around the plant, through which they will grow

During January, we worked with the countryside team to coppice large amounts of hazel and birch from the wider estate to use to create the structures. In April, our enthusiastic team of garden volunteers, led by gardener Ellie, began the marathon task of staking the lush, green foliage springing into life along the borders. 

Around each plant several twiggy stems are pushed into the ground to form a sort of wall. At roughly two-thirds of the plant’s final height, the branches are then snapped towards the middle to form a roof. Finally, smaller twigs are woven together to create an intricate maze of brush through which the plant will grow. 

Over the summer and autumn these structures disappear to reveal a splendid display of flowers and foliage at their best. The structures will then decompose over the winter, and the team will make new ones next spring. 

As well as in the herbaceous borders, you’ll find these architectural structures in the vegetable garden and the cut flower garden. 
 

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