The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
Types of material – the supporting cast
‘There’s no right or wrong: it’s what comes naturally that counts’
To my mind, the five key natural staking materials are silver birch, hazel, willow, cornus and chestnut.
As long as it is cut early in the season (preferably by the end of February), used by mid-May, and kept in a cool, shady place in the interim, birch is highly versatile. It is extremely flexible and therefore perfect for bending, weaving and shaping. Ideal for making arches, tunnels and large obelisks.
Chestnut stakes are generally straighter and heftier and have a wider girth than hazel. Combined with a cat’s cradle of string or jute, they make solid supports for herbaceous heavyweights like dahlias and delphiniums.
Hazel comes in two forms: poles and “tops”. Hazel is not as forgiving as birch, but it is robust and its tops can be “snapped” over horizontally to create a rigid lattice through which border plants and cut flowers can emerge, confident that they’ll remain upright.
Willow and cornus
Like birch, these are great for weaving and shaping (especially if soaked prior to use). Unlike birch, they have a tendency to take root, so are great for living structures, not so good for seasonal border supports. Use your spring prunings.