Friday, June 27

Getting the support right

Some plants have developed tall strong stems to lift their leaves and flowers up to the light but others have developed other tactics. Some plants with weak spindly stems will find a suitable host and scramble or climb up towards the light. Not all of these, however, choose to climb in the same way. Some cling, others weave, some twined, others use crampon style tactics and then there are those that just need something to lean on. When we grow  climbing plants, either as ornamentals or food crops we need to give them the right sort of support.
Runner beans will twist their stems around any upright. For this reason most gardeners train them up bamboo canes. They may need a little encouragement at first and sometimes decide to stray into a neighbouring beans area and wind themselves around the other plant on their upward journey. Runner bean plants always wind in an anti-clockwise direction. There is general disagreement as to why this is, some say that the stems follow the direction of the sun and that in the southern hemisphere the stems wind in the opposite direction. I read that someone in the UK said climbing French beans climb clockwise but our Cobra beans definitely curl anticlockwise as does the dreadful bindweed that had a stranglehold on our autumn raspberries. Can anyone in the southern hemisphere confirm whether out not their beans twine clockwise.


Peas and sweet peas on the other hand send out tendrils that search out something to cling to.
Having located something the tendrils will attempt to take hold by curling around the object. (It's amazing how quickly the tendrils react, try placing a twig or stick against an unattached tendril and watch it curl around it). This can only be achieved if the intended climbing frame is relatively thin. Bamboo canes are too thick so many gardeners will create a bamboo frame and attach strings or netting that the tendrils can catch hold of. A more natural climbing frame can be provided using twiggy branches. Gardeners growing show sweet peas often remove the tendrils thereby denying the plant its means of climbing and so tie the plants to canes.
Clematis climb in a similar way to peas except they don't have tendrils. They use some of their leaf stems to wrap around fine objects such a wires, although they may need tying in to set them off in the right direction.

Other plants like ivy or climbing hydrangeas use special root hairs. These form when the stem meets a suitable surface. The plants excretes a glue like substance with which to stick itself to the surface and then the tiny root hairs worm their way into any tiny gaps in the surface. Once the root hair penetrate the surface they lock themselves firmly in place. In effect with little need for encouragement these plants will scale the heights of most upright surfaces.
Finally there are the shrubby plants that we call climbings but that don't naturally climb. This type of plant - that is often also some sort of shrub needs training on and tying onto some sort of structure. It often also needs pruning into shape. This group of plants includes climbing roses which links me nicely to a request. We want a couple of climbing roses for our coldframe courtyard. We are looking for single roses with good perfume that are fairly disease resistant and not too vigorous and also a white variety for the white and blue birder, Any suggestions?



24 comments:

  1. Thanks Sue, a really interesting post. We have a climbing rose called Claire Austen. It's a fairly new variety with fragrant white flowers and are so far very pleased with it :)

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    1. I'll look it up, Jenny - thanks for the suggestion

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  2. My cucumber plant in the greenhouse is attaching itself to everything in sight. I'm going to have to clear the greenhouse out to give it some room. I found a tendril attached to the peach tree earlier on in the week.

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    1. Our grapevine is a mile a minute if left to its own devices. If it could it would fill the greenhouse completely.

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  3. You have managed to make even the pea-sticks look neat. Just how I like it! :)

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    1. Our hazel sticks make great free support, Mark. True sustainable garden product.

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  4. I love your pea sticks. I use t-posts and twine and they never like to climb up it. They are always trying to escape. So I help them up when they need it.

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    1. We sometimes have to nudge them back into place,Daphne.

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  5. It's the bean's hormones, Sue! The tips of twining stems describe pretty big circles as they grow. These big circular movements are a result of cell growth at changing positions across the tip of the stem which pushes the stem in alternate directions. These movements are controlled by hormones. We are all at the mercy of our hormones - even beans! I wouldn't like to comment on the hormonal state of beans in the southern hemisphere though.

    Peter Beales roses have an excellent website which is very useful for selecting roses on the basis of scent/wildlife value etc. You can lose hours there!

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    1. Those hormones have a lot to answer for Sarah. Thanks for the suggestion I'll visit the Peter Beale site.

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  6. all my beans, runner and french are growing up the canes anti-clockwise Sue

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    1. And yours have climbed much higher than ours Roger!

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  7. Recently I was reading about a research that was conducted in Australia and they said that twining has nothing to do with hemispheres. They said that in the end 90% of plants turn anti-clockwise no matter where they are. I think twining has something to do with rotation of the Earth. Earth turns anti-clockwise around itself an the Sun.

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    1. You are probably right Leanan - now we need confirmation

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  8. Come on you aussies, let Sue -and all her many readers know which way they twine down under. My money is on Leanan that they climb the same way as up here.
    Loved your descriptions of how plants climb. So much better than reading a stuffy botany book. The glue bit was interesting, must check out more about this.
    As you know I like to tease you and can't resist mentioning the typo about glue on pants! I am sure you will get your own back!

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    1. PS I might come to a sticky end!

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    2. I really don;t know what you mean, Roger I can't find any pants ;) I've changed it _ Martyn read this and never nototiced and others must have been far too polite!!! Of course I'll get my own back.

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  9. What an interesting post, I've never paid attention to the climbers, how they climb. Sometimes it's nice to think of such trivial things, it's very interesting!

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    1. I just find the different ways plants deal with the same problem to be fascinating, Dewberry.

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  10. Good post Sue, they will grow anywhere if left to their own devices. Where practical I remove tendrils to focus energy into the pods or fruit - I do this on the cucumbers at the moment.

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    1. Like the sweet pea growers, Damo. I often wonder how much difference it makes. Have you done a test by de-tendrilling one row and not another?

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  11. So far my cucumber is behaving itself, not like last year when they were twining over everything! However my peas are just a mass of leaves, tendrils & pods! Lovely article Sue, very interesting.

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    1. Glad that you found it of interest, Jo

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  12. Y'know I've never once noticed which way runners and sweet peas climb, you may have created a monster here as I now have a strong urge to go and check every climber I have!!! How very interesting though.
    Bindweed....sighs....the bane of my life. I bought a climbing white rose last year, I think it was called celebration,or wedding anniversary... it has tiny white flowers and is scented, I can't wait for it to cover the bower.xxx

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