TheTies That Bind

Support Plants with Natural Cords

By Virginia Hayes

T here are commercial products galore to assist gardeners in
every task that they may face. One such need is for a flexible,
plant-friendly material to gently keep a plant growing in the
direction you have chosen. Among the most common items on offer
that can help corral these wayward stems are man-made plastic tape
and plastic-coated wire.

Most of these come in garish shades of green that would never be
found in nature. If you look far enough, you can find more
natural-looking raffia, long fibers harvested from the Raphia palm
(beware, much of what is sold now is actually plastic). There is
nothing wrong with any of these choices, but there are
alternatives. And they may be right there under your nose, just
waiting to be harvested and put to use.

Many plants have long flexible fibers, either in their stems or
leaves, that can be easily picked and processed right on the spot
to provide homegrown plant ties. One source of these ties can be
found among the species and cultivars in the genus Phormium (New
Zealand flax). A single leaf of one of the larger varieties can
provide several flexible straps for tying a climbing rose to its
trellis or a tomato vine to its cage. Simply cut a leaf above the
tightly folded lower portion and, starting at the central rib
(which may be too stiff), tear the leaf into lengthwise strips. The
strip need be only a quarter of an inch or so wide to be strong
enough to hold your floppy poppy for at least a season. Other good
choices are the sword-like leaves of Cordyline and Dracaena. These
members of the agave family are less succulent than most Agave
species and, if picked green, can also be stripped for their supple
fibers in a similar fashion. Some members of cordyline, such as the
brilliant red ‘Festival Grass,’ have very narrow leaves to start
with and one cut leaf may proved nearly three feet of plant

Besides the natural look of these garden-variety plant ties,
they are organic and will eventually break down naturally. If the
trussed plant has fulfilled its seasonal purpose and is tossed on
the compost heap, the tie can go right along.

Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland,
will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The
Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to


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