Our plants are under way. I love seeing the first dark crimson stems of my peonies breaking through with the promise of gorgeous fulsome blooms before too very long.

Whether you’re supporting peonies, delphiniums, peas or runner beans, get the supports in long before they’re needed. You wouldn’t assemble a runner bean frame when the plants were a metre tall so why do it in the herbaceous border? By giving runner beans a climbing frame to romp up, or keeping Hemoracallis tidy, the support is quickly hidden so it needn’t be especially attractive.

This saddens me as I often spend many hours constructing attractive natural bean and tall pea structures which no one will ever see.

So what structures to use? Wood is undoubtedly best. This natural material blends in beautifully. Luckily, I have no shortage of fanned branches and stout poles. I’ve enough alder, hazel, willow and elm stools for coppicing and can add nicely shaped winter prunings to the mix.

But most gardens will have some suitable stems and branches, especially after a winter pruning session. You could clean up a tall, straightish pole to act as a climbing frame for French beans in a bed. I usually find shorter, but quite stout 45cm branches in my pile of apple prunings. These protect the tall brittle stems of Cephalaria gigantica with their magnificent lemony blooms.

It doesn’t matter if a coppiced apple branch has irregular stems; quite the reverse. Even fairly small, 20-25cm tall fans prevent Euphorbia amygaloides ‘Purpurea' from collapsing over their neighbours.

There is, of course, a bewildering range of plastic-coated interlocking frames available and, however attractive hazel pea sticks look, plastic net with bamboo canes is an alternative. But if you want to avoid plastic you might prefer wooden trellis cut to whatever size for a permanent frame on a wall or long lasting wire netting that can be easily shaped to support different plants.

Plant of the week

Ruby Chard

Ruby chard, a cultivar of Swiss chard, is sometimes called spinach beet. It has beautiful red stems that glow in sunshine and keep much of their colour when cooked.

Chard is an easy vegetable to grow though it requires reasonably fertile soil and good moisture levels to reach its magnificent maturity. If growing to harvest as baby leaves it can be sown as a catch crop before a later crop grows large or even in a tub or trough.

Chard is a cultivar of wild Sea Beet, it did not originate in Switzerland, but it is prized there for its stems rather than its leaves. The stems can be at least 30cm long with a small leaf blade at the top; this looks a bit bizarre if you are accustomed to preferring the leaves.