It's summer (at last!!) and the garden is bursting with life: it's easy to forget about our trees and climbers, in all the excitement, but now is a good time to check up on anything which has a stake supporting it, or which is tied on to any sort of framework.
Why? Because the stems grow stouter as each year passes - we're all familiar with the growth rings of trees, and let's face it, most of us are getting stouter round the middle as well - and what started out as support can, after a couple of years, become a corset: and if not adjusted, it can then go on to cause strangulation.
All it takes is a quick check once a year, and this is a good time to do it, as they are putting on new growth for this season.
Trees: check that the strap around the stake is not so tight that it is cutting in, by loosening the tie and looking at the bark underneath it. If you can see an indentation, it's too tight: do it up again, but not quite so tight. Make sure that there is a buffer - usually a rubber block - between the stake and the tree, so that they don't rub together and damage the bark. If there isn't a buffer to be found, undo the tie, and wrap it in a figure of eight around the stem and the post, which allows a bit of movement while still giving support.
Roses, standard: just as with trees, look at where the ties are, and check that they are not too tight. Ties should be firm enough to hold the stems in place, not allowing them to flap about, but should not have a bulge above and below them. Again, they need to have a buffer between the stake and the stem, otherwise the stem will be damaged by being pressed against the stake: and once the stem is damaged, disease can get in, which could kill the entire rose. This is particularly disastrous for top-grafted roses, as any new growth from below the point at which it is tied to the stake will be from the rootstock, and won't be as lovely.
Roses, climbing: check the thicker, older stems to see if their ties are cutting in. Also, you might find that some of the older stems have been tucked behind the trellis or other supports, and are now so thick that they are having a contest with the trellis: either the rose will push the trellis off the wall, or the trellis will win, and the rose stems will be squashed and distorted. Either of these will be bad! It's not usually possible to do much about it while they are in the middle of flowering, but make a note for the autumn, which is a better time to do some serious pruning.
A little bit of attention now could make the difference between a healthy plant which will enjoy a long life in your garden, or a sad strangled thing with dead bits... so if you can, take a few minutes this weekend to do a quick round, and check your ties.