This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Primary importance must be attached to the time at which support of any kind is to be afforded. The principal evils to be corrected in the methods at present pursued are staking plants at too late a period, and doing it with unsuitable materials, or in a slovenly way. If a specimen be not early staked, however neatly this operation may be afterwards performed, it will ever, betray the neglect from which it has suffered, and can very rarely be brought into the required position. Beyond this, there is the danger of being broken or injured from wind and other causes, to which it is exposed prior to staking, and the fact that it is not necessary for stakes, when timeously applied, to be so strong; when, by consequence, they are not rendered so prominent or perceptible. Let a plant be staked while it is small or young, and its appearance will remain as natural as if it had not been staked at all; but wait tin it has begun to straggle, and no subsequent care will suffice to relieve it of the constrained unnatural aspect it must them be made to wear.
Whatever material be employed for supporting plants, the chief object should be to conceal the stakes; and hence they ought to be as straight and free from projecting parts as possible, and as short and slender as comports with the purpose for which they are designed. Crooked stakes, those which have irregular and broken branches, such as are unnecessarily stout or tall, and stakes made of a soft pliable wood, or haying too rugged an exterior, are exceedingly unfit for ornamental uses in the case of erect-growing species. The most proper are those which are smooth, straight, free from irregularities, just strong enough' to effect their object, and so long as to reach only within a few inches of the top of the specimen, or as high as support may-be needed. There are likewise many objections to the ordinary modes of applying stakes, or fastening plants to them. It is wrong to place the stake between the plant and the path from which it is looked at; for the object that ought to be hidden is thus made most conspicuous. It is improper to thrust the stake into the earth near the stem of the plant, particularly if it be a tuberous-rooted or bulbous species; since much damage may be done to the specimen, and probably some of its main roots and sources of sustenance be cut off thereby.
For the same reason, it is equally erroneous to use a stick that is not prepared with a long smooth tapering point, or has any considerable asperities on that portion that is to enter the ground. - M. S.