Good Standards

Standards are useful for adding height to a border and look particularly impressive when planted closely together in groups of three or four.

Standard trees and shrubs of all different sizes make ideal specimen plants. They are ideal for creating focal points in key areas of the garden and can also be used to line a path, frame a doorway or bring interest to a bare wall.

A standard is a plant, usually a woody shrub, with a tree-like form. Sometimes referred to as balls-on-sticks, standards contain a single, straight trunk devoid of any foliage topped by a round or weeping mass of foliage. Standards grown in pots make excellent accent plants on a patio.

One of the most popular standard plants is the rose. It is created by budding three shrubs on a stem; hence the dramatic effect. English roses, with their natural, bushy growth and beautiful, fragrant flowers, are the finest roses for growing as standards.

Whether in a container or in the ground, you should site your standard in a sheltered part of the garden. Keep the plant staked throughout its life, and upgrade to sturdier stakes as the plant and its crown mature. Prune the growing tips of the standard often to maintain the rounded shape. Fertilize the standard as you would the regular form of the plant; for example, rose fertilizer for rose standards or an acid-loving formula for gardenias.

Overwintering standards is a challenge, even if the parent plant is normally winter hardy in your area. A greenhouse maintained just above freezing is an ideal place to overwinter tender standards, like fuchsias. Remove dropping leaves to prevent fungal diseases from developing. You can uproot standard roses and bury them in a shallow trench, or bring them into the greenhouse. Hardier plants like wisteria and lilac can remain outdoors, if you protect the whip with plastic tubing and knock snow from the branches to prevent breakage.

The worst sort of winterising involves subjecting any standard to the warm air and weak light of the indoors, which encourages spindly growth.

Popular standards

  • Roses
  • Rosemary
  • Ceanothus
  • Viburnum
  • Marguerite daisy
  • Bay
  • Buddleia
  • Hibiscus
  • Euonymus
  • Wisteria



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