Thursday, 1 October 2020

Standard trees - to stake, or not to stake?

A while ago, I wrote about how to reduce a standard Bay Tree in size, if it had grown a bit too large for your garden, while retaining the nice shape.

A "standard", by the way, is the name which gardeners use, to describe a plant, shrub,  or tree which has been manipulated into what you might call a "lollipop" shape,  ie with a clear straight stem, and a big cloud of foliage at the top.

Here's one I made earlier; (*laughs*) - right: this is a variegated Euonymus, which has been coerced into being a single central stem, with a tuft of foliage at the top. 

 It is tied to the wall, by the way, not as punishment, but because my Trainee and I had just that minute re-potted it, and I wanted to give the roots a chance to settle down, before being blown about by the wind.

The shape of it, however, is the classic "standard".

So, after writing the above article, I then received a question, asking whether some newly bought, standard, Bay Trees would need to be staked, or not.

An interesting question!

Interesting, because normally, any plant which has been formed into a standard would indeed require staking: being made into a standard is a somewhat un-natural thing to do (see my job description, right: I spend all my days torturing plants for a living...), as it involves removing all the lower growth, leaving only a tuft of foliage at the top: and anyone can see that such a plant is going to be top-heavy, and prone to being blown over by the wind. So, staking would appear to be necessary.

However, it depends on what the plant is, and how high it stands, so really, this is one of those questions where you need to see the plants, in order to give a sensible response.

As a generalisation:  if it were a rose, or a climber such as Wisteria, it would definitely need a stake, no matter how low or high the stem was.  

If it were something like my Euonymus, ie a tough-stemmed woody shrub, it shouldn't need any support, if the clear stem is in proportion to the top knot. 

But if it were a very tall standard, then it would still need support, unless it was a very solid, mature shrub such as this one, left.

So what about these newly-bought Bay standards, then? 

Well, the easy answer is to say that when you buy your new Bay trees, they will either have a stake already supporting them, in which case yes, they will need the stake: or they'll be stout and strong, without stakes, in which case they will probably be fine without staking.

There, I hope that helps!

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