Rhaphiolepis x delacourii
This is an evergreen shrub with medium- sized, tough, leathery leaves that are dark green, sometimes changing to purple-black in cold winter conditions. Its pink or white blossoms appear in early spring and it should be clipped and pruned into shape immediately after the spring flowering. One should cease cutting in February to allow the setting of flower buds for the forthcoming spring season. It is suitable for pots or open ground planting. The suggested stem height for standards is 75 cm to 100 cm. It grows well in a diverse range of climates, from the seashore to the extremely cold inland regions.
Formal, clipped standards – often referred to as ‘lollipops’ – have made a dramatic impact on the local garden scene during the last couple of decades and there are clear indications that the trend has not yet reached its peak in terms of garden fashions. Their neat, clean-cut and distinctive shape and form, along with their varying heights, ensure that they have a unique and important function in the modern landscape. Standards are used for framing, accentuating, highlighting, defining and creating impact in both formal and informal garden designs. One of the major benefits of using standards is that they lend height to the garden without the bulk of an ordinary tree or shrub. This allows views and vistas to be maintained while adding the extra dimension of vertical height to the garden. The key success factor is to maintain the plants on an on going basis in order to retain the desirable balance and proportion of the overall design.
Here are a few practical hints and tips to help you achieve this:
* Select the correct plant for the position at the outset, taking into consideration the sun or shade factor, whether the plant is going into a pot or directly into the ground, climatic conditions, soil types and long-term availability of water.
* Ensure that the balance and proportion is correct in terms of size and height of the plant relative to the scale of the garden and the background. Remember that the length of the stem of any standard cannot be changed or altered; only the outer growth tips are clipped to maintain the shape. Standards in pots will always appear to be taller than the same plant in the ground.
* Evergreen plants with tiny to small leaves make the neatest clipped standards by virtue of the minimal visible damage caused to the foliage during the clipping procedure. Sharp, well-maintained clipping tools are essential.
* Plant standards at the correct depth into well prepared planting holes or containers. A sturdy stake that supports the stem, keeping it straight and upright, and which protrudes beyond the stem into the head of the standard, is vital. Keep the stake securely fastened in place all the time without damaging the bark of the stem.
* Regular pruning and clipping is perhaps the most important part of the on going maintenance programme. The shorter the length of growth that is removed with each successive clipping, the better.
* Regular, on going fertilising and watering goes without saying. The mark of a good ‘lollipop’ specimen is one that is densely clothed with lush, healthy foliage all the time and yet maintains a neat, tidy shape with clearly defined outlines.