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Training a Standard Wisteria

You will need:
   
Young Wisteria plant
    Multi purpose compost
    10L or 15L pot
    A very strong support for the plant when in the large pot, not bamboo as this will rot, it will need to be in the pot for about 2 years. This needs to be clear of the compost by the ultimate height of the standard plants clear stem.
    Alternatively you could plant the Wisteria in it's final position and do all the training there. In this case substantial metal supports that will last for years will need to be put in place from the start. This will look rather odd for a while though (couple of years) like you have some scrap iron in the garden.
    Substantial metal support for the tall and heavy plant.

I had this idea at the back of my head that it would be a good idea to train and grow a standard Wisteria. I like Wisteria and I like some plants that are trained as standards. It also seemed like a good long term challenge as they are significantly larger and longer growing than most plants that are commonly trained as standards.

I also read something once about the Victorians growing standard Wisteria in parks and how some of them having become mature and self-supporting had "substantial pieces of ironwork" amongst the twisted trunks.

A serendipitous trip to a garden centre meant that I saw a poor little unwanted Wisteria in the "cheap and poorly plants" corner. I wasn't really looking for one, but it seemed it was time to begin.

Step one with standards is a bit nerve wracking as it entails cutting off all shoots bar one which is to be the leader and trained up the support - so here goes....

As I wanted to go to about 6 feet before I allowed the plant to start to spread horizontally I needed to put in a strong support which itself needed to be firmly held in the pot.

I screwed an off cut of hardwood (decking board as it happened) onto the end of a broom handle and planted them into a 10L pot. The little Wisteria was a bit lost to start with but grew into it's home.

There is now about a 2 year gap while it grew strongly up and outwards - this co-incided with a lack of photographs I'm afraid, so you have to imagine the interim stages!

The initial broom handle wasn't long enough especially as part of it was in a pot, so I had to add another bit onto it with some builders-band and wood screws to take it to the required 6 feet. I also attached a wooden X to the top with wires in between to encourage the shoots to grow around.

Once you let the plant grow outwards rather than upwards, this will be its final height. You will not be able to grow it higher than this as it sets the clear stem.

The whole thing was quite elaborate and large at this time and so the ends of two arms of the X were attached to the back of my house by screws to stop the whole thing blowing over. It had also progressed to a 15L pot by now too

Eventually the rocking back and forth caused the spliced and screwed connection to fail, as the end of the wooden broom handle in the compost was starting to rot it seemed like the plant was telling me it was time to put it in the garden.

With help I transported it down the garden to where it was to be planted (above picture). Luckily the main stem was strong enough not to have suffered damage too, but we had to be careful as the whole plant was very top-heavy by now and could easily be broken.

Given the state of the wooden supports after just a couple of years, I decided it was time to use some metal work to support the plant from now on.

I found some metal rods about 4 feet long that screwed together and so fortunately had a thread in the top too to take a bolt which held the supportive metal X. This would take the place of the wooden support. If I was to do this again I'd use a metal support from the outset.

I have no idea what I would have used if I hadn't had these items lying around I'm afraid so cannot suggest anything. It was a case of I stopped looking when I found the ideal thing. The metal X was to support the already placed wooden X at the top of the wooden vertical

I dug my planting hole, deeper than the 15L pot that the Wisteria was in and at least twice the volume of this pot. I cut a circle out of the turf first as it is due to start off life in the lawn - it may in the future be either stand-alone, or I may decide to attach it to a pergola according to whim and / or how it gets on in the meantime.

One of the screw together metal rods was bashed in with a lump hammer using a piece of wood to protect the end. getting the depth right was crucial here as was measuring carefully the height of the plant above ground level. It was like I was going to keep the roof and chimney in place, but temporarily remove the supporting walls, if the new ones were too tall or too short, things would be a bit of a disaster!

Keeping the support vertical was difficult too, a job that took quite a long time and much careful measuring with tape and spirit level.

The hole was now ready to take the plant. First of all I half filled it with well rotted garden compost and mixed it in before making a hole again a little larger than the pot the Wisteria was in.

Again (sorry) there are no pictures of the stages whereby the Wisteria is detached from its old support, planted and attached to the new support. There were two of us doing this job and we had at least one arm too few between us (although we did have the normal compliment of 2 lots of 2), so there was no opportunity to take pictures while it was in progress.

The sequence of events was to slide out the old support pole and then remove the plant pot. One person then carried the pot and another the top growth placing it carefully onto the new metal X at the top of the metal support.

Very carefully the root ball was wound around the new metal support so that the stem spiralled up it in the same way that it had around the previous wooden support. This was a very tricky job as the root ball was very heavy and the stem quite easily snapped by the weights and forces needed to move it all.

Eventually though we managed it, the root ball was suitable planted in the soil/compost mix without pulling on the stem or pushing it up too far.

The wooden supporting X (about twice as long as the new metal one) was attached atop the metal one and I breathed a sigh of relief.

At this point it will be nigh on impossible to replace the metal supports, so they need to be strong enough and placed firmly enough to never need replacing.

All that remains is to wait for it to flower!


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