Create a lush topiary with this rosemary standard.
Rosemary is one of the best plants for making a standard or tree-form topiary. Its woody stem and needlelike leaves develop into a treelike shape to grace an end table, mantel, or kitchen windowsill. To keep rosemary healthy, occasionally mist the air around plants to boost humidity. Water when soil feels dry to a depth of 2 inches.
1. Root. Start with a rooted cutting, either one you buy or one you've rooted yourself. To root a cutting, cut a 3- to 4-inch length of stem and strip the bottom leaves from it. Stand the cutting in a cell pack of soilless potting mix. Keep the medium moist while the stem roots. Resistance when you tug gently on the cutting, as well as new growth at the top, indicates that the plant has grown sufficient roots for transplanting.
2. Transplant. Select a container between 4 and 6 inches in diameter. (A large standard will be top-heavy in a small pot.) Fill the pot with enriched potting soil. Make a depression in the soil, insert the cutting, and firm the soil around it. Set the plant in a sunny spot and let it grow until it develops side branches and triples in size (about two to three months).
3. Stake. Strip off most but not all of the lower leaves. Cut a stake to match the height desired for the finished standard and push it into the soil next to the plant. Tie the stake loosely but securely to the stem with plant ties. As the plant grows, continue to tie the stem to the stake at intervals. Let the plant continue growing for two to three months, until it reaches the desired height; then snip off the main terminal shoot.
4. Snip and pinch. Loosen the ties around the stem and stake as the trunk grows in diameter. Strip off any lower leaves that develop. Snip off stem ends to promote branching and keep errant stems from developing; use the fragrant leaves in cooking. Turn the plant clockwise weekly to give all sides of the plant equal light and to keep it growing lushly in a rounded shape.