Thursday, 13 June 2013

Wisteria

Some things move you.  Other things leave you cold.  Meadows move me, real ones, not synthetic jump on the bandwagon ones.  Trees move me, big trees, native trees, the trees on our boundary: oak and ash and hawthorn and holly.  Bedding plants don't.  Lavender hedges move me.  Roses grown on swags of rope don't.  Bluebells and sea pinks move me.  Begonias don't.  I don't know why.  I could have a go at trying to explain but it is not all rational. 

Wisteria moves me.  It always has.  It is ludicrous in some ways.  It is a plant which is so over the top it could be a climbing, rampaging begonia, and yet somehow its lushness and its falls of flower stay just this side of kitsch.  It remains subtle, even whilst taking your breath away.  The delicacy of the leaf pattern reminds me of rowan and ash trees, both of which I love.  The flowers are like coming upon a waterfall.  A few years ago my parents lived in a house in Devon which had been a small manor house and had then been divided into four houses.  Each of the four houses was a beautiful place although technically the two middle ones were terraced houses I suppose.  The end house had a beautiful wisteria which gathered the others to it.  When it flowered the whole building regained its unity.

So I have wanted a wisteria for years.  For most of my life I lived in houses with gardens so small than wanting a wisteria was a nonsense - I would like a wisteria and here is the six foot of fence I can offer it.  Silly.  In our last house we had a bigger garden, still a city garden but with a wall and a sense of space.  Ian built a pergola for me and I spent hours and hours thinking and reading about what to plant on it.  The planting included a wisteria but I didn't know then that you should only buy a new wisteria plant in flower.  A plant which has not yet flowered might take many years to get there.  Even a small plant in flower will continue to flower from year to year.  So I chose my wisteria very carefully, bought a young plant and watched it for five years grow bigger and better and fail to flower.  We sold the house and left never having seen the wisteria flower.  That house was sold again recently and we looked at the details on rightmove as you do.  There in the garden was the pergola and the wisteria in full flower.  So it did happen, ten or more years on, just not for us.

As part of my ongoing enquiry into open space and enclosure I have wondered about intensifying the sense of enclosure in the side garden.  Ian built a structure for me on which to make a living wall.


This is not a good picture.  I see it as a wall of planting, as good in leaf as in flower.  I know that now it looks like a very open fence.  Trust me (this is me talking to myself as much as anything).  It will work.  It might take a while.

The planting in the side garden is very foliage heavy and at the moment is very purple and orange.  That sounds odd I know but it doesn't look odd.  It looks rather glorious just now.



I am hoping that the foliage will help to anchor the wisteria when it eventually gets going.  So yesterday we planted a Wisteria sinensis Prolific.  I have tried to find a hardy, vigorous plant as our conditions can be harsh.  The soil is full of stones and many things will not grow up here.  I see no reason why a wisteria won't it it is coddled a little in the first year or so.  So we (by which I mean Ian) dug a hole four times as large as the pot and backfilled it with soil and compost.


You see what I mean about the soil.  It does not look promising.  Whenever I see Monty Don on Gardener's World working his rich dark soil I do not know whether to weep or have a wry smile.


In it went.


Close your eyes and use your imagination and you can almost get the idea.


Open them again and you find it looks like this.


Close your eyes and again.  Image not mine but courtesy of psychotropia.

Now to try to keep it alive.

46 comments:

  1. Wisteria seem to grow well here at my place. I have one flowering in three years from seed. But they need shelter and the seedlings that I planted in an open grassy area died.

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    1. We have planted it in a place which is sheltered from the prevailing winds and south facing, about as favoured as you can get up here, but I am still a bit worried about our rubbish soil! We shall see.

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  2. I have a small garden, so my Wisteria growing went down the gnarled tree route instead. Sadly mine died (I call it the curse of Gardeners' Question Time, because it died after I asked a question about it on there), but I think with your care and attention, yours stands a very good chance indeed :) Looking forward to opening my eyes and finding the reality and the dream are the same.

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    1. Ah you see, yours died. There is a bit of running theme in some of these comments about dying or non flowering wisteria...

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  3. I long for a wisteria after seeing one draped romantically across the eves of a white picket fenced cottage . . idyllic, 'twas, and I fell in love. Sadly, I do not have earth near my house so my dream remains unfulfilled at present.
    Gardener's World, a must see in my house, can be the most depressing thing to watch, especially when Monty's raised beds are exemplary and mine are still unassembled :( His compost bins and soil leave mine in the dust. Still, I console myself by saying that it is his job and I can only garden in my spare time!

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    1. When wisteria is good it is spectacular. That seems a funny word to use when mine is so small!

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  4. I love wisteria. But I have had two of them die on me which wasn't very nice of them especially as they were just getting to a respectable size. Admittedly the second one was my fault: I cut it back in winter and it sulked itself to death. It was competing with an upstart clematis and I think it thought I was tying one hand behind its back. It was a rather untrained, brawling, sprawling sort of a plant and now it has gone the clematis has adopted delusions of grandeur and showers everything with the palest of pink blossoms like stars fallen out of the sky. They are undoubtedly pretty but I still have a hankering after those pendular wisterian blossoms in that lovely shade of pastel lilac so beloved of interior decorators. I like the swirl and trunkiness of its mature stems that speak of heritage and literature. But won't it worry your wisteria to be on a fence with the wind blowing in both directions at once? It won't know which way to point itself, besides it may have become so used to living on walls that its chloroplasts are probably all on one side of its leaves. A fence could confuse it. That's were a clematis might come in handy.

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    1. Here we are again - the death of wisteria theme! I love your phrase about "the swirl and trunkiness of its mature stems that speak of heritage and literature". Mine is only a baby but it has potential trunkiness.

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  5. I love wisteria too! But it blooms very early here, in late February or early March, I wish it bloomed later. It is very invasive and we have to pull it up all over the place, pot it and pass it on to friends.

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    1. Wow! The idea of wisteria in February and the plant being invasive is astonishing. As you see in this thread, it can die over here!

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  6. We've never had wisteria in any of our gardens, although we have been thinking of it the last year or so. But this charming house we rent in Bordeaux has two magnificent plants in the tiny back garden (Okay, obviously it's not that tiny, but it's basically en enclosed terrace, big enough for a dining table that might seat 8, at a pinch). We've missed most of the flowering, but you're right that this plant contributes so much through its foliage -- a wonderfully lacy, engaging effect -- and through the romantic twists of its vines, from root, through thickening branches, unto the tips searching out the next place of purchase . . . I do hope you'll remember to show us photos of yours over the next few years. It's going to be glorious, I'm sure!

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    1. To be able to show you photos over the coming years would be wonderful. I hope I can.

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  7. I have a soft spot for wisteria too. It grew on the front of the manor house turned school where I grew up. Now my sister in law has two plants on her trellis and it is finally flowering in abundance.

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    1. As Weaver says below and as you show, some of what moves you moves you because of this sort of association.

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  8. Wisteria moves me too. I love the perfume and the happy, busy buzzing of the bees that it attracts. I have a youngish wisteria by my front door now. It's a descendent of a wisteria I had in a large pot for years, that we took with us through several moves, branches flapping on the back of a truck as it drove down the freeway. Each time the wisteria was bigger and heavier. The last house where we finally left the wisteria behind had a long tall fence in the back. That wisteria grew through the bottom of the plastic (fake terracotta) pot, it's flowering tendrils capped the fence from one end to the other and rose up through the branches of the large walnut tree in the neighbor's garden.

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    1. Am loving the image of the travelling wisteria, leaves and flowers blowing in the wind!

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  9. I'm glad you like wisteria. I never have, particularly. To me, it smells awful - like the inside of my nose when I have a cold. (Sorry, I know it's gross, but that's what if makes me think of.) We had one here when we moved in, at the corner of the house draped on a huge wooden trellis. The wisteria grew to an enormous size and furnished a wonderful hidden spot for a wasp colony to build its nest -- about twice the size of a ruby ball when we finally found it. It was so big we couldn't handle it ourselves and had to get the exterminators in. The wisteria is gone now, the wasps are gone, and so is the dreadful smell from under my bedroom window. I think I will see if I can find a nice fragrant honeysuckle to plant in its place, as it still looks a bit bare there. But no more wisteria! Not for me.

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    1. It is funny isn't it how fundamental these preferences are. I have friends who love lilac and others who find the smell sickly and overpowering. The trick is to work out what you love and make sure you live with it!

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    2. You're so right about the personal associations with plants. One of my sisters-in-law hated lilacs, because she and her husband went through a horrific string of bad luck when they were living in Tonbridge, Kent, in an old house surrounded by lilacs. To her, the scent was always associated with trouble and unhappiness...

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    3. Just re-read my original post above -- the wasp's nest was the size of two rugby balls, not two ruby balls! I really must watch those typos! xoxo

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  10. I totally agree about what plants move you and what leaves you cold. And strangely enough my likes and non likes are very much like yours Elizabeth. I do think some of it is by association with one's childhood - my father was a lupin man and I love them too. We also had two climbing roses - Doctor Van Fleet and Albertine - I now have them both in my garden along with the rambler Alexander Girault. I hate rose beds but I do love roses that take control and go where they want to go.
    As for wisteria - what;s not to love.

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    1. Well, what's not to love, ask CC above! I agree about associations. I also think it is like music or literature or even food in that your tastes can mature over time so some of what moves me comes out of my childhood and young adulthood and some has grown on me. Topiary for example!

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  11. Before you know it, it will be all over that fence. We had one on the gable wall of a small cottage and it was a constant battle to keep it within bounds. But every year, late frosts permitting, it flowered its little socks off and was a joy.

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    1. I really really hope you are right! Need to avoid the early death. Generally things sulk here for the first year but if they survive that they keep going!

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  12. When we moved here 14 yrs ago I spotted a Wisteria growing against the red brick garden wall. It took up about a metre and was bunched together with orange binder twine and nailed to the wall with thin wire.

    I untied it, stretched it out and found that when trained in horizontal tiers it covered about 7 metres of wall :-)

    Most years it flowers wonderfully at the end of April, peaking on May Day. One or two years recently a frost has cut all the buds and then it's a long wait til next year.

    This year we've had to wait until June for the Wisteria to flower! I had given it a really good prune and tie in early Feb, it is a glorious waterfall of grey/blue/mauve underplanted with Geranium psilostemom and purple alliums and alive with buzzing bees when the sun shines.

    I hope one day yours gives you as much pleasure as ours does for us xx

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    1. Yours sounds wonderful and is doing just what I dream of!

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  13. I hold high hopes and regard for your newly planted Wisteria . . . I long for the look in my gardens too but doubt our soil would provide me blooms. Thereis a little town not far from me, and there is a house, large stately home and at the entrance there is this gorgeous wisteria. It cascades across the front . . . oh my, it is so beautiful. I hope something like that will happen for you!

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    1. Things grow slowly here and a great cascade may be some time off but I hope so!

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  14. I love Wisteria but it does test a gardener's patience because it takes so long to look its best. I hope your one thrives. I've planted one on the south wall of our new barn and was thrilled to see some flowers on it this year. But in a village close by there is Wisteria, possibly the largest in the country, that's 70 metres wide across a garden wall and it looks stunning. So I will not compare the two, and I will remember that the other Wisteria takes hours and hours of pruning!

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    1. My parents lived in a house with wisteria across the back, a huge one. It was fabulous but a reminder that it is not a plant for a small space. Our can have quite a bit of romping space if it ever decides to romp.

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  15. Wisteria is one of my favourites too - but unlike you I did know they should be bought in flower.

    So we did - buy one, in flower. I decided on white - preferring the idea of white racemes against our grey stone walls and 'bluey-green' paintwork. It has taken off like a rocket and in 6 years covers a large part of the two storey bit of the house. It flowers prolifically too - each year Alan fears he has slaughtered it and each year we stand back and admire its potential. Then it comes out sooooooo slowly that the beautiful flowers are over taken by the leaves and partly hidden. Rather sad.

    We have planted another variety (name escapes me) to creep around the corner and under our bedroom window. This has larger, purple flowers and is highly scented and looks as if it will be a go-er too.

    For the record - am moved by snowdrops, old roses and violets. Anything named 'exciting new variety' in the Thomson and Morgan catalogue is probably the work of the devil.

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    1. Your wisterias are beautiful. If mine is half as good I will be delighted.

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  16. Wisteria Kitsch? never.
    I am sad that I don’t have a wall for it. Besides, we probably won’t be here when it would flower. Tempus fugitting and all that.

    I am moved by green spaces, damp spaces, smelly earth and gently rotting vegetation spaces. Hence my love of shady arbours, ferneries and hosta-ries.
    You can keep your exotic, blowsy, over-the-top colourful plants.

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    1. Friko, you would love Western Washington then! Our state is actually the rhododendron but most people assume it's moss!!

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    2. I love shade and ferns too. We don't grow the damp loving plants well up here, the soil is too stony, but we do good green.

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  17. I can see it! I can see it! Seriously, I didn't know that about only buying wisteria in flower, and it explain a lot (but not quite everything) - thank you...

    OK... many years ago I bought a wisteria for my mother and it didn't flower. It went on not flowering for several years, so my ma - being bonkers and I'm not like her at all - stuck a photograph of a wisteria on the glass of the window it was supposed to frame, image facing out so the plant could see it (!), and went and threatened it with violence and the compost heap. Alarmingly, it worked. Coincidence...?

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    1. I am sure it was no such thing. Wisterias of plants of high intelligence.

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  18. I was fortunate enough to inherit a small flowering Wisteria when I bought this house. I moved it, as you do, to somewhere more suitable, and I have been impressed every year since. Well, except last year, but that was down to the appalling weather. It is glorious, but I do need to do some serious training!

    I think that yours will look absolutely wonderful in that spot. Absolutely ideal. My fingers are crossed that it takes to it's new home.

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    1. You moved it? Here am I worrying about mine and you blithely up and move it? You are a brave woman!

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    2. I had no idea that it probably wasn't a good idea. So, very naive rather than brave!

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  19. I love Wisteria , especially realy old ones that get all gnarly as they wind up their way up equally ancient walls .
    And I'm definitely looking forward to admiring yours in the near future . The living wall idea is fascinating .

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    1. The old ones are amazing. You can see that they would pull something over with ease. I hope ours gets to that gnarly stage. I haven't shown you the detail of the structure it is on but it is not slight!

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  20. I'm with you on wisteria. I wish we could grow it in Maine but the climate is too harsh. My in laws have the most gorgeous wisteria growing up the wall of their house and my favorite visit to Rome was during wisteria time. Your arbor will be stunning. Looking forward to updates over the years at it climbs.

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    1. Well we have returned from a week away and it is still going! Fingers crossed!

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  21. Yes! I love it too. Am currently training several seeds, sown in a pot, to become a tree rather than a climbing vine. It can be done, I'm told, with patience and lots of pruning. So far, so good! There are houses in nearby neighborhoods that have mature wisteria trees in their yards, so I know what vision to hold in my head as I train the wee wispy stalks in my pot.

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  22. I love the way you write about your garden, and your exploration of openness and enclosure. I also love the living wall idea. I have always avoided wisteria because I am rubbish at pruning things at the correct time of year, and I know wisteria thrives on well-timed pruning. Here, it wouldn't fit, but I shall enjoy watching yours gradually clothe that structure in a glorious lilac waterfall of flowers and scent.

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