Wonderful-looking wisteria enjoys a vintage year
AS WITH so many other flowering trees and shrubs this spring, wisteria is having a vintage year. It is a warm country plant, native to the Far East, and it luxuriates in a warm summer, building up masses of flower buds of which we are getting the benefit now.
Wisteria is one of those plants that lots of people who have never grown it still get the benefit from, because it is so visible, climbing on the front of houses in view of the public road.
There is a bit of work to growing a wisteria well so it is nice to be able to appreciate the owners' efforts.
There are two main kinds of wisteria, the Chinese species and the Japanese wisteria. The one that is in flower now is the Chinese species.
It flowers before the leaves appear, usually with pale violet-blue flowers, although there is a white form too. Because the leaves are only emerging, the flowers can be seen in full display.
In a few weeks, the Japanese wisteria flowers with very long flowers draped over the foliage, and through it. There are several versions of this plant, some with flowers one metre long. The white-flowered kinds have an almost dreamy effect. There are double-flowered forms, such as 'Black Dragon' with very dark purple flowers.
Although it is usually grown on a house wall, and often on a front wall, wisteria can be grown on fences, trellis and metal supports, such as chains and cables. It looks great climbing on a pergola, trellis or arch, or trained on a tripod of poles.
When grown on supports, it quickly reaches the highest point and then begins to make squat, bush-like growth. It can also be grown in a large pot and trained to make a small standard tree with a bushy top above a clean stem, supported with a stake as the stem is not all that strong.
Being from a warm climate originally, wisteria must be planted in a sunny position for the plentiful production of flower buds, with reasonably good shelter from strong winds because the young shoots are very flexible and easily damaged.
Wisteria is part of the pea family with fragrant pea-type flowers. Pea family plants need good drainage and soil that is not too rich.
Wisteria can grow too vigorously in rich soil and this can delay and reduce flowering. And it creates a lot more pruning back of surplus whippy shoots which is done in summer, after tying in the ones needed for expansion.