|Four year old wisteria on our house. Rather raggedy Tibetan prayer flags in front.|
|Wisteria tunnel at Antony House, Cornwall|
There’s a house just down from the Garden Museum in London’s Lambeth where in April you can smell the wisteria quite a long way before you see it. It is a vast plant, covering three stories of a 19th century house with flower. The scent is really something, especially as it is on an otherwise rather dreary road.
|Flowers are produced on old wood.|
We are actually rather proud of our wisteria – it is now four years old and has flowered well for the first time. Yet the plant is notorious for not flowering. What happens is that it just grows masses of stems and foliage. Think of wisteria as a temperate zone liana – an immense woody stemmed climber with more in common with tropical Tarzan vines than tame old clematis and honeysuckle. It basically wants to climb to the top of large trees, up to 25m, where it can then flower. On houses, there is rarely the space available for them to develop anything like their full size.
|No not our house - worse luck, but Wisteria running up the tower of the Landesmuseum in Zürich - 20-25m high.|
Pruning is normally used to restrict size of the plant, and to stimulate flowering, on younger and smaller plants than would happen in nature. You have to be ruthless – in fact I think we have taken off 90% of the plant’s growth over the years.
|Restricting the growth of the plant to a framework is crucial to develop a tidy plant and flowering.|
|Important to cut back all fresh stems from the main stem, otherwise you'll end up with a tangled mess.|
|Wisteria will twist any vertical support wires around it|
|So, you need to have an adjustable link to the bottom of any vertical wire supports.|