Friday, May 13, 2011


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.

A finger in the ocean - Cornwall

A classic Cornish garden view of rhododendron with bluebells and wild garlic - Antony House.

Vast rhododendrons, vaster than you ever imagined you’d see, magnolias with their impossibly large flowers on as yet leafless branches, camellias forming virtual forests, Gunnera manicata spreading like an ambitious triffid along a valley floor, sheets of bluebells and other wildflowers, bamboos with stems as thick as drainpipe, cordylines spiking the sky, banks of azaleas beckoning with that scent you could almost drink, and oddities, things you have never seen before and send you scurrying into the leafage to try to find a label, and failing that starting off earnest discussions with your gardening companions.
Read on............

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Daffodils are somehow the quintessential spring flower. The appearance of their distinctive yellow flowers is a sure sign that winter has either ended or is about to soon. Unlike the tulip, which appears to be dependent on us for its continued re-emergence in the garden, daffodils re-appear faithfully every year; and not just in the garden but in places such as roadsides, churchyards and parks where they have been planted, often decades ago – in some cases over a century ago. These plants are clearly great survivors, as witnessed by the number of flowers which appear in places where they have clearly been accidentally dropped or discarded – the flowers frequently mark where someone emptied the boot of their car of garden waste into a ditch or hedge, little thinking that the event and scene of their crime would be annually and flamboyantly marked for so many years to come. Read on.........