This article about Wisteria in Gardenista reminded me of an assignment I did in Landscape Design. I can’t remember any details of the assignment except that the “client” wanted Wisteria growing up and over an arbour. One of the other students felt it was wrong plant wrong place and asked to just omit it, but the instructor insisted it was non-negotiable. I omitted it. (It’s just now occurred to me that maybe it was meant to be a trick question–as in, what would we have to do to the arbour in order to make it compatible with Wisteria…?)

I’m sure you’ve read the article (it’s short and pretty), so I’ll just quote its main point:

You invited them to stay for a few days, and now it has been weeks. Although you asked them to stow their bags on the luggage rack and place their coats and boots in the mudroom, their belongings are strewn helter-skelter all over the place. You check the fridge and notice the groceries you stocked this morning are almost gone. At your wits’ end, you wonder, what do I say to these inconsiderate guests?

That’s how Wisteria sinensis behaves, (described in Wikipedia as “beautiful but ruthless Chinese wisteria”) but because it’s a plant and not family, you can be a strict disciplinarian with it. (FYI, “American Wisteria” or Wisteria frutescens is a bit smaller, a bit less aggressive, with smaller and therefore less messy flowers. But it’s still Wisteria!)

  1. It grows quickly, so even if you’re really good at pruning two or three times a year, it’s still growing bigger underground, and its “stem”, aka “trunk”, is also growing. So it’s getting really heavy. Unlike my fictional client in the assignment, you can choose where to plant it, and if the best spot is over an arbour, strengthen that arbour, or replace it with something that’s really sturdy!
    This is NOT a suitable arbour for Wisteria!
    This is NOT a suitable arbour for Wisteria!


  2.  Even better, IMHO, is to train it to a tree form. (Check out that Youtube video–the tree in bloom at the end of the 3 minutes is amazing!)
    Tree form wisteria
    Tree form wisteria

    This above wouldn’t be my preferred wisteria tree, (I prefer the one in the Youtube video), but kudos to these homeowners for trying. Or the landscape designer for choosing it.

  3. I’m pretty sure I had a picture of wisteria trained along a chain link fence, but can’t find the pic. It was severely curtailed, but successfully covered the fence (only 40” high as is allowable for a front yard fence) without looking out-of-control.
  4. Bottom line is: prune, prune, prune!

Would love to hear your comments. Go to Client Site Analysis page for design help.

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