By Francesca Filanc, for Let’s Talk Plants! April 2022.
‘April Showers Bring May Flowers’
The expression originates from a line in an English poem from long ago.
Wisteria has always been my favorite flowering vine. I am sure this is because Mum, Pat Welsh, loved wisteria and has multiple stories about wisteria and a deep love of the flowering, hugely fragrant vine from the time she was a small child. Check out her book All My Edens, A Gardener’s Memoir to read wisteria stories in Chapter 7: “The Wisteria That Wouldn’t Give Up”.
To find in detail everything you would want to know about growing wisteria check out Mum’s book Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening - Month by Month. The book is now an eBook but can be found used online. PatWelsh.com.
In San Diego, Wisteria blooms starting in March or April depending on the weather that year. I have planted bare-root wisterias in every garden where we have lived in CA.
The trick to having profuse blooms is to prune them properly each year. Pruning them can be lots of fun. I have taught the gardener how to prune them and he climbs on top of the pergolas to prune all though the summer. Mum gives details on how to prune in her books. The side branches are called twiners. These are the ones to cut back to one or two buds. This will become a spur after it flowers. It is especially important never to cut off the spurs. They will bloom year after year.
Did You Know?
Chinese wisteria winds one way and Japanese wisteria winds the other way up the posts; clockwise and counterclockwise.
When I went to Japan in 2018, one of the highlights was my trip to ‘Ashikaga Flower Park’. The wisterias were not in bloom yet. There was one that was over four hundred years old! I loved seeing the structure of the wisteria trees and vines and all the spurs that would produce heavenly flowers in April. Notice how the flowers are all around the posts of the pergola. Chinese Cooks variety blooms first and leaf’s out after the blooms. Japanese varieties bloom and leaf out at the same time the Japanese blooms last longer. Cooke's Purple™ Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis 'Cooke's Purple' variety gives a breathtaking look but a shorter bloom.
Spring has sprung in the garden when the wisteria blooms. Pete and I use to ride our horses on amazing trails. There was one trail where we use to ride that we named the Wisteria Trail. There was an incredibly old, I think Japanese wisteria that wound around the hedges on the trail. I would always get so excited when the wisteria came into bloom.
As I write this, we had rain all last night and most of this morning. The sun came out this afternoon. When I opened my window this morning the ambrosial sweet scents from the wisteria wafted into the house. I spent a good portion of my day walking around the garden, taking in the beauty and fragrances to behold.