By Francesca Filanc.
All my life I have had a “love affair” with wisteria, passed down from Mum, Pat Welsh, who has written numerous books and articles and also given hundreds of talks and presented dozens of TV shows relaying the tales; known by many, as the “Wisteria Stories". (Link to learn about book here: “All My Edens” and link to website here: PatWelsh.com.)
In my lifetime I have moved many times with my husband, children and then by myself since my beloved husband, Peter, passed away. With each home that we owned I set to planting wisteria and this home was no different.
I bought my current home and quickly knew I wanted to do many gardening projects to make this garden my own. Designing them in my head from first stepping foot in my new home.
The very first project was to have a pergola built at my front door going all the way to the steps that come up from the street below. I have a wonderful handyman, Clark, who started straightaway and built a beautiful pergola with lawn on either side of the walk. (Link to read more about pergola here: https://www.sdhortnews.org/post/garden-surroundings-in-the-garden .)
The author has purchased more wisterias and put them around the garden since planting the Pergola. This tree wisteria is Wisteria sinensis 'Cooke's Purple'. Photo credit: Francesca Filanc.
Wisteria are drought resistant once they are established and they like fertilizer for the first few years. They need good drainage, or their roots will rot. Case in point, one of Mum’s wisteria stories . . . Patwelsh.com
Clark built boxes for each vine, raised beds built 4" above the lawn (a raised bed does not need to be very high, 4" is plenty).
My friend at Armstrong’s Nursery in Del Mar, CA ordered me six purple Cooke's Chinese Wisterias that sat in my back yard until the area was ready to plant.
I moved to this property five years ago and the wisterias are blooming now for the fourth year.
My Mum taught me the proper way to prune wisterias years ago. The instructions are in her book “Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening Month by Month". I find it fun to do. And my gardener, Jorge, knows how to properly prune the wisterias as well. That is why I have so many beautiful blooms hanging down from on top of the pergola now. Once the wisterias have leafed out, every second or third week, Jorge climbs up on the top of the pergola to prune the twiners, the branches that grow sideways out from the main stalk. We prune them back to one or two nubs and that will make for beautiful flowers for many years. When the plant is dormant in the winter, never cut the spurs off or you will lose your beautiful flowers in the spring.
Pete and I built a ‘Southwest’ style home years ago and I had fun designing garden rooms. There were multiple garden tours, magazine articles written and television interviews done in that garden. I had a concrete and stucco pergola built in keeping with the house design before planting it with many purple and blue Japanese wisteria. They are phenomenal every year, but they look more wild since I moved away.
Now and then.
We grow two kinds of wisterias in California: Japanese and Chinese. The Japanese variety flower and leaf out at the same time, while the Cooke's Purple Chinese gives a big bloom and then leaf out after flowering. The Japanese type gives a longer display of flowers, but the Chinese is more spectacular.
Spring has sprung in our gardens. As I walk outside my front door the aroma of wisteria greets me like an old friend once again! It gives me such joy to garden and make ready for the holiday ahead.
Today, I am putting out all the garden furniture pillows after the rain and cutting rosemary to decorate tables because family are coming for the Easter holiday this year. I look forward to grandchildren frolicking, playing and painting, along with other family members, friends, and passersby enjoying the garden.
Artist, author, photographer, fly-fisher woman, Francesca Filanc grew up in old Del Mar and these days lives, paints and gardens in historic Olivenhain with two French poodles.