HOW TO TRAIN AND TAME WIS­TE­RIA

The va­ri­eties that won’t be­come a prob­lem

Amateur Gardening - - Contents -

“For more flow­ers, both win­ter and sum­mer prun­ing are cru­cial”

Back in May, I passed a house with the whole gable end, from gut­ter to ground, cov­ered in a wis­te­ria in full flower. It was ab­so­lutely stun­ning. and with a row of or­ange wall­flow­ers planted un­der­neath, I’m sur­prised cars weren’t mount­ing the kerb as driv­ers gaw­ped in as­ton­ish­ment.

This im­pres­sive sight re­minded me not only that a flow­er­ing wis­te­ria is ar­guably the most spec­tac­u­lar climber you can grow, but that reg­u­lar prun­ing is cru­cial to keep it to the re­quired size. and now is the time to think about both of those as­pects as win­ter prun­ing should be done next month, while you can plant a new wis­te­ria any time from now un­til Fe­bru­ary.

Un­der­stand­ably, many gar­den­ers are wary of wis­te­ria, dis­cour­aged by the fact that a sin­gle spec­i­men can reach your chim­ney pot in four or five years if you let it, and that, in the wild, wis­te­rias twine to the tops of for­est trees. But don’t be daunted; we have one out­side our back door, in a con­tainer, and it’s easy to keep it be­low the height of the up­stairs win­dow.

The se­cret? Prun­ing; twice a year, in just the same way as you prune cor­don ap­ples. and it makes sense to keep your wis­te­ria to a height that you can reach from an or­di­nary step lad­der – prun­ing a larger wis­te­ria is a pre­car­i­ous busi­ness, and some­thing I’d never rec­om­mend.

The choice of va­ri­eties is un­ex­pect­edly wide. Those pen­du­lous strings, known as racemes, of pea flow­ers vary in length from 20cm/8in to al­most 1m (40in), and come in a range of soft pinks, blues and mauve shades – along with white – in May and June. Most wis­te­rias are scented, but never, ever buy an un­named plant be­cause it might have been grown from seed, in which case it could take 10 years to flower! Most va­ri­eties will flower af­ter three or four years; some af­ter just two.

What­ever you go for, win­ter and sum­mer prun­ing are cru­cial, both to pro­mote flow­er­ing and to keep your wis­te­ria man­age­able. and do­ing so is a lot eas­ier than you may think. Then again, if the prospect is still too scary, sim­ply plant your wis­te­ria un­der a tall tree and let it go!

With its abun­dant flow­ers, a well-trained wis­te­ria has clas­sic cot­tage gar­den ap­peal, and will look breath­tak­ing in late spring Great for wildlife, wis­te­ria pro­vides nec­tar and pollen for bees, and shel­ter for birds and in­sects

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