HOW TO TRAIN AND TAME WISTERIA
The varieties that won’t become a problem
“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