Guest columnist Stephen Harding: Blooming wisteria still can’t be trusted




Published: 05-27-2024 9:43 AM


I have wisteria plants on my property. My mother planted it (or rather, had me plant it), probably close to 20 years ago. Wisteria is supposed to be a very beautiful plant, although a bit on the on the invasive side. For almost all of those 20 years, the plant just sat there; looking at you as if you were nothing; as if at its level of communication, you were essentially just too dumb to figure out wisteria-world. It’s a plant!

Put it in the earth and it grows or doesn’t. What more is there to be considered? For at least 15 years, my mother never saw a bloom. Finally, in the last couple of years of her life, she did indeed see some miniscule flowers from the plant. Unfortunately, it was at a time where her macular degeneration produced a sort of gray scale of vision; not much in the way of color. She passed in 2021, never really seeing what a wisteria could do as a display.

Myself, I continued cutting the wisteria back when it tried to occupy the roof of my house. I carefully “pruned” the plant to get the most from its growth. I was kind and empathetic to the wisteria. I wanted it to flourish, if not for me than for the memory of my mother. No such luck!

I had heard from a florist grower friend of my mother that you have to “scare” the plant for it to flower. Apparently it wants to vegetationally grow rather than flower (who cares about sex if you can’t grow!). The key to have a beautifully flowering wisteria is … fear! Scare it to death!

So last year, when I discovered a runner from my wisteria heading off to my neighbor’s house, it was a wake up call. You have to be cruel to the plant to be kind to it. That plant would surely cross the road between us via utility poles and wires and back down to her side of the road to envelop her house and maybe trap her inside so that bad things might happen to her.

I like my neighbor, although I confess I might not care if it were a neighbor I was not so considerate of.

So, in the interest of neighbor relations (the neighbors wouldn’t like me much if they knew I was enlisting the wisteria to do them in), I decided I must constrain the wisteria. The wisteria had to be “talked to.” Rather than carefully prune shoots back that went nowhere (mostly those that intended harm to me or my neighbors), I simply sliced away with a hedge trimmer, like some Friday the 13th movie.

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Just cut, cut, cut without any consideration of the form of the plant. Just teach it that I was not to be trifled with! Apparently I scared it.

This spring the wisteria is blooming in profusion. A gorgeous flowering of blooms throughout the length of the plant’s span. The plant is equal to what one might see at various well-known gardens. My mother would be very pleased.

I hope that in some way, my mother knows her wisteria has finally spectacularly bloomed as she had always hoped. I know it has and the fact that I know means, at least to me, she knows.

But when I sleep, I know the wisteria is out there, waiting!

Stephen Harding lives in Florence.