The Old Forge’s Wisteria

I don’t often post about The Old Forge (one of two gardens I work in) but I will today.  I want to show you something.

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In the front garden, by the main gate, a Clematis montana sprawls over a flint wall.

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I have mostly left it alone but by last summer a tsunami of vigorous, writhing stems had rolled forward on to the bed below and climbed up and swamped the strawberry tree behind.   Fearlessly, recklessly even, I strode in wielding my secateurs and cut back the thicket of growth very hard.  I pulled masses of branches out of the tree and tugged loads more off the wall and out of the border.  Even after such harsh treatment, the clematis has put on a brave face and a decent amount of flower.  Having reduced the beast by about three-quarters, I shall keep it tamed in future whilst allowing it to spread further along the wall.

But that isn’t what I wanted to show you.

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At the back of the house, there’s a wisteria which, over the past five years, has done virtually nothing.  It has sat and sulked; non-flowering, non-shooting, annoying; drawing perilously close to bow-saw and bonfire.  But then last year it produced a flower!  One solitary flower.  Who knew that one bloom could bring such pleasure, such excitement (at least to me)?  And this year it has produced not one flower but a dozen!  Were that not thrilling enough (and it is pretty thrilling) it has also thrown out long sinuous stems; stems I can train along wires – put up years ago in easy expectation.

But that isn’t what I wanted to show you.

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Here’s what I wanted to show you – another, larger wisteria at the front of the house.  It was a single, barely flowering column when I started work here in September 2010.

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Since when, I have pruned and tied and whispered; erected wires

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and trained whippy, brittle shoots.

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A darker coloured variety would’ve sung out more against that white mortar and flint.

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But I’m not moaning (at least not much).

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I’m still training and extending it along new wires, further and further along the house.

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In the meantime I’m just relieved it has, at long last, earned its keep.  (Even if it isn’t blue).

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61 thoughts on “The Old Forge’s Wisteria

  1. I fell in love with Wisteria for the first time this year but not as a full grown plant as it is here, rather, as a BONSAI :). Having seen all those wonderful photos of aged wisteria bonsai I had to have one – well, rather given the crazy price – it was – create one! So I bought my 1st ever plant on Ebay (where else!!) – a bare twig arrived which I duly planted & which duly kicked into life about 3 wks later. However, the one main stem had branched into 3 but one of the stems had gone out the back of the trellis & I wanted it all up the front. Having done the same with honeysuckle & sweet peas etc, I decided to just gently pull the stem through the gap to the front – DISASTER – the entire stem broke clean off at the main trunk.

    I’m still shocked at just how brittle it can be and sorry I didn’t just let it go wherever it wanted but it now seems to have died completely as the only other tiny stem that had been starting lower down has disappeared :(. I’ll leave it for a while yet tho just in case, but all things being even, I think I’ll just stick to the azaleas, hawthorns, & other flowering bonsai that are a shade more resilient to messing about with.

    But that one is glorious indeed regardless of the pale colour! 🙂

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    • Those stems do break easily don’t they? I have a friend who always used to tell me about her bonsai wisteria and how many flower buds it had and would get terribly excited by it all. Generally with bonsai, I buy (or find – oak or ash saplings for example) bigger plants and prune the roots and plant into a smaller pot. That way you don’t have to wait quite so long but have a more mature plant to work with. Supermarkets sometimes sell climbers, including wisteria for just a few pounds – might be the way to go. Go on – have another try. Dave

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  2. haha, new header and updated selfie. Daring of you 🙂
    Fantastic job on the training, your wisteria appear to listen to you when you’re telling them where to place their blooms and it makes my own plant look downright dumpy. My entire garden is rather suburban though, so this doesn’t bother me a bit.

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    • Hi Frank, new individual headers on each post now thanks to this theme. I’m pleased Julia’s suburban comment didn’t upset you – considering your blog title and all. My tip? Speak slowly and concisely, telling the wisteria EXACTLY where you want the blooms to appear. Seems to work. D

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          • Yes, a smiley face mean allis forgiven. For which I am grateful. Apart from the fact that people love your blog and you get lots more comment than mine. But I’m not bitter. Not in the slightest. Not at all. I’m not, really. I’m. So happy for you. 😍😀😂😄☺️😣😏😕😉

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            • I’m chuffed that you’re so happy for me … even if it pains you (and you needed a lot of full stops). But I have little sympathy for you, Charles. The Walking Gardener is a faint glimmer in the gloaming, a darker shadow in the shade of your blog. You should see my sorry WG stats – actually, no you shouldn’t. It’d give you too much gloating pleasure. As for comments – just buy them. That’s what I do – works out at about a fiver per dozen. Bargain. Dave

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  3. Hah! That just confirms that I should never plant wisteria, clearly all in the pruning. Twice a year. And the subsequent patient training. The rewards are magnificent, (though I agree blue would be better), but way too much work for a lazy gardener like me! I do want to know why you are going to hate Charles though…

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    • Don’t worry, Janet I could never hate Charles. (Least I don’t think so – I’ve only met him once and very briefly but he seemed perfectly charming). I’m afraid it’s more than twice a year pruning though (whatever you might read in books or online). I regularly cut back shoots during the summer otherwise they twist and bind and get into all sorts of nooks and crannies. Terribly pesky. And then of course cut them again during the winter – once only! I tend four so it’s quite a bit of work but worth it, I think. Dave

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  4. I think both the clematis and wisteria are stunning! I cannot wait for my clematis to bloom, but despite my wishing, I do not yet have a wisteria – i am not really sure if they would be hardy enough to withstand our brutal wet, windy and icy winter weather. I am not sure I have ever seen one in Nova Scotia. Thank goodness for blogs and photos like yours to feed my flowering soul! Thank you!

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  5. Lively comments about wisteria, I must say! I think your placement next to the house where it will be limited in spreading was a wise decision. Once planted, it is almost impossible to get rid of. It is a very beautiful plant. I visited the American South this spring where it has naturalized in the wild and while it is quite invasive, when one sees a purple wall of it in bloom 25′ tall and equally wide, one cannot help but gasp at its beauty.

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    • Lively is the word, Eliza. I can’t take any credit for the siting of either wisteria – they were both put in before my time in the garden. In my experience (and I gather from some of the comments here from your side of the pond it is more invasive and ‘difficult’ than in the UK) it is quite easy to control. I have two at the Priory as well and yes, I have to prune them regularly during the growing season and remove unwanted shoots and suckers but otherwise it does as it’s told! Dave

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  6. A voice from the suburbs! I love wisteria and in my suburban street in South Devon there are beautiful white and lilac versions growing up people’s walls.
    I have trained a sinensis in to a small tree and it sits proudly in a pot outside our front door, delighting visitors for two weeks each year if we are lucky but what a two weeks!

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  7. Beautiful Clematis and Wisteria. There’s a huge, pale blue one growing up an old red brick wall in the local National Trust garden in which I ‘work’ as a volunteer. But love the way you write, your amazing photos and humour even more!

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  8. It must smell heavenly with all those Wisteria flowers. I like white as well as blue. It makes me wonder if you might see big, black, noisy bees in the blooms. In France we have lots of these Carpenters (Xylocopa violacea), they are pretty impressive creatures and totally inoffensive. Until recently you would not have seen one in the U.K., however, I have heard from various sources that they are now in the U.K. so keep your eyes open for them, or rather your ears as they make their presence known! Amelia

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    • Yes the scent is good, Amelia though I haven’t seen many bees on them actually. I saw my first honeybee swarm in ages the other day a the Priory but it passed overhead before I could get my camera. Haven’t heard of Carpenters but I’ll keep an eye open. I have some leaf-cutters nesting in pots of cacti in the greenhouse – must try and get some photos. Dave

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  9. I adore clematis (especially the gloriously rampant growers like C. montana and C. maczimowicziana or whatever it calls itself now, LOL) but have to admit that wisteria is on my Bane-of-Horticultural-Existence list. I was cursed with it in two gardens, plus at my ex-in-laws who had one covering –or possibly even holding up — a patio arbor; barbecues there were hell, and not just because of my in-laws. I swear if my next garden has a wisteria already in residence I will purchase a flamethrower and learn how to use it, LOL

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    • Well just how useful is that? The wisteria is holding up a patio arbour! They are rampant, I agree, but I quite enjoy the methodical snipping of stems throughout the summer and the same working over again in winter. But, yep if you turn your back for too long they will take over. But hey, I’m not trying to convince you. I realise that lots of people don’t share my love for wisteria. Ho hum. Dave

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  10. Ok,you are going to hate me for this. Firstly I love Montana’s and I loved the way that your one was asserting vitally and spreading around. It knows that the strawberry tree was nothing but a frame for it to crawl into and it was doing it in that wonderful organic way that only Montana’s know how. If there was a NSPM I’d report you. But that’s not why you’ll hate me. Before I get to that don’t think we didn’t notice that Selfie. Now you’ll have to wait to find out why you hate me as my supper has arrived.

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    • Goodness gracious Charles. I’m sitting here fretting, finger-tapping, unshaven, drinking vodka martinis, anxiously waiting. Why might I hate you? I doubt I ever would but for pity sake put me out of my misery. (But even more importantly … what did you have for your supper and was it worth the hiatus)? Dave p.s I thought I’d stuck in the selfie very subtlety. Obviously not.

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      • Sorry to have forced you into an acute state of alcohol poisening. It was a pilaff thing with lots of nuts and very tasty, thank you. I’m tempted to exercise my enormous power over your state of mind by keeping you guessing………but hard though I am (not not as bruising as Julia- now she is tough sometimes) I will allow your liver some respite. The thing is, and I’ll caveat this by saying that this is only in response to your pics, that to me the wisteria looks over- blown. On steroids. Too loud. Showing off. Brash. Over the Top. Kitsch. I don’t like it.
        There, done.

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        • Oh my! What harsh critic. So, how do you feel David should rectify that to receive favor in your eyes?
          Obviously you would like to minimize the expanse of it. What else?
          Of course keep in mind maybe the Owners and Visitors like it that way.
          Or maybe you were just “ribbing” him?

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          • Dear Charles, I shan’t hate you in the least. If one can’t state what one thinks here it’s all rather pointless isn’t it? Whilst you’re clearly wrong, wrong, wrong (did I mention that you’re wrong, wrong, wrong?) I have no problem at all with you finding the wisteria brash and kitsch (though that last adjective was rather wounding). Were the racemes around for months on end I might agree with you but for two weeks only? And yes Meta. Isn’t he harsh: a harsh brute I might say. And a ribber to boot. To answer you – yes, the owners were very impressed (or so they said!). Dave

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  11. I live in hope of our 5ft wisteria actually growing up the pergola we put in for it. It’s covered in flowers the last two years but no growth. I’ve put in a holboellia coriacea or sausage vine at the other end of the pergola as a bit of competition.

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      • Don’t know where it got the sausage vine tag David .It has evergreen leaves and small cream flowers in April/May. Its supposed to romp away…
        Btw my giant echuim rotted away over the winter.. Still got one other less interesting one ,maybe it will flower this year!

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        • Interesting, Janet – thanks. Always on the lookout for a climber for a north facing wall (I’ve just looked it up on the RHS website). Your perseverance with echiums is impressive. I think I’ve said to you that I’ve given up on them at the Priory. But I’m going to try again at The Old Forge – it doesn’t get nearly as cold during the winter. D

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  12. David, Your white Wisteria is absolutely beautiful. I bet it glows in the moonlight.
    Loved your entire post and pictures.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Absolutely magnificent and I applaud your good patience. Raising wisteria in one’s garden is such a challenge and so much maintenance! In my part of the world, state of Georgia, USA, it will take over in a heartbeat and grows wild up into tall pine trees. Lovely, lovely and thank you!

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    • Hi Carloyn, I’m getting the impression that wisteria is a real thug in a lot of American gardens and isn’t as popular with some people as it is with me. Oh well, diversity in all things, I say. Pleased you like the post though! Dave

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