Wisteria is instantly recognisable and a “love-it-anywhere” plant, as perfect around a country house as it is clambering over a new-build. The hanging bunches of pea-like flowers bring a feeling of affluence and style wherever you find them – as with all the best plants, they are always in fashion.
Climbers like wisteria are a possibility for every garden – they’re incredibly economical on space. Wisteria is an especially good choice because it’s tough and easy to look after, as well as putting on a breathtakingly beautiful display every year once it’s established.
It also provides attractive features beyond simply the blooms. The foliage of some wisteria, for example, turns a lovely yellow in autumn. Wisteria x floribunda (Japanese wisteria) is one of the best choices for flowers now. It’s a vigorous, twining climber that produces racemes (long, hanging clusters) of violet blue flowers in spring and early summer.
Some superb varieties to look out for are: “Alba” which produces white blooms in racemes up to 60cm long; “Multijuga” is outstanding because of its exceptionally large flower racemes – the biggest of any wisteria at up to 90cm.
Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria) is often the one you see growing around older houses and gardens.
Varieties include “Sierra Madre”, which produces very fragrant, lavender-violet flowers. “Alba”, not surprisingly, bears white flowers, and “Prolific” should yield an abundance of lilac-blue or pale lilac-blue flowers.
Look out also for hybrids. Wisteria x formosa is a great example (crossed Japanese and Chinese wisteria). Flowers of this hybrid are fragrant. And “Black Dragon”, which produces purple-violet flowers, is a real beauty.
Wisteria is generally hardy and quite fast growing. It’s happiest in fertile, moist, well-drained soil, but will tolerate poorer soils.
But be warned, to keep a wisteria flowering well requires regular pruning. Neglect it and it’s likely that, year on year, there will be fewer blooms, and the tangle of branches will bamboozle even those proficient in unravelling a Rubik’s Cube.
For the best results, wisteria should be pruned twice a year – once in late winter (February) to prepare the flowering spurs for the forthcoming season, and again in mid-summer (July to August).