Gardening Magazine

The Priory Wisteria …

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

… hasn’t flowered in my five years as gardener.  Well, not properly.  It does give a stutter of blue throughout the summer but the big spring show just hasn’t happened; the flower buds have always been killed by the late, sharp frosts we have down in the valley.

It is an impressive plant and big; here’s the trunk.  Short of sawing through it and counting the rings, I can’t tell you how old it is.


March 2009 – I had just cleared nettle, buttercup and bramble from what will eventually be the tropical border

The wisteria stretches for about twenty yards along an outbuilding


October 2009

before reaching an arbour (not a word I like but what else to call it?) where, during the-years-of-neglect, it grew into a big clump; a big clump which I have gradually untangled, reduced and extended to the end of the wooden supports.

Each year, I have carefully pruned it* and coaxed it into providing more shade for the seating area beneath.  But it has never put on a good show

which made early June 2013 
quite special for me.  The absence of any late frosts enabled it to do its spring business.  Smells divine too – why, it was almost worth the wait.  I wonder whether it’ll be another five years before it does it again.

There is another wisteria – though I thought it most definitely dead when I arrived.

It had done this you see.


And this.  Left untended, it had run amok into the clapboarding and roof of another outbuilding.  Its reward?  Pruned right down to the base by my predecessor.  With a chainsaw.  Didn’t die though.  I noticed new shoots appearing from below ground and so over the years, I have trained it along wire supports to cover a rather unsightly block wall.

And it flowers too.  Every year.  I suppose the warmth of the west-facing wall protects the flower buds.


Here’s another I’ve trained at The Old Forge.  Personally, I would have planted a darker flowered variety; I think the white is a little lost against those flint walls.  Still pretty though.  Some blithering idiot of a gardener (me!) lost concentration last year and snipped through a main branch whilst pruning.  (There should be an upper, parallel branch to the lower one on the left – you can see the wire).  Sheesh -  I’m now growing its replacement.

* Pruning wisteria

It can be a little intimidating to tackle a large rambling wisteria but it isn’t very difficult.  Gardening books will tell you to prune twice: once during the summer, cutting any long, whippy side shoots or unwanted stems to six leaves; and again in winter, reducing those same shoots from six leaves (buds in winter, of course) down to two.  And that’s it … except … I find that big wisterias are far too vigorous to prune just once in summer.  There are so many new shoots and they grow so fast that they twine together and become impossibly entangled.  Also with wisterias growing near roofs (as both the Priory plants do), I need to check regularly that they aren’t up to mischief.  Even young, new shoots are difficult to pull out from under old tiles – tiles that I really don’t want to be tugging on.  Therefore once a month or so, I’ll just check them and either cut stems and shoots back to those six leaves, tie in any I wish to keep or remove them altogether.

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