Wisteria sinensis: instantly recognisable and simply glorious in May and early June
Whilst the vast majority of the customers we design gardens for tell us that they can never remember botanical plant names, there are a few plants that practically everyone knows. Wisteria sinensis is definitely one of them. It is instantly recognisable when it is in flower.
A vigorous woody-stemmed deciduous climber, W. sinensis originates from China (hence the ‘sinensis’ part of its name) but grows happily in the UK. With large hanging clusters of lilac-blue flowers, it is at its majestic best in May and early June. Delicately scented, the pretty little flowers are similar in appearance to those of the pea plant.
A long-lived and enthusiastic climber, W. sinensis climbs by twisting its stems around a support network of some description or another. It performs brilliantly on wires against a large sunny wall, but will also climb happily through a large tree, trellis screen or a substantial pergola. Whatever the support, W. sinensis prefers a well-drained soil, ideally in full sun or partial shade and with a bit of shelter from the worst of the prevailing winds.
Being a large plant, it is important that Wisteria is pruned regularly. People seem to get quite anxious about pruning, particularly for plants like Wisteria. But the right pruning technique can often make a huge difference to the quality of the floral display, so it is worth taking a bit of time to do it well. If in doubt, I often look for advice on the RHS’s website and they recommend pruning Wisteria twice a year.
The summer prune (July or August, after the flowers have finished) is intended to improve light and air circulation which encourages new flower bud formation. The winter prune (January or February) is more focused on cutting back new stems to two or three flower buds with the aim of tidying the plant and ensuring that the new flowers won’t be obscured by emerging leaves. Both pruning ‘events’ are also an opportunity to revitalise a mature plant by removing old and worn out stems or branches, or any plant material that is growing into areas it isn’t wanted.
A mature W. sinensis in full bloom is always a beautiful sight and it can be an absolutely fantastic plant for the right location. Yes, it takes a little bit of time and care to keep it looking at its best, but few would argue it isn’t worth it. And, for something a little more unusual, why not consider a white Wisteria? Wisteria floribunda alba ‘Shironoda’ tends to be a little less vigorous than W. sinensis and has glorious white flowers.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.