So many plants look so beautiful at this time of the year, plant of the week could of gone to any of the flowering cherries for me at the moment, I love the flowers and fallen petals from them, but there’s one plant that I so look forward to watching come into flower, though cold January days pruning them, with fingers so cold from the north winds, that tying in the new growth can be become a tricky affair. Yes it has to be the wisteria we are talking about and not just any wisteria, but wisteria sinensis, the Chinsese Wisteria, with its beautiful bronze foliage appearing at the same time as the highly scented pea bluey/mauve like flowers. After that have finished, the seed pods are covered in a soft velvet coating, looking like runner beans.
Wisteria sinensis is a native of some parts of China including Yuccan, Henan and shaanxi. It was from a garden in Canton, that Captain Rawes found it growing in 1816, from there it was introduced around the world. In its native environment, it loves climbing up trees, mountain sides, twirling around things in a clockwise motion with its long growths. It can get up to 30m in the right place. It naturally likes to get into cracks and crevices where once in, it can produce roots and then grow on once more, making a new plant. This is the reason it loves to get into any gaps on the wall, roof tiles etc. Pruning is the key to keeping it in check with the main prune in the winter and new growth cut back during the summer, Lou Nicholls excellent blog is exactly how I do prune.
Planting wise, it will grow in most soils and does need a good bit of water and food, both in the intinal planting and again in later on in its life, if planting next to a building, it’s worth thinking about the root run and if it’s got enough room to spread into the surrounding area. It can take up to 15years before it flowers if it’s raised from a cutting, while a grafted plant will take about 5-7yrs to flower. But it’s well worth the wait
Name wise, the wisteria part came from The botanist Thomas Nuttall, who is believed to named it after his friend, Charles jones Wister. The sinensis part means Chinese, so there you have the Chinese wisteria!
One word of warning, the whole plant itself is indeed posionous, containing Wisterin, it can cause vomiting, diahorra and stomach problems. So try and avoid eating any part of this plant!
There’s a few forms you can buy including ‘alba’ a white form, Amethyst, reddish violet flowers blotched with yellow on a very vigourous plant with lolvey young bronze coloured foliage, prolific is a great form, one of the best forms to grow, long racemes of soft blue violet scented flowers
In all wisteria sinensis is a beautiful flowering wall plant that can also be grown to form a small tree, standard and will grow to many hundred years old, it will grace your walls with its beautiful flowers, delightful scent that will coat your walls or tree with its pinnate leaves, that turn a butter yellow in the autumn, leaving its knarled aged stumps for the winter months.
It can be seen almost up every street but there’s some lovely old plants at Kew Gardens and savil gardens. But if you want to see the biggest plant then jumping on a plane and flying to Sierra Madre, California, there you will see the biggest flowering plant in the world! A specimen the covers 1acre in size! You can be buy from most garden centres.