If you want to cover a wall with a spectacular climber, plant Wisteria. One of our most spectacular climbers can be relied on most years to brighten up both April and May with its long, scented trails of lilac-purple flowers. And yet many folk are frightened of wisteria.
It’s not that they run a mile from it, just that they think it looks so exotic – and puts on so much annual growth – that they are not sure how to tackle it.
So if you have always wanted to grow wisteria but were afraid to try, take your courage in one hand and this page in the other and have a bash.
You’ll find pot-grown plants in nurseries and garden centers right now, many of them with a few flowers showing so that you can see exactly what color they will be. And that is the secret: buy a grafted plant that will be of proven flowering quality rather than one propagated by layering or cuttings that may be “flower shy”.
You can spot the graft three or four inches above soil level – it will look like a knobbly “thumb” where the flowering variety meets the rootstock. Not only do grafted plants flower more reliably than those propagated by other means but they also flower in their youth rather than maturity.
A sunny south or west-facing wall is the best position and prepare the ground well. Attach some horizontal wires to the wall at 1ft intervals so that the stems can be unwound from their cane and tied in, and space them out as they grow.
You need not keep them all. Once more stems are produced than you need to cover the area, snip off any that you don’t need. Twice-yearly pruning is best for mature plants – once in July and again in January.
An occasional feed with rose fertilizer – in March and June – is all that is necessary to fuel their display. And, hey presto, the fear is gone and you now know what to do!
So get out there, choose your spot and choose your plant for a hundred fragrant springs to come.