Some of you may remember seeing photos from my old garden of the white Japanese wisteria that I trained over a pergola. I originally bought it as a grafted specimen and it flowered from the first year, but it really got into its stride around about its fifth year. By the time I left that garden to a new custodian the wisteria was 11 years in place and blooming spectacularly every May. It also provided a canopy of green shade for all those long hot days of summer!
I have moved from the outskirts of city living back to urban life proper and no longer have the space for such a rampant plant in my backyard. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I need the sunny area for some fruit as well as flowers.
However, despite my ‘restricted space’ predicament, I am not entirely starved of this beautiful, May blooming flower as from the bedroom window I can see the charming Chinese wisteria decorating my next-door neighbour’s pergola.
Recently I’ve spied quite a few photographs of flowers and flower arrangements featuring very dark or black backgrounds. This is not new in the depiction of flowers, but it is a swerve away from the de rigueur of the ‘computer white’ backgrounds so prevalent across the online world.
Pale colours are contrasted and highlighted by a dark background and interestingly the foliage greens appear more striking.
Naturally, this has all been explored before during the Dutch Golden Age. Inventive Dutch 17th-century artists created beautiful, dramatic flower paintings against dark or black backgrounds. Currently, there’s an extremely gifted contemporary photographer, Paulette Tavormina also working in this area producing some fascinating images – well worth a look.
If you want the above in early summer then now’s the time to get up the ladder and prune the wisteria. Here we start with a big tangle.
Trace the long wippy growth from last summer back towards the main framework of the plant. Make an angled cut, pruning back to a couple of fat buds leaving a spur of about three or four inches.
A couple of hours later and the winter prune is done. Depending on your soil you may want to beef up last autumn’s mulch with some light, garden compost to promote spring growth. Now leave the rest to nature and hopefully it will develop like this.
Winter gardening even in East Anglia can be a chilly affair, but the wisteria’s annual winter prune is an essential task I usually tackle in February. But last Boxing Day it felt quite balmy in my back garden so before I knew it I was up the ladder and cutting away.
Now – I have been a bit nervous through this recent long, cold spring that I had cut too soon, but as our Victorian forebears insisted patience is a virtue and this time it has been rewarded with this glorious display.
A photograph only gives an approximation of the experience of sitting under this Japanese wisteria as on a warm evening its rich, velvety, slightly spicy fragrance hangs all around complementing the visual delight. Since the end of April I have tracked the development of this early summer show-off.
Full of potential fat buds of wisteria floribunda in late April.
But even as the racemes become fully developed they start to shed a snow of petal confetti.