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Welcome News for Wisteria Lovers

New varieties offer more flowers, fewer leaves

A stately wisteria evokes the decorative look of an elegant cornice.

For more than a decade, I have been fixated on a Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda ‘New Zealand’) we had planted beneath a pergola on our cottage, each year hoping it would flower. I had been told that both forms of wisteria, the Chinese (sinensis) and the Japanese (floribunda), can take five years or longer to mature enough to bloom, so I waited. And waited. By year six, I was hopeful. Still nothing.

A few years following that, an article in Gardens Illustrated suggested an early spring feeding of triple phosphate as the buds begin to swell will encourage flower production. I have done that for several years now. I have watered the plant religiously. All that resulted was an overabundance of leaves, thousands of them. What I did not understand is that a wisteria thrives on neglect. Until this spring.

This Wisteria ‘New Zealand’ took more than a decade to flower.

That’s when a friend mentioned that wisteria flowers as a survival mechanism when it is in danger of dying out. To compensate for neglect and poor soil, the plant flowers in order to drop seed to regenerate itself. She added, “it’s better to do nothing. Haven’t you noticed a wisteria on the roadside that’s always loaded with blooms?”  So this spring I tried some tough love. I discontinued my obsessive watering and feeding. Ignored it. And yes, within a month or two the woody vine produced eleven dangling blue and white jewel-like racemes.  (above)

Recently hybridizers have developed newer forms of this woody deciduous vine that eliminate the heartache of floral absentia. That’s very welcome news for wisteria lovers. Within the past decade, American wisteria and Kentucky wisteria were bred to produce abundant flowers with fewer leaves.

The racemes of ‘Amethyst Falls’ cascading like a waterfall.

Two local sources, Oliver Nursery in Fairfield and Terrain in Westport, have stocked a variety of American wisteria called Amethyst Falls (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’). It is less aggressive than other wisteria and its lavender-purple grape-like flowers bloom at a far earlier age. But, like its Asian cousins, it needs room to grow.

Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’) is found in the southeastern U.S. including its namesake, Kentucky. It bears lightly scented blue-purple flowers after only two or three years, making it the quickest wisteria to bloom. Otherwise, it is very similar to American wisteria with clustered blooms that open conically from the older growth upwards, creating a cone effect. Kentucky wisteria can be found at Terrain.

So if you’re in the market for a beautiful, lasting vine with abundant flowering and minimal leaves, avoid the Chinese and Japanese varieties.

Follow the advice your dad offered when you began searching for your first car: Buy American.

Gerard PampaloneGerard Pampalone

I am not a professional garden designer, landscape architect or horticulturalist. I am, for the most part, self-taught.

I don’t garden for a living, I live for gardening.

I came to gardening late in life, so I am making up for lost time.

I hope to share my insights, resources, and gardening experiences in the coming months.

My aim is to educate, enlighten and inspire gardeners to take chances, break new ground, dig deeper and stretch themselves.

As seen in:

Westport Magazine, July 2007
athome Magazine, March/April 2008