I was young and so naïve when first we met. It was a classic case of love at first sight. I soon discovered, however, that I should have taken the time to know her better before inviting her into my garden. Little did I know that the leafy siren was capable of prying boards from my house or that she had no qualms about strangling neighboring plants with her strong anaconda-like limbs.
Our relationship began innocently enough. We met at the end of a long nursery row, where she more than filled a 2-gallon pot. Wispy plumes of sky-blue flowers gracefully hung from her seemingly delicate frame. Charm oozed from every leaf and flower.
I scooped her up and practically ran to the nursery checkout. I knew exactly where I wanted to plant her, a sun-drenched corner of my home where her “star” qualities could truly shine.
She grew rapidly that first year but not alarmingly so. By year two, however, she more than quadrupled in length and girth. And by year three, full-blown mayhem ensued.
Explosive growth sprang from every joint along her sprawling frame. One of her stout muscle-like arms latched onto a rain downspout, raced to the top of my two-story home and pried the screen from a bedroom window. I seriously considered calling an exorcist at this point.
This rambunctious gal wasn’t satisfied to simply dismantle my home. She also turned her big guns on a nearby holly, smothering it in a tangled mass of vines. Clearly, I was dealing with a botanical wild child. It was time to sharpen the pruning saw and end our relationship.
My wisteria nightmare occurred decades ago during my formative years as a gardener. Much older and a little wiser, I’m now much more guarded when it comes to plant selection. Old plant buying habits die hard, however. This spring, in a moment of weakness, I bought another wisteria, this time a native American species (Wisteria frutenscens) variety Amethyst Falls. I’m cautiously optimistic this relationship will end well.
Amethyst Falls, while no shrinking violet, is considerably less aggressive than her Genghis Kahn, take-no-prisoners Asian cousins (W. floribunda and W. senensis), aka Japanese and Chinese Wisteria. Nevertheless, I keep my bedroom windows locked and my pruning saw close at hand.
Amethyst Falls produces rich blue flowers in the spring, and it repeat blooms throughout the growing season. Repeat blooming is somewhat rare among wisteria species. Keep her corralled and Amethyst Falls is a great choice for arbors, pergolas and trellises. Flowering occurs best in full sun. Fall planting works well for wisterias.
Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden. He may be reached at 918.576.5152 or email email@example.com.