Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


(Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

The Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) that I once planted near my kitchen door and trained to form an archway over the back steps, reached the roofline of the house, scrambled across the eaves, escaped up the cedar shake roof to the chimney. It ran so far that I could no longer prune it. The sensual flower panicles diminished and ultimately stopped. We sold the house.

OK, the two events were
not related but twenty
years later I craved an-
other wisteria, one that
I swore I would keep
under control and force
into continuous bloom.
For my New York City
rooftop, I chose a selec-
tion of the native Amer-
ican variety W. frutes-
‘Amethyst Falls’.
It grows only 15-20’ high
rather than 28-50’ as do
the Japanese and
Chinese imports, but
the flower racemes are
somewhat shorter and
the scent less intense.
Three-year old American
wisteria (photo on right)
blooms about two weeks after the non-natives and is still mostly in bud. This plant gives my garden vertical appeal and helps to soften the steely look of the fence. Husband Ben, aka String Boy, tied it to the bars where it can twine happily. The container is 22" in diameter and includes a few lilies that bloom in summer and many October onions (Allium thunbergii) that are the last flowers to burst forth in late fall and will continue until December.

When I want to admire the
imported species I can
go to the north end of
the rose garden at the
BBG, the Conservatory
Garden in Central Park,
or the terrace of the
Cooper-Hewitt Museum
and revel in the arches
of wisteria or go to any
neighborhood of brown-
stones and see the
twisted vines climbing
four stories or more.
Most grow in containers
at street level but some
are in-ground.

Wisteria grows in full
sun or part shade and
is useful for privacy in
some backyards pro-
vided your fence, trellis
or post is seriously strong. Notice in the lead photo, the pillars are made of CONCRETE. For an excellent discussion of pruning techniques see Cass Turnbull for PlantAmnesty.org.
The fresh vines pruned from any wisteria are easy to weave into fabulous wreath bases, but that’s another story.

The four story vine on
the right grows in a
2' x 6' planter at street


Ellen Zachos said...

I LOVE photo #3! You really captured the soaring, vertical feel of the plant.

Lori said...

Beautiful photos. I have a Wisteria {2 years old} and it's growing great guns but no blooms, would you happen to know why this might be?


Ellen Spector Platt said...

Lori, It's not unusual for a wisteria to take three years to come into bloom, and as long as seven years. Don't give up hope yet. While you're waiting, check out the reference to PRUNING in my post. P.S., I bought peonies by mail order three years ago from a very reliable breeder,and have blooms this year for the first time. When I called them to check in '08 they said "didn't you read the fine print?" Well, no I hadn't!

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Thanks, Other Ellen.I saw one wisteria on a West Side apartment building,and counted it climbing to the ninth story, but no blooms. They better start pruning.

Lori said...

Wow thank you so much, I had no idea!

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