Lifestyle 11 | Wisteria
I had the pleasure of discussing wisteria with the owner of a beautiful home we have just sold. The owner is a florist and is crazy about wisteria, like me. The smell of the blooms wafting through our sitting room window is one of my favourite scents in summer. But Mrs W told me that you can achieve a second bloom if you take the secateurs to it now. I thought I’d share her tips with you all:
Wisteria will flower more freely if pruned twice a year, first in summer, then in midwinter. It might seem complicated, but it’s actually a simple job.
Draped over an archway or dripping from the wall of a house, a wisteria in full bloom is an arresting sight. Scented tassels weep from the gnarled and woody branches in late spring and early summer, in lilac and white and purple. Such a display is a remarkably reliable affair if you’re handy with secateurs.
It is the summer pruning that is so often neglected, but this is key to a good display the following year. A midsummer pruning checks rampant growth by removing those whispy stems that like to creep through windows and into gutters. More importantly it removes the foliage and encourages the plant to put all of its energy into developing flower buds rather than generating greenery. Thinning healthy foliage improves air circulation and allows in plenty of sunlight to ripen the woody framework and developing buds. Be sure to water your wisteria well in July and August, when the new buds develop, as a thirsty plant will not bloom well the following season.
How to prune
In summer, use secateurs to trim the foliage of established plants back to 5-6 leaves from the main woody framework. You can remove unwanted new growth. With new plants, use wire supports to tie in long, new shoots, aiming to fill any gaps in the skeleton.
Prune again in January or February, when the wisteria is dormant and leafless. This time go in harder, cutting back stems to 2 or 3 buds (about 3-5cm), leaving short spurs to carry the flowers in May. This is a good time to assess the quality of the wisteria framework. You should be aiming for a spacious skeleton of uncrossed branches, so remove poorly placed or worn-out limbs, and train new growth to form replacement branches and fill gaps. Some gardeners apply a high-potash feed in the spring, but Mrs W recommends avoiding this after hard pruning because the plant will respond with strong new growth.
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