Published: 24 September 2012
Wisteria - Past meets Present
Recent conversations with a past resident of Exeter lead me to visit one of the many public parks in Devon's capital city. Also, read on for some tips on growing Wisteria at home.

One of the gnarled and twisted trunks.
Pinces Park, just off of Alphington Road in the St Thomas area of Exeter, was the site of a nursery until 1912 when the local council purchased the site to transform it into a public park. The deal included not only the purchase of the land but also a remarkable horticultural treasure; a forty five metre long pergola with Wisteria growing along its full length.  My local resident contact told me of this amazing structure and how she remembers admiring it nearly eighty years ago while regularly playing tennis on the adjoining grass courts.

To see such a living structure during the growing season, with its huge gnarled and twisted trunks and stems is impressive with its full canopy of foliage, the experience is that of walking through a long green tunnel; to see it in full flower must be an unforgettable experience. I shall pencil in another visit next spring.

The images taken in August 2012 show this Wisteria is now well established and gives a spectacular display to visitors of Pinces Park.
 
 
Known to be over one hundred years old could it be one of the oldest Wisteria plants in a public park, please let us know if your think there is an older one in your area.
 

Growing Wisteria at home

Wisteria plants are great climbing plants for any garden. In larger gardens they can be given more space to ramble around on a man-made structure or allowed to take over a more mature tree.
 
In smaller gardens they can do well if kept as formal shapes on a clear stem in large containers. Ensure they do not dry out and get a regular feeding with a high potash fertilizer through the growing season to encourage flowering.
 
When growing on the side of a building, they require a heavy duty support system that will last for many years. As you can see in the images above, they do become very heavy over a long period of time. Annual pruning is required to stimulate flowering and to reduce the risk of the long, twining growths penetrating under the eaves and slates on the roof, if this does happen they can be a major problem to remove without the risk of damaging the property and having to use a ladder.  In some seasons two pruning sessions are required, one to remove the long summer growths and then again in the spring to reduce the lateral growths to within two or three buds from the main framework of stems.
 

When buying from new

When buying a new Wisteria plant try to choose a good quality plant that has been grafted, this should reduce the risk of getting a non flowering specimen that may have been propagated from seed or cuttings and genetically unable to flower.

To be certain that your plant will produce wonderful racemes of flower in the future, wait until the flowering season and then purchase one that is actually in flower, you will then find the exact colour that you require. There are several good varieties to choose from with flowers in mid/light blue, lilac and purple.
 
Reported by Chris Allen  
   
 

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