Many vines have a secret ambition to take over the world.
Vines can be shameless opportunists who rely on plants, trees or other things to reach toward the sunlight. They are also a bit ungrateful. They'll swamp a host, and some vigorous vines like wisteria, have the potential to snap and break the wood trellis that humbly supports them.
Why do we even think of entertaining such brash thugs in our gardens? Because they can be incredibly beautiful of course!
This stone house, with its rustic wooden shutters, may look like it belongs in Provence, but in reality, it is in the Lawrence Park area of Toronto.
The house's simple grey-beige facade looks down from on high as you approach. In its tall windows you can glimpse pots of geraniums sitting in the sunshine.
Two stone staircases offer you the choice to climb to the left or right of the house. The main part of garden lies to the right, so that is the way we will go.
Wisteria trails its way up the exterior and greets the visitor with the subtle perfume of the honey-scented blooms.
It is as if a thousand of purple butterflies have landed on the front of the house!
Briefly About Growing Wisteria:
It's unquestionably glorious, but before you dash out to the garden centre this spring to buy a Wisteria, remember that this is a vine that demonstrates a desire for world domination. Wisteria is native to China, Japan and the eastern United States. It can grow as much as 10' in a single year. Asian Wisterias are on the USDA list of invasive plants. This is a vine that can travel underground emerging some distance from the main plant, where it will climb on whatever plant or tree it finds.
Wisteria flowers in spring with occasional summer flowers. It likes a sunny spot with good drainage and slightly alkaline soil. A protected spot away from wind is best. Wisteria vines benefit from regular watering when in flower and during dry periods. Wisteria is hardy to Zone 5.
Wisteria needs a heavy hand to keep it under control. Here is are links to a few articles on pruning: Fine Gardening's Pruning and Training Wisteria and RHS Guide to Pruning Wisteria.
At the top of the staircase, there is a little glass house leaning against the side of the house.
Inside are garden tools, metal watering cans and wooden shelves crammed with stacks of orange colored terra cotta pots.
The garden is largely in keeping with the Georgian style of the house.
Under the shade of a tree is a staircase that leads down from a large patio at the back of the house. On either side of the steps there are Bleeding Hearts, baby-blue Forget-me-nots and yellow tulips.
Common Bleeding Heart, Dicentra spectabilis: This common variety is still one of my favourite Bleeding Hearts. It takes a few years to come into its own, but when it does, Dicentra spectabilis forms a generous mound of fresh green foliage. You can refresh the plant after it flowers by cutting it to 6" above the ground, but even so, it will go dormant by late summer. Light to full shade. Height: 70-90 cm, Spread: 70-90 cm. Average to moist soil. USDA Zones 2-9.
If you cross the expanse of lawn at the side of the house and head down another set of stone steps the visitor will discover a small patio area.
A few ways to introduce a little Provencal style into your garden:
• Add metal details. Incorporate a wrought iron fence or metal patio furniture. Even easier and more affordable, use rusted metal ornaments.
• Buy a colorful market umbrella.
• Use candles in glass hurricanes or drape strings of white lights to add some nighttime magic.
• Use natural stone or flagstones.
• Dot rustic containers filled with annuals around the garden (Lightweight fiberglass urns that look like stone might be one option. Plastic lined baskets or big terra cotta pots are two other good choices.)
• Mix cottage style plantings with a formal flower or herb garden.
So what do you think?
Are you brave enough to try to grow a wisteria or is it a vine
best admired in someone else's garden?