Wisteria sinensis

Plant of the month: May

wisteria sinensis

The Chinese wisteria is one of the wonders of the garden and argueably the most dramatic of hardy climbers. As well as its torrent of mauve, lilac or white flowers its divided leaves are a fresh delight and the tortured branch structure of an old specimen seems to contrast perfectly with the delicate flowers and leaves. As this Chinese plant twines anti-clockwise you can always tell it from its Japanese cousin, Wisteria floribunda, which twines clockwise. It is interesting to speculate on the climbing habits of the hybrid between the two species Wisteria ‘Formosa’ – maybe it climbs straight up, or doesn’t climb at all? The best book on wisterias suggests it climbs clockwise – like its Japanese seed parent. Either way these beautiful flowers make a spectacular display in the spring garden if kept under control by pruning new growth in August to five buds and a further shortening to three buds in February.