Wisterias at Sequoia Gardens

Someone asked for more pics of wisterias… and I have long wanted to consolidate my wisteria photos into a story – so here goes! Most of our wisterias we grew from seed, taken from a plant which was the off-spring (clonal, I think) of one at the family farm which was originally planted in the early 1900s. We grew them because we – my dad and I – had just discovered the joy of germination on the farm and well: because they were there! Wisterias carry long velvety seedpods with big seeds that call out “good with beginners”!

01 Scilla natalensis and Wisteria

These first two photos are in fact the last I took. This particular plant, incredibly robust, covers a camphor tree and the adjacent pin oak, which is just visible beyond the camellia on the right. It has completely swamped the small pergola built for it between the two trees and has set off through the adjacent shrubbery, where last year we realised that it was leaning too heavily on a flowering dogwood and twenty assorted shrubs. I was looking at it yesterday and thinking that it needed further curtailing. The blue spikes below it are Scilla natalensis, a bulb which grows wild on Sequoia. The netting is to protect it and the young roses from the deer (more correctly buck – duiker and bush buck). Early in the season when food is scarce they love to nibble on fresh rose foliage and the blue  firework flower stalks.

02 Late wisteria

Here it is in close-up. Definitely; this year we will search for rooted cuttings amongst its meanderings. It is floriferous, with good colour and long racemes, and the fact that it is two weeks later than most can only be an advantage. I will plant it in the huge old mother-pine where its sister’s dumpy flowers are over before the yellow banksia rose gets under way.

08 Wisteria and Rosa banksia

Every year I have to act the contortionist just to get the yellow and mauve into the same frame. The banksia was planted by a friend’s mother as a young woman. When their yard was subdivided, he offered me the huge old root ball. Within three years it proved a good investment, worth transporting 350km (over 200 miles) to its new home!

15 Rosa banksia

Today I went and took this photo specially. The banksia flowers 10 meters up into the tree. The wisteria reaches twice as high and will eventually climb to the top of the tree – but no longer has a single flower.  Now imagine the banksia combined with the day before yesterday’s sprawling giant…

03 Sage's Walk

The next example I think is a brother; a sprawling good-for-nothing brat, a disgrace to the family name; why he has not been disinherited I do not know! He grew right here from a root in what used to be the nursery holding area. As a result he was a bit neglected as a child. Surrounded by trees (some of which have subsequently been removed), he didn’t have one of his own to look up to – and so he was left to his own devices and became a scruffy introvert. The brown behind him is an unsuccessful rescue job (just as well, considering where it was planted), a conifer from a terracotta pot that I valued more than its occupant. Beyond, an assortment of conifers including a gawky ginkgo not yet in leaf. The area to the right is the future Sage’s Walk, a path through a  collection of salvias (in sun) and plectranthus (in shade) culminating in the azalea crescent in the distance. It is also the area where most of my collection of seed-grown pink deciduous azaleas are concentrated. Their twiggy outlines add to the general scruffiness, but by this morning they too were coming into flower!

04 Wisteria tree

We now move to an area up on the boundary below the neighbour’s gum plantation across from my house,  where many of the seedlings were planted just to get rid of them. Bear in mind that it takes up to ten years for a seed-grown wisteria to flower. That is according to several sources I’ve just consulted. The figure I remember is seven, and my first ones flowered at five years if I remember correctly. It was a convenient spot to dump them while we waited. Out of sight proved to be out of mind, and not one of them was ever moved. They are a motley collection, mostly disappointing and can easily be grubbed out if something better comes along. However one of them, visible in the centre, will still make me my fortune (he said wishfully.)

05 Wisteria tree racemes

This wisteria’s flowers are of good but not spectacular colour, but their length and grace is exceptional. What really makes this plant unusual though is that it chose to be a tree rather than a climber. From a young age it had a sturdy, self-supporting stem. As time passed it became clear why: the space between nodes is compressed. This has a further advantage: the magnificent trusses are carried close together, so that the flowers literally hang like a beaded curtain…

06 Wisteria tree and trunk

Here you can see my wisteria tree, al the way from its stem to its spectacular flowers. On the left an altogether less impressive sibling grovels before my Joseph’s Coat (hmmm: Wisteria ‘Joseph’s Coat’  – it has a ring to it!) In addition to its typically short flowering season , it is most beautifully hung with silver-brown velvet pods for many months of the year, some of which can still be seen in this photo!

09 Pumphouse wisteria

If the tree wisteria is my most important specimen, this one is my most successful. It grows over the pump-house (I have to stoop slightly to fit under that green cross-beam) and the surrounding trees. To the left foreground lies my water-lily pond. I have a dream of building a deck and a pergola over the edge of the water to support the wisteria and its reflection… but that will relate to developing Sequoia Gardens as a tourist destination in years to come!

16 Water-lily pond

To give you an idea of the setting, here is a picture taken this morning; the wisteria is spent, but the first water-lilies are in bloom! To the left an indigenous tree fern is stretching out its 2 meter fronds, at this stage still rolled and golden. And as I tend to interrupt myself when speaking, why not do so here? So here’s a bonus pic ;):

17 Waterlilies

As the pump-house wisteria is all round my best example, and the flowers hang conveniently low, here are a few close-ups and flower studies.

10 Pumphouse wisteria

Each pea-flower is perfection in itself.

11 Pumphouse wisteria detail

And then a bee arrived to complete the photo-shoot!

12 Bee on pumphouse wisteria

Just about the only wisterias not propagated on Sequoia are the matching clones planted in the Anniversary Garden. Their tresses are disappointingly short, but born profusely and richly coloured. If it was not a five year project – at least – I would replace them though with cuttings from the pump-house. This photo you have seen in a previous post.

13 Wisteria arbour

To end off – a romantic shot of  a carpet of wisteria flowers and a yellow iris; one of those shots that make me feel I have achieved my objective in the Anniversary Garden!

14 Wisteria & Iris


6 thoughts on “Wisterias at Sequoia Gardens

  1. Tremendous wisterias you have. I inherited wisteria here. The white just appeared one year; I could not remember it being here in my MIL’s garden, maybe seed planted by birds as I saw some about a mile down the road in another garden.

    I am forever hacking wisterias back to keep them out of trees and off fences. One giant clump just grows up through a boxwood hedge and I prune it upward and along the edges to give it form, sort of. I would not recommend wisteria to someone with a small garden, but where there is room it is a stunning addition.

    I do like your new header and the larger photos. I’ll enjoy seeing spring move into your garden as winter moves into mine. It’s hard to associate spring with November as that is when I anticipate frost.

  2. Hello,

    What a great post! I have always wanted to be able to grow Wisteria, but they don’t do well in the desert.
    How wonderful to have grown your plants from the original ones from your family farm – that makes them even more special!

  3. I’ll stay with the Iris, and our water lily is trying to flower. There is a lovely wisteria in the courtyard at the hotel. But you do need the space for it!

    • Thank you, Una! Years back, when the valley was still more of a setting than a garden, a friend of my parents said that we are blessed to live here. That is the word we still use…

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