entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorweeders digest

weeder’s digest: wisteria

by Grace Bonney

Wisteria is a flowering woody vine. It has large, grape-like clusters of blooms that hang rather languidly from gnarly branches that snaggle up anything they can climb. Perhaps you have seen it… Climbing up the south-facing wall of your century-old stone home perhaps? Trailing across the trellis in your secret garden? A smattering atop the pergola perpendicular to your perennial patch?!?

WELL INDEED! Us city dwellers are lucky to see it at all, let alone get a whiff of its heady intoxicating scent. So when I ran (literally) into fresh cut bunch in the flower district last week I fell on my knees and whispered to the wholesaler “Wisteria?”

“Yes.” he said…”For Gramercy Tavern.”
“Gramercy Tavern” I whispered star-struck.

The following week I was prepared. Seeking out the same wholesaler, I struck a deal. One bale of wisteria for my first born, and he’d better be good with a set of clippers. I received special handling instructions:

“Mist it constantly! Keep in the cooler! Split the stems 6 inches from the bottom!”

I ran it home. Following the instructions to a tee, I cleared out every last flower in my one meager flower cooler and removed all the shelves so as to make room for my prize. Secure, moisturized and climate controlled I sat back and admired the wisteria through the glass door of the cooler and as my employees came in…What’s that? Is it for the..”IT’S NOTHING!” I shout. “DON’T OPEN IT!”

We make a wedding, then another. Nobody asks if they can use the cooler. Fortunately its a rather cool weekend. Three days later the wisteria is still holding inside it’s little glass palace. 3 days…some signs of wilting at extremities. 4 days…some unfortunate discoloring and petal loss. Day 5 I realize I have problems. I need the cooler space, and yet find myself making excuses for my wisteria. This is a sickness, I think to myself. Reluctantly I unleashed the wisteria yesterday. I trimmed it up for a simple cluster in a rock vase, mixed it with columbine, spirea and red tea roses. Had it anchor a small bowl with queen anne’s lace and garden roses. Here, I’ll hesitantly share with you the results.

[Click here to watch Sarah’s flower arranging how-to video!]


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  • I love wisteria. When I was growing up we had a “ceiling” of wisteria over our front patio. It was always amazing, plus a dogwood tree and grape vines. Ah, memories.

  • I live right out of downtown Nashville and am lucky enough to be a city dweller with a neighbor across the street who has a giant old tree full of wisteria! It is so pretty and the smell is intoxicating. I LOVE it. I keep thinking that I need to add some to my own yard somewhere.

  • I recently visited a beautiful winery/B&B in Portugal where wisteria was growing all over and the scent was absolutely everywhere. It will always be a nostalgic scent for me because of that trip. Lovely arrangement!

  • i weed weeders-digest as much for the accompanying text, as for the beautiful photos and wonderful arrangements…you make me laugh, and i’ve learned a few things.

  • I have a pergola attached to my garage that is covered in wisteria. It is SO high maintenance! After it blooms for 1-2 weeks I have to spend the rest of the summer pruning it on a daily basis, or it would grow all the way up and over the top of my garage, up onto the cable and electric lines, and reach over the fence into my neighbor’s oak tree. Thank you for the inspiration, I’ll try making some arrangments next spring – maybe I can wrangle some good from my frustration!

  • One of the things that makes me love my house so much is a GIANT old wisteria vine in the backyard that has grown into a tree shape, amazingly gorgeous! I love these arrangements, gives me ideas for next year’s big bloom.

  • gorgeous and eloquent as always, sarah! wisteria is also, strangely enough, very tasty, as i learned on a foraging tour of central park last week. supposedly it’s sublime in oatmeal.

    • Hi Lauren,
      I’ve just come across this post, now six years old so I’m a bit late but wanted to ask:
      It’s interesting to hear wisteria is included in a foraging tour as I’ve always seen it described as toxic, with some very nasty effects! When you ate it, was it processed in any way?

  • We’re having wisteria all over the place here in Alabama right now. Just driving down highway 65 south of Huntsville, you can see it EVERYWHERE. I hear it’s high maintenance, but this stuff is growing like weeds on everything from telephone poles to tree to rocks!

  • wisteria grew all over the high stone wall lining the road to my babci’s house. so many good memories. thanks for your beautiful post.

  • LOOVE wisteria! i go a little crazy like you when it blooms in texas because it’s only here for about a week! i horde it and drink in the smell wishing there were a wisteria perfume somewhere out there. is there?? and your writing always make me smile–cheers.

  • I have wisteria growing up the stone wall of our ancient milk house. Believe it or not, I NEVER even thought of cutting it for arrangements. After seeing how great it looked in yours, I will give it a try tomorrow!

  • Wisteria is one of my all-time favorite flowers. Growing up in Georgia, it was everywhere, and I have the best memories of walking down the railroad tracks every spring with my mom and sisters, looking–and smelling–the amazing purple blossoms. I always think of smashed pennies and wisteria together.

  • we used to have those in our yard when i was growing up. so fragrant and such a beautiful cascading shape and lovely color. great for arrangements.

  • Wisteria is absolutely beautiful… have you seen the white? But a little reminder…if you are planting wisteria remember that its vines get very large and can strangle anything around it… in Texas it literally grows wild and those who plant it make sure that it is trained up very sturdy posts ..keeping it pruned will help too. It is also beautiful just planted alone in a large space..

  • The image with the stone vase and antique mirror is GORGEOUS. Thanks for your impeccable styling.

  • This post made me laugh! (and cringe)
    I too love the blooms and scent of wisteria, but we are renovating a pair of neighboring 1920’s houses. The previous owners of both let wisteria vines grow unchecked for years and we have quite a battle on our hands trying to save the old oaks covered in this stuff. You cut it back and literally within 3 days, the new shoots are reaching what you couldn’t pull out of the trees. It should at least bloom longer for this much trouble!! heh.

  • i bought 2 wisteria from a farm store.When i opened it i was surprised to see that after opening the open top box that there was only a small stem with a long root.i planted it as it said but the 6in portion on top looks like a stick. will it grow or was i duped?

  • I planted two wisteria vines maybe 10 or 15 years ago. I live in Michigan. Never have I had so much as one blossom. Is there any thing I can do to promote blooming? Is it true that you need a male and female plant to be successful in the blooming process?
    My neighbor has a beautiful wisteria growing in her back yard and my brother has one growing adjacent to his boat house on a lake not far from here. I am at a loss as to why I cannot get this plant to bloom. Any solutions?

  • I found this while searching to identify the volunteer vine growing on my back fence in South Dakota! Last year was just a vine, but this year WOW! fragrant numerous blooms and sprawling vines. How do I keep this? Will it survive our nasty winters? I love it.