Wistful Wysteria

We certainly won’t be having our Easter lunch on the terrace this year – the weather, at least today, won’t permit it. As a gardener I welcome the showers – my lattughe and zucchini sorely needed them after their recent open-air planting. As a socialite I long for the wet stuff less although we could still have a good time playing Scrabble or trying to fathom out Italian crossword puzzles as presented in that ubiquitous magazine La settimana enigmistica ( a great way to improve your Italian vocabulary, incidentally).

One thing which will certainly be flourishing this Easter is our wisteria, which came with the house and which is now truly blooming and perfuming our little podere.

In 2006, when Easter fell on April 16th, we found ourselves in that most exquisite of private Florentine gardens i Giardini Bardini which once belonged to the great, if controversial, art collector wheeler-dealer Stefano Bardini and which can be combined within the same ticket with a lovely walk through the Boboli gardens as well (leave three hours at least to enjoy everything). Bardini’s gardens have a delightful “English section”.

However, the wisteria walk, now in its fullest glory in these gardens has to be one of the most spectacular in the world especially when seen against that other most outstanding view of the Lilian city spread before one’s eyes – on that occasion free from the smallest drop of rain.,

For the botanically minded, Wisteria (also spelled Wistaria or Wysteria) is a plant which belongs to the pea family. It includes ten species of climbing vines native to ChinaKorea, and Japan. The one we are most used to growing and seeing is the Sinensis variety. In fact, the world’s largest cultivated Wysteria is at Ashikaga Tochigi in Japan:


Wisteria could easily have been named Grumblethorpia after classifier Nuttall’s friend from Grumblethorpe. Fortunately, his friend was also called John Wister and Nuttall decided on using that name, much to the relief of every lover of this plant. (Others, however, dispute this particular Wister and say it was named by Nuttall after famous botanist Caspar Wistar (1761-1818).

Interestingly, in Italy Wisteria is known as” Glicine” since the plant was once assigned to the genus of Glycine. So, if you are going to a garden show in Italy, don’t ask for Wisteria but for Glicine, otherwise few people will know what plant you are talking about!

Wisteria grows almost before one’s eyes, wrapping itself around any support in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction and, at least in my part of the world, requires disciplined and thorough pruning! It also necessitates strong supports as it can grow some quite thick stems which could even bring your balcony balustrade down if not controlled properly.

Indeed, in some part of the world the wisteria can become oppressively invasive, rather like the rhododendron has become in many parts of Wales.

However, in the tradition of “spare the rod, spoil the child”, or rather in this instance, “spare the secateurs, spoil the railings”, the Wisteria can become a friend for life and a pleasure for sore eyes especially in the rain!




7 thoughts on “Wistful Wysteria

  1. I think a trip to Giardini Bardini is on the cards. Thats some Wisteria walk.
    Incidentally, how long does it take you to grow your zucchini, from start to plate?

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