This glorious giant of the garden has come to us through a charming act of Chinese generosity. In 1816 two small plants from the garden of a Chinese merchant in Canton, named Consequa, were presented to British friends who sent them home, and it is probable that nearly every wisteria grown in our gar-dens is descended from these two pa-rents. Consequa was so well liked in the British community that when he died he earned an obituary in The Times.
Given its head, a wisteria will climb to 80 feet (15 m) or more and spread even further on each side of the. It is a confirmed climber, growing in an anti-clockwise direction, and will twist its way round pergolas, balustrades, tree trunks, or (be wary) drainpipes, even round its own stem. In late spring the plant becom-es a waterfall of drooping racemes of mauve pea- which blend ex-quisitely with the long pinnate of fresh, bright green. There is often a smaller crop of in late summer.
Wisteria needs sunshine and a good, but not excessively rich soil. It needs strong support andtwice a year -a hard back to two or three buds on each shoot in winter, and a lighter summer pruning. In chilly countries it does best on a south wall or sheltered terrace, but in Italy is often grown up forest trees.
In view of its size and vigour, is it worth attempting a wisteria on a small house? Yes, certainly, if you are a handyman or handywoman who is not afraid of ladders (there is a splendid specimen on out-village shop), but wisteria cannot be neglected, and must be properly trained from the start. It can even be pruned hard to make a small standard, but I consider this a brutality.
The familiar mauve species is perhaps the best against stone or mellow brick, but there is a lovely white form, ‘Alba’, for walls of newer, brighter brick, and also a double form, ‘Plena’.