Isaw the first ones blooming in a nursery pot and then I began to notice them all over town. The wisterias are just coming into their own. The dangling clusters of purple pea-flowers are reason enough to grow wisteria, but they also have a hauntingly sweet fragrance beloved by bees and humans alike.
There are actually two different common species of wisteria; Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria) and W. sinensis (Chinese wisteria). There are many varieties of each species, selected for flower color, from white to pink to shades of purple. Japanese wisteria flower clusters may be nearly three feet in length, while those of Chinese wisteria are usually under a foot long. Buy grafted plants to ensure early bloom and to choose the best colors.
The vines become woody, so they require a sturdy support and diligent pruning. Unlike many deciduous plants, wisteria should be pruned twice. Prune in winter to establish the shape desired. Select single or multiple stems to train up your support, then top them to encourage side branches. Shorten side shoots to two or three buds from which the flower spurs will arise. Then in summer, remove or train the long whips that will come from any part of the plant. If left unchecked they will quickly twine around whatever is nearest, creating a major tangle.
Wisteria is undemanding, requiring little or no supplemental fertilizer, and is very nearly drought tolerant. As testimony to this, have a look at a rambling wisteria that is growing without any human help in the trees and shrubs between Highway 101 and the train tracks between the Las Positas and La Cumbre Road offramps.
More signs of spring: On Friday, March 21, the beginning of spring, hundreds of Vieja Valley students had the opportunity to help prepare the soil and plant the first eight fruit trees in their new school orchard under the knowledgeable guidance of landscaper parents Autumn Brook and Carl Magagnosc and garden grant-writer teachers Tim Barker and Lynn Seigel-Boettner. The community is invited to stop by and watch this orchard and other school gardens grow. It may provide inspiration to help other local elementary schools involve students in edible garden projects!
• Call Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline to find out where the best show is each week, (818) 768-3533.
• Plant tropicals such as bougainvillea and hibiscus this month and summer perennials such as daylily, salvia, penstemon, and yarrow.
• Plant warm-weather crops: tomatoes, pepper, squash, cucumbers, and melons.
• Watch for aphids, and use a strong spray of water to dislodge