Two springs ago, a pruning mishap (not mine) caused our huge wisteria to come crashing down from its garage-roof empire. We cut it back to a six-foot-high stump, cleaned up what looked like a tree’s-worth of debris, and waited, in hopes that we could train it back into viability. It had bloomed a few times, and those of you with wisteria know how thrilling it is to finally have flowers. Kind of makes the whole, ungainly maintenance hassle of this plant worthwhile.
No luck. The stump leafed out profusely, its tendrils reaching out wherever they could be most unattractively in the way. And anyway, even before (when it was big), the Plant Doctors had diagnosed it with “creeping white death,” which is a fungus that attacks the heartwood.
Maybe that’s why it wasn’t that hard to get the thing out. It just took some sawing of the branches and trunk (many of which easily snapped away), some root sawing, and goodbye to a plant I’ve had for at least ten years.
Wisteria has always been a must-have plant for me. I’ve seen it climbing and blooming on old brick walls in my neighborhood, hanging over restaurant patios in Amalfi, and forming a beautiful tunnel on various estate gardens I’ve visited. On our property, it never achieved such splendor, but it did bloom, and provided a canopy backdrop for the pond. Now, a climbing hydrangea, trumpet vine, and a few clematis are all vying—more or less successfully—to take its place. And I know a source for the native American wisteria, which is supposed to be better-behaved (not an attribute that I terribly value).
I’ve always been willing to rip out huge swaths of perennials, I discard bulbs every year, and I watch the demise of annuals without a qualm. This is different. The removal of such a longtime piece of the garden architecture makes everything look different. Which might be good thing.