Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Suzanne's and Wisteria...Again. Actual Tip Included!

The Wisteria - Again
Tom and Steve take care of a handful of gardens in Georgetown. Seven or eight I think they said as I had my nose in a bloody mary at the time.

Enough clients, at any rate, to afford them a two month holiday post Christmas tinsel hanging and poinsettia-ing in the grand homes of their employers and another week or so betwixt, such as the one they were ending at Suzanne's country place in Western Virginia last weekend.

Clearly they choose their clients very well.

One happens to be the wife of a near-president.

This leads me to a thought: there are three types of self-employed: the Tom and Steve's; the folks in the parking lot at Home Depot  looking for work; and people like me, who just hope to have enough for dentures should they live so long.

This is not to take away from Tom and Steve who are tremendously talented-- they just know how to play the game -- and recognize that frequently the more money a client has the more they want to pay. A great deal more if it makes the commodity rare. Tom and Steve are happy to oblige.

I've got a talent or two as well -- some of which might equal theirs -- but charge for it? Aiiee! Even the word makes me cringe. If something comes easily, what's it worth? Oh more the fool me. Maybe one day I'll learn, and have enough for implants when the time comes. (And a little tweak to the chin line?)
Suzanne's Pool House
So anyway, I'm meeting the gardeners at Suzanne's 50 or so acre place in Western Virginia where The Prince and I are spending a happy weekend sleeping under a canopy of mosquito netting in the open-air pool house and have now moved on to brunch on the porch.

Tom and Steve used to rent the place for a week each summer (truly a busman's holiday) until Suzanne ran into a disaster with her city terrace -- company coming, overgrown growth, goldfish belly-up, etc -- and called for help. They became friends, and now have a barter arrangement -- a little time in the country for a little help in the city.

The near-president's wife, to return to the point of this story, has a fabulous white wisteria in her Georgetown garden and another at her place in Boston. Both are tended by her Boston gardener, a man with a particular knack who is therefore flown to Washington several times a year so he can tend the other.  Tom and Steve have been observing his ministrations for some time.
Having a wisteria that stubbornly refuses to bloom -- after 27 years in the garden -- I considered this a fine opportunity to pluck the brains of some high-priced talent who have plucked the brains of some high-priced talent.

I told them that at first I tried watchful waiting, like men do with prostate cancer, since I read early on that it can take seven years for a new plant to bloom. When spring of the eighth year dawned I stood under the now mighty vine which sprawled across the garage roof, flinging tendrils upwards to embrace the telephone wires [a design triumph I called this; lunacy, said The Prince, after we called the telephone company, again].  I stood there, eye caressing each shoot for a hint of what might be a bud and clearly recall my excitement at all of the little green nubbins, anticipating an explosion of intoxicatingly scented purple flowers dripping into the pale pink Queen Elizabeth climbing rose that artfully occupied the opposite corner and was intended as cover for a trellis over a dining patio (until it up and died).

And nothing happened.  This state of nothing happening continued for several years, I told them. The wisteria just grew bigger and more unruly, which I've written about mournfully before.  I tried things: fertilizing, not fertilizing; Epsom salts; cutting back in winter, spring, summer, fall; root pruning.

Tom and Steve were excited at that last.

Root pruning! said Steve, scooting to the edge of his rocker.

But it didn't work, I moaned. I counted three flowers this spring and they were entirely hidden by leaves.
Do you have a Chinese or Japanese wisteria? said Tom.

Stupidly, I don't know this. When we bought the house and I began concocting the grand scheme to replace the clothes line and plum tomato that the previous owner had planted, I thought a wisteria was a wisteria. Who knew? I always intend to keep tags and then I don't know where they go, this is of interest because we still have baby's busted Game Boy, ca 1990, and a great deal of other useless and broken dreck...but nothing to identify the plants. Of course I assumed that I'd remember. Just like the Prince, who tossed the dishwasher manual, assumed that he'd remember where the damn filter or whatnot is, so it could be cleaned and the glasses wouldn't come out looking like they were dipped in chalk and have to be hand washed...

In any event, I thought I'd done due diligence by siting it exactly as my neighbor, Pat, had. Hers grows magnificently and she does nothing in the garden but sneeze and go back inside.

Tom (though it could have been Steve) said that the Chinese variety flowers and leafs out simultaneously. The Japanese blooms and then leafs out.

Since I have to peer through a jungle of leaves to find the damn flowers, such few that I get, I suspect it's Chinese. Which will never give me the effect I'm after, though they assure me that it's very beautiful.
When it blooms.

That would be nice, I mutter.

Actual Flower Tip Follows!

Bag Ties
To produce a fabulous wisteria, I'm told, the Boston Brahman practices a little S&M on the plant, strangling the branches mid-summer -- like around now -- wrapping each one about four feet up with one of those plastic garbage bag ties, the ones with the jaggedy edges at one end that you pull through a hole in the other. Pull not so tightly that you cut the plant, but just enough that there are no gaps. I am assured that it will orgasm next spring in divine floriferous profusion. Or words to that effect.

This sounds interesting. However they haven't seen our wisteria which is more ridiculous than ever this year, as The Prince is Restoring The House and we haven't touched it since last July and he is the one to get onto the garage roof some Saturday morning and cut and haul while I stand in the garden and direct: that one, no that one, no-- yes, no, that. And so forth until we have a giant argument and much stomping and carrying on.

We have to do this in the morning so that we can recover and go out to dinner and have a civil evening.

I think I'll lay in a supply of garbage bag ties and invite the boys for cocktails. Shortly.


  1. I had a good laugh! Thanks! Maybe, I don't need that wisteria that I have been dreaming about for so long!

  2. Tatyanna--it's best to talk a neighbor into growing one in sniffing distance...

  3. Ha ha...you sound like a girl after my own heart...can't beat a bloody Mary.

  4. You probably did this, but when you root prune you have to cut the roots in a circle all the way around the base of the plant. I have never had this fail to force a wisteria to bloom, and i have recommended it to many of my customers. Time does not work--if it's not blooming it will never bloom.

  5. Thanks Carolyn. I once had a bumpercrop of...eight flowers? So it IS capable. It's just being stubborn. I've tried as best I can to root prune, given its jammed-into-a-corner location. So on to the garbage bags ties...let you know next spring. S

  6. I have not grown one as I understand it might try to take over my house. :) Love them though.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  7. Good plan (not to grow one), at least not in a little patch like mine. Unless you're an obsessive compulsive -- or German, like my friend Margot, who keeps hers in neat trim (and says things like, let's synchronize our watches, when we're going to meet for lunch).

  8. Don't trust any wisteria, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Martian... They won't bloom, or they bloom just to draw your attention from how they are killing some adjacent tree or rooting a vinelet on the ground or wrapping quick and tight around your neighbor's kid.

    But they are quite pretty.


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