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Wisteria sinensis. D. Bush
Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Spring begins with wisteria
Gardening

Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: Spring begins with wisteria

To see a truly beautiful example you only have to visit the Jardín Botánico La Concepción in Malaga at this time of year

Denise Bush

Malaga

Thursday, 28 March 2024, 15:37

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To see a truly beautiful spectacle you only have to visit the Jardín Botánico La Concepción in Malaga at this time of year. The outside dining room is covered by a wrought iron pergola which is itself covered by twelve Wisteria sinensis, planted in 1857 by the Loring-Heredia family.

The hanging racemes of graceful, purple blooms look (and smell) beautiful but if you look closely you will see the strong, twisting stems have practically destroyed the ornate iron framework. This is one of the downsides of owning a Wisteria, they are extremely vigorous growers and will destroy built supports. However, growing up a living plant, such as a tree or other climber, they do not tighten their grip and will happily co-exist.

Wisteria is a member of the legume family (Fabaceae) and can reproduce from seed or layering. Grown from seed it may be up to seven years before this woody vine flowers. The two most common species are W. floribunda and W. sinensis. The latter, native to China, is the most aggressive grower. It also grows taller, has thicker stems and longer leaves. The racemes of scented flowers are densely packed, more rounded and can be up to 30cm long.

W. floribunda is native to Japan and has long pendulous racemes of white or blue, strongly scented flowers up to 60cm long. It may be slow to become established but once mature it will grow aggressively and is very long lived. Apparently, the way to tell the two apart is W. sinensis twines anti-clockwise while W. floribunda twists clockwise.

Less common

There are other, less common species such as W. frutescens which is native to south-eastern US and which has thinner stems and shorter racemes of flowers. It is on the whole less vigorous and therefore suitable for smaller spaces. W. brachybotrys is native to Japan and has distinctive silky seed pods, it is also less aggressive. Finally there is W. macrostachya, native to southeastern US, especially Kentucky. This species is hardier than the others but not common.

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