A Wisteria is a Wisteria is a Wisteria…
I was having a conversation a few weeks back with someone who was “getting into gardening” and the subject of growing native plants came up. “I am redoing my garden and I am only going to grow natives”, they exclaimed. I inquired as to why and their answer was, “They are so much better for the environment.” That’s the Kool Aid talking if I ever heard it. The example used- “Those horrible wisteria vines, choking out poor, unarmed trees everywhere.” Before I could stop the rant, “I would never plant wisteria in my garden,” came falling off the tongue, as my mother would say, “Like gumballs dropping from a jammed dispensor.”
I asked this person if they had ever grown our native wisteria, Wisteria frutescens? No, they had never heard of it, looking dumbfounded and delirious all at once. “Well”, I said, ” you might not want to poo-poo all wisteria before you know more about this one.”
I wanted to launch into my, let’s talk more than rhetoric, talk, the kind of rhetoric I hear from lots of people in the know (see what rhetoric sounds like) but I realized this was not the place or time.(mushy between the ears) so I just went on to describe this little jewel of a vine.
For those who want a good healthy vine with the blooms in the picture, try one of the best selections called “Amethyst Falls”. Will it grow up into a tree if you let it, sure thing. Will it wrap around your neck and choke you to death if you stand there long enough, sure thing. is it as aggressive as the Chinese wisteria, no way, never. In a garden setting cut the thing back to the main branches ever so many years to keep it controlled. I think it blooms better with lots more pruning. Cut it back after it flowers, and again mid summer if you like.
There are wonderful reasons for using native plants in our gardens. Most are the same reasons we grow exotics in our landscapes. They provide all kinds of wonderful things for our gardens.
What I did tell this person before they moved on to the next poor sucker was this. In my garden is a mamouth southern magnolia and at the very top covering this mamouth spread is our state vine, the Carolina Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens. Someone before me planted a few on the fence beside this tree. “Look Marge, its a native plant. I bet that thing is good for the environment. Let’s plant two!”