For some reason it is only after Christmas that the Wisteria seems to call me for its winter prune.  Before that, it just seems to be doing fine and then after the holiday, it suddenly seems in dire need of a serious prune.  As many of you will know, I usually do (or at least start) the job on New Year’s Day, but this year the weather was so wet and gloomy that I only started on the job today.

If you have a wisteria to prune and are not confident as to how to do it, take a look at the video I did of the process last year.  Some friends of mine watched the video last year and after pruning their wisteria, had blooms on it for the first time last spring.  I can’t promise that this will happen for you as the plant has to be mature enough to flower, but if lack of pruning was the cause for few or no flowers, then the video should help.  Even if the plant isn’t ready to flower yet, pruning is important in establishing a framework for the future.

Wisteria Knot

If you don’t get the structure right from the beginning then you can get congestion points or “knots”.  Here a side shoot has grown and forced itself behind a main stem.  This has created a very congested area where it is virtually impossible to get in to remove material.  In previous years, I have pruned as much as I could, but the problem just gets worse as each year even more shoots make the problem worse.

This year, I will prune all around the area to give myself as much visibility as possible.  I will not worry about the three bud principle as I am not trying to get flowers here, but rather to resolve the congestion.  I will then take my pruning saw to the major offenders and hopefully that will sort the issue out.

Hopefully this will be in the next week or two and I will post after the job is done to let you see the results.

This is a real garden and so not quite as pristine as one at the Chelsea Flower Show, but in my own way, I have an understanding of what those gardeners go through.   I am now at the titivating stage before next week’s NGS opening.

There is a path - I promise 🙂

For myself, I am happy to have the plants spilling over the paths in gay abandon, but I know that visitors would like to actually see the paths in front of them.  So this weekend, the job has been to persuade the plants to stay behind the border edging plant supports I have. 

Border plant supports – hopefully soon to be hidden

Whilst they are also made from metal and robust, they are different from the ones that I use to protect individual plants from the unwanted attentions of the dogs.  If you are interested in this type of support, check out Snape Stakes.  In the next week, the plants should grow enough to hide the supports whilst still benefitting from them.

Aqualegias are looking wonderful this year

I am spending my time wandering around the garden and watching for anything that looks out-of-place.  Never before have I had to dead headed Aquilegias as they are usually over by the time of the garden opening.  They are looking wonderful at the moment and I am just praying that they can manage to hold on for another week.

The bay that I had to avoid pruning earlier in the year as it was home to a blackbird nest has now had its annual trim, and the stock of bay leaves for the kitchen has been replenished.  Any yellow leaf that I see is whipped of the plant – everything is so late this year that the evergreen shrubs are still losing last year’s leaves.

Fallen wisteria flowers carpet

The big job left is sweeping the paths – this has to be done again and again.  The remnants of the wisteria’s flowers are still trying to carpet the garden.  Obviously they have competition from other plants which are dropping leaves and flowers too.  Then there are the bits of wood chip that the birds clear out of the way in their search for worms.  I used to blame the dogs for this until I realised that it happened even if the dogs hadn’t been out.

Less than a week's growth, the wisteria is trying to invade the house

In other posts, I have mentioned that the wisteria is a thug.  It grows so fast that it can be hard to keep it under control.  One of my more unusual jobs is to go upstairs and prune what I can reach from the bedroom windows.

But next weekend, the garden will be lovely – and all the big jobs I have to do each year will be done.  After the opening, I can sit back and enjoy my garden without having to worry too much.

So what is it that would make someone, who has a healthy respect for heights, go happily climbing up the side of the house on a ladder?   It has to be the winter prune of the Wisteria.  

It is a job that I do every New Year’s Day.  I know that gardening experts always say that the autumn is the start of the new gardening year as that is the best time for planting, but for me, pruning the Wisteria is the start.  It is almost always very frosty, a lovely crisp day when it is a pleasure to be outside if you are well wrapped up.   For the last two years, my husband has been concened to let me do it following my hip operation.   Two years ago, there was absolutely no chance of me doing it as I was on crutches.  Last year, he once again offered to do the job.  This year, there was no way that I was going to let him do it. 

We agreed to split the labour this year though.  He placed the ladder and I climbed up to do the pruning.  Once I had finished a section, he moved the ladder and the process continued.  The wisteria covers the back of our house, so this means quite a few ladder moves.  We have a stabiliser for the ladder for safety reasons, but it does make the moving process a bit more complicated.  We always start on the eastern side of the house as it is much easier to put the ladder up on the patio.  By the time we get to the western side, we have to negotiate the plants in the bed which is always a little harder.  The dogs are always confined to the house during the pruning process, the last thing that we want is to trip over them as we move the ladder (our springers are very inquisitive creatures) or for them to be hit by falling branches.

There is something intensely satisfying about pruning the wisteria.  The thought that this job is going to produce a more floriferous result in the spring spurs one on.  As the books say, I prune to two buds, which I assume allows the plant to concentrate its efforts on a smaller number of buds and therefore produce more vigorous racemes in the spring.  Over the years you create more and more flowering spurs  just waiting to erupt when the time is right.  At the same time, removing the unnecessary growth provides a nice neat structure for the plant to start its growth again once the sap rises in spring.