Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Mysterious Wisteria: An Irresistible Flower Goes from Vine to Vase

Search

Mysterious Wisteria: An Irresistible Flower Goes from Vine to Vase

April 24, 2019

If Susan Orlean wrote a book about me, it might be called The Wisteria Thief. For days I eyed the purple flowers that were dripping from my neighbor Ben’s out-of-control vines. When the wild tendrils went rogue, wrapping themselves like a python around his front gate, I headed next door with a pair of clippers. Call it pruning.

Somehow I ended up with an armload of the world’s purplest purple. What to do with the flowers? There’s a reason most florists don’t stock Wisteria sinensis in their refrigerated cases. With delicate, suspended clusters of blossoms, this flowering vine is as fragile to transport as a crystal chandelier.

Luckily safety was one door over. At home, I went to work. Here are step-by-step instructions for arranging wisteria in a vase:

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

Garden designer Tim Callis calls wisteria a thug because of its aggressively invasive tendencies. &#8\2\20;You should never turn your back on it,&#8\2\2\1; he warns.
Above: Garden designer Tim Callis calls wisteria a thug because of its aggressively invasive tendencies. “You should never turn your back on it,” he warns.

But after it’s clipped, it looks harmless…or is it?

The only true danger after cutting wisteria is that the heavy clusters of blossoms will snap or break off. This is to be avoided.
Above: The only true danger after cutting wisteria is that the heavy clusters of blossoms will snap or break off. This is to be avoided.

Study the Shape

When arranging wisteria, the first step is to get your bearings. Gently prop the vine—it grows on woody, sturdy branches—in a vase or jug of water so you can get a good look at its structure. Does it droop gracefully? Does it need a little shaping? Have its leaves started to appear (they emerge after the blooms)? If so, is the foliage obscuring the flowers?
Above: When arranging wisteria, the first step is to get your bearings. Gently prop the vine—it grows on woody, sturdy branches—in a vase or jug of water so you can get a good look at its structure. Does it droop gracefully? Does it need a little shaping? Have its leaves started to appear (they emerge after the blooms)? If so, is the foliage obscuring the flowers?

Split the Stem

Step two is to split the woody stem to allow the wisteria to absorb more water.
Above: Step two is to split the woody stem to allow the wisteria to absorb more water.
 I used an Exacto knife and made a 6-inch-long cut.
Above: I used an Exacto knife and made a 6-inch-long cut.

Detangle the Flowers

Step three is to gently disentangle the hanging clusters of flowers. Be very, very careful—you can see soft, nubby green stems are all that attach the flowers to the vine.
Above: Step three is to gently disentangle the hanging clusters of flowers. Be very, very careful—you can see soft, nubby green stems are all that attach the flowers to the vine.

Trim Foliage

Step four is to gently trim away green leaves—take it a little at a time, as if you were giving your child her first haircut—to reveal more of the vine&#8\2\17;s shape.
Above: Step four is to gently trim away green leaves—take it a little at a time, as if you were giving your child her first haircut—to reveal more of the vine’s shape.

Take Stock

Step five is to stand back a few feet and see if you like the effect. Here&#8\2\17;s where I stopped clipping the leaves—I liked the effect of leaving a few of them to frame the flowers.
Above: Step five is to stand back a few feet and see if you like the effect. Here’s where I stopped clipping the leaves—I liked the effect of leaving a few of them to frame the flowers.
A bud that has not opened before being cut will stay a bud forever.
Above: A bud that has not opened before being cut will stay a bud forever.
The wisteria arrangement lasted eight days—a pretty good run—before starting to droop and look sad.
Above: The wisteria arrangement lasted eight days—a pretty good run—before starting to droop and look sad.
Despite being careful, I accidentally broke off one cluster of blossoms, so I stuck them into a little vase of water to see what happened. They lasted two days before drooping.
Above: Despite being careful, I accidentally broke off one cluster of blossoms, so I stuck them into a little vase of water to see what happened. They lasted two days before drooping.
I feel like I never really look closely enough at flowers. It&#8\2\17;s a privilege to examine wisteria up close and personal. Thanks, Ben.
Above: I feel like I never really look closely enough at flowers. It’s a privilege to examine wisteria up close and personal. Thanks, Ben.

Browse all of our curated guides to Vines & Climbers 101, and see more about wisteria at:

Additionally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for wisteria with our Wisteria: A Field Guide to Planting Care & Design.

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0