wisteria takes over pergola


The wisteria vines on our pergola are in full force, to say the least. We suspect that they are on steroids. We predict that they are going to take over the world.

The wooden pergola by our front entrance is one of things we loved about this house when we first saw it. It spans a platform covered in slate and basically serves as a front porch. When we first visited the house, it was January, so the pergola created an attractive space, yet it was essentially bare.

Little did we know that the wisteria that creeps up and around one of the posts then across the structure every spring would turn out to be a living, breathing and extremely aggressive life force. Little did we know that this would consume pretty much our every waking moment in the spring and summer.

before and after pergola

I am not exaggerating when I say that you can actually see this thing growing. The vines get thicker, and longer, and they curl (not unlike my hair after all those perms I got from the ages 11-19.) (Oh, the 80’s). Hence, we are often forced to refer to this not as the pergola, but the permola.

curling wisteria vines

The crazy thing is that these wisteria vines attack everything in sight. If you take your eyes off of it for even a few seconds, it shakes hands with the branches of a nearby tree and tries to wrestle it down to the ground. It crawls into the gutters and engages in a tug of war. It creeps under the shingles and flicks them off the roof. One day, I caught it sneaking under a copper baseboard type thing we have at the front of our house. By the time I got there, I had to pull out 3 feet of vines! If this process had a soundtrack, it would certainly sound like SNL’s The Creep:

Because this wisteria vine is so stealthy, Rob carries a long tool called a pruning stik with him at all times:

pruning stik

Me: “Hey, do you really need to take that out to the restaurant?”

Him with bug-eyes: “You just never know.”

Me: “That’s true.”

I’d estimate conservatively that, on average, he trims the permola approximately every four minutes.

Fending off the advances of this plant has made us slightly frantic and all kinds of paranoid, but this little biosphere has has also brought much joy. For example, one day these bean-like pods suddenly appeared.

wisteria pods like beans

To quote my brother, Brad: “Now that’s some edamame.” Soon thereafter, they became the most beautiful lavender flowers.

wisteria flowers

Turns out this process happens in both the spring and the late summer.

And in the spring, a Robin built a sturdy nest right in the corner.

robin in nest

And before we knew it, there were three little babies, straining their necks, waiting for worm deliveries.

baby birds in pergola

My sister-in-law, Marcy, was visiting from Ohio at the time, and we were mesmerized. Watching this feeding frenzy was as fascinating as any movie.

Mostly, the permola/pergola is the site of the most extreme and delicious R & R. Think coffee, think glass of wine, think book, think staring off into space.

Jocelyn Jane Cox in pergola

Of course, this is punctuated by emergency trimming and straining to detach the vines that have started to wend their way around your neck.

But it’s well worth it. If you are thinking of including a pergola in your landscape and brave enough to invite in some wisteria, I do recommend it.

Healthy as this wisteria is, we have only seen two flowers on ours: does anyone know how to cultivate more? If so, please click on “leave a comment” below.

6 replies

  1. Feeding a plant well usually results in flowering.., then you time a boost of phosphorous(known by gardeners as Bloom Boost). You need to read up on things a little bit. Do you know any nurserymen.., do you shop farmers markets for mushroom hunters and sellers that can teach you something.., I’m pretty amazed at the few pages of yours that I’ve read.., that you can’t resource better on your own, locally. I’m a very avid “MushRoam” hunter here in Maine…, and quite honestly.., your little mushroom story scared me. Promise .., never to eat any of what you find. What you experienced was a flush that occurs after a rain. A very common occurrence. Now that you know.., you’ll begin to associate. Did you know that they have relationships with specific trees? Watch your local paper for mushroom gatherings, talks at libraries etc…, if you are truly interested. There is always someone willing to teach what they Know.., if you were here in Maine.., I’d help ya. Here’s an important clue to help ID things.., I use 5 different books to resolve questionable issues. Once I feel pretty sure.., use Google Images. Type in the suspected name and you’ll get loads of pictures of that variety in it’s many different phases. That helps a lot. Finally…, every mushroomer’s law is “When in doubt.., throw it out.”

    It’s a wonderfully engaging pastime, gets you out in the forest,
    the safest place on Earth to be. Be safe and enjoy the endless


    P.S. I have a very quick and free Poison Ivy remedy that you can probably find close to home. Healing scabs in two days…, immediate itch relief. It’s an herbal tea that you spray on for unbelievably immediate relief. No doctor will ever tell you even if he knew. Contact me if interested.

  2. dont feed this thing!!! ever! dont even water it! wisteria love neglect (aside from pruning) agressive pruning in feb. and again in july will cause the vine to flower. hope im not too late…yours looks great.

  3. I hope your lovely wisteria is still growing beautifully and not scaring you too much. Your problem with lack of flowers may be that Rob is pruning it too often. Every 4 minutes may be a bit much? Definitely remove those curly twining tendrils, but leave most of this year’s growth to mature and that’s where the flowers will come from.

    Prune it heavily in Autumn when it has lost its leaves, and a light prune in late spring/early summer after the main flowering has finished. This will encourage another bloom in late summer.

    Also as Guy suggested, give it some food high in phosphorous but low in nitrogen (phosphorous = flowers; nitrogen = leaves).

    Best wishes from New Zealand.

  4. Well, it seems you have gotten all the advice you need, but I will agree that; as with many flowering plants, pruning too much will result in less flowers. I’m curious to hear if the advice was useful and you have built a cohesive relationship with your wisteria. Maybe even renamed it. It sounds like it provides a lot of joy.

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