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Wisteria hysteria

Hattie Moore, garden apprentice

Fulham Palace’s famous Wisteria sinensis is currently in bloom. It’s a Chinese wisteria, a species that has slightly smaller flower racemes, but a superior scent to its cousin the Japanese wisteria. As you walk through the Tudor gate into the walled garden, you are hit with a beautiful scent and a wall of vibrant blue-purple. It’s hard to believe colours this rich are naturally occurring.

In the wild it can become invasive, its vigorous growth can creep and twist over buildings and trees. One wisteria in California covers a record breaking one acre or 4,000 square metres! We keep our specimen in check by pruning once a year with our volunteers. Lucy Hart, our head gardener, trains us in the art of spur pruning – which she previously put to good use when she looked after the famous wisteria pergola at Kew. The Palace’s team effort usually takes up to a week to complete – and that doesn’t include the wisteria on the Palace facade, which takes a further week and a scaffold. All this hard work ensures our blooms are spectacular every year.

Our wisteria climbs a frame in a semi-circular shape, mirroring the curve of the south wall behind it. An upcoming project at Fulham Palace is to redesign and replace the framework the plant climbs on. The strength of the twisting vine and the weight of the mature wood has meant that the existing structure is slowly being crushed.

What is usually a crowd-pleaser, this year the wisteria is a treat for the hard-working gardeners alone, as Fulham Palace remains closed to the public due to Covid-19. Hopefully, these pictures will convey a small amount of the beauty of the plant in flower and encourage you to return to see the wisteria next year.