If you have never seen the wisteria blooming at the Van Vleck Gardens in Montclair, stop whatever you are doing right now and go (assuming you are not in the middle of surgery or reading Baristanet). When wisteria is in its full glory, as it is now, it is in two words, breath-taking. Hundreds of massive purple grape-like racemes dangle from the vines that wrap the back of the house as the lovely scent wafts through the air.
Howard Van Vleck planted his Chinese wisteria vines in 1939 and trained them to twine in opposite directions. Wisteria sinensis, Chinese wisteria, naturally twine counter-clockwise while its cousin W. floribunda (Japanese wisteria), twines clockwise. Now 73 years old, the vines are starting to show structural problems. If you would like a piece of history there will be seedlings for sale from one of these two massive vines at the garden’s plant sale this coming May 5th-6th.
Sometimes it is an invasive vine that can grow around trees and choke them. If you have a massive old wisteria on your property, as I did in my old house, you may find the long cord-like roots growing everywhere and popping up new shoots. Wisterias love discipline and even abuse. Mine have always been full of blooms after being trained, pruned and slapped. The true Honey Badger of the plant world.
Because of how quickly it grows and its beauty, wisteria is not without its share of fame. The largest wisteria vine on record is 115 years old and is located in Sierra Madra, CA where the Guinness Book of World Records has named the vine as the World’s Largest Flowering Plant. Estimated at the height of its bloom, the vine has 1.5 million blossoms with 40 blossoms per square foot, weighs 250 tons and has branches that extend 500 feet (one acre)! There is also the amazing wisteria tunnel in Kawachi Fuji Garden that is on my bucket list. My favorite wisteria vine in the world is the vine that wraps around the green Japanese bridge at Monet’s home in Giverny.
Check out the slide show below to get a peek at the other things blooming at Van Vleck Gardens, and the bee keeping.
One of these pictures was not taken at Van Vleck – can you guess which one?