Thursday, April 22, 2010
the lessons of the wisteria
The beautiful pale violet flowering vine above is wisteria (this one is along a neighbor's fence just before the turn off to our lane).
Wisteria is a plant that does not bloom until it reaches maturity (which can be a few years for the Kentucky Wisteria that I see all around me, or more than a decade for the Chinese variant). Even then wisteria does not always blossom until it has experienced some type of distress -- like blows, explosions, and fire damage to the main trunk, shock to the roots (like extended freeze/thaw cycles), or drought. Clearly something about the last year, especially this past winter, created exactly the right conditions for wisteria, because it is more abundant in eastern Kentucky than I have seen in 14 years I've lived here.
For the first time it is impossible to miss the wisteria on my drive to work. In addition to lanes of redbud and dogwood this spring, I pass a half dozen places where wisteria has taken over an entire hillside. In each case, in the center of the massive cascades of wisteria, are the collapsed, shattered, rotting remains of a house, often barely visible in the vegetation.
Wisteria is a very long lived plant, an invasive plant that climbs walls, covers buildings, chokes giant trees -- luckily its a relatively slow growing plant (unlike kudzu). Home owners fifty, sixty years ago or even longer, planted wisteria near their homes. The home owners are long since gone, the houses decayed into near oblivion, but the wisteria has thrived and taken over the entire former homestead, climbing 80 foot trees, cascading down hillsides creating magical, fairy bowers.
There is something inspiring about a plant that blooms its best when damaged and distressed, and which creates its most beautiful landscapes on the bones of abandoned homes.
Monet's 1925 painting Wisteria at Monetalia.
Wisteria Wall by sgreerpitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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