White Wisteria

The fragrance stopped me in my tracks. I looked around only to discover that the source was at least twenty feet away. I don’t know the name of this particular variety, but it is a winner.

Three white cultivars are listed at “Favorite Wisteria Varieties.” Jako is described as having “intensely fragrant clusters” while Shiro-Kapitan is “highly fragrant.” And if the 24-inch racemes of Wisteria floribunda ‘alba’ look familiar, perhaps you have been to Monet’s bridge in Giverny. Another floribunda available from Monrovia is Issai Perfect.

White flowers in general are the most fragrant. Flowers exist to attract pollinators; some plants employ fragrance, others use color. (Red and orange flowers often have little or no fragrance.)

Yes, they require pruning and wrangling but it’s worth it. (Keep them out of trees and off of gutters and such.) This website has good advice and a discussion of the advantages of planting the North American cultivars:

Asian wisteria are aggressive growers with fuzzy seed pods, while North American wisteria are not quite as aggressive in their growing habits and have smooth seed pods and fruits, as well as more-or-less cylindrical, bean-shaped seeds. Another difference is that American and Kentucky wisteria’s flowers appear after the plant has leafed out in the late spring, whereas the Chinese wisteria’s blooms appear before its foliage.

One last point: Wisteria flowers are popular with bees, particularly as the weather gets warm. My experience has been that the bees find the blooms so compelling that they have ignored me completely. On a big old vine, those bees can generate quite a racket . . . also kind of fun. From a piece about plants for bees:

How can you not love wisteria? One of the most beautiful plants, with cascading tresses of purple flowers in spring. A legume, hence related to peas and clovers, a family much loved by bees for their protein-rich pollen.

This vine adorns the retaining wall of a parking lot on North Main Street, where it frames the dumpster nicely. But this illustrates the more rapacious side of wisteria; this vine has been allowed to extend itself across the sidewalk and into the street tree and we can’t have that.

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