Spring Musings 1.5

“Be careful what you pray for… you might get it!”

I’ve heard that saying all of my life.  Given I am a person who has always moved fast, not waited and feel some resentment if I have to wait at all, I have never prayed for patience.  I KNOW how one’s prayers are answered:  with opportunities, or in this case, with obstacles and barriers to wait through, and learn patience.  No thank you!

But then I bought a house.  It came with a 30 year mortgage.  Signing the papers, the date when the house would be paid off seemed like a joke!  I couldn’t imagine what my life might be like in 30 more years.  And at the time, I was 29.  I sold that first house after 2 years, never truly owning any of it, having just paid interest.  Ironically, we are getting close to the year that house would have been paid off!

Currently we live in the third house I/we bought.  This one is a much better investment, given the purchase happening in a more stable time of midlife in which I am more secure in my career and income and I’m married, so two of us share the joys and burdens of home ownership.  The mortgage has not caused me to learn patience, however.  Instead it is the wisteria.  That’s right, the persnickety vine that I was warned could take 8 – 10 years to actually bloom.  I watched my parents plant wisteria along the front porch spreading around the front and side of the huge Victorian house we lived in.  I don’t recall how many years they tried to coax it to grow, much less bloom, but after several vine-less years, they simply decorated the porch with hanging flower baskets.  Instant joy!  Flowers blooming all season, and the joys of birds nesting in one of the baskets, bringing their young to fledgling state, where the cats came into the picture.  Sadly, I never knew Sunshine kitty could jump so high!

But I work wonders with my gardens here in Berkley, MI.  I like to think I have a “touch” with gardening.  It’s probably the constant attention I give, watering, feeding and nurturing my perennials.  I have amazing irises, hundreds of multiplying black-eyed Susans, day lilies that threated to take over their corner of the yard, and phlox and bee balm that attract bees and hummingbirds.  And I had immediate success with one vine.  Friends dug up some Virgin’s bower clematis when we moved in 11 years ago.  We put up an 8′ lattice along the fence and the clematis took off.  I transplanted a dozen baby vines up and down the length of the fence.  I apparently have a female plant, since the Virgin’s Bower clematis needs a male and a female plant to go to seed and invade a back yard.   By mid summer it is a thick blanket of green leaves and vines.  By late August it is a huge quilt of sweet-scented, little white flowers, a foot thick and six feet wide, draped over the fence, stretching the 100 feet of the length of the side and back yards.  The honey scent wafts another 20 feet to the sidewalk in the front, thousands of bees, praying mantises and other insects taking advantage of the pollen and nectar.  I’ve found mantis egg cases on the fence after cutting down the vines with their prominent “old man beard” plumed seeds in October.    I’d almost have to say that the clematis has become my signature vine, if not flower!

So of course, I could cajole a wisteria to bloom sooner than eight long years!  But since this is the house I plan on being carried out feet first some 40 years hence, I was also willing to try to be patient to see what Mother Nature would do.  I’d out-wait whatever her wisteria requirements would be, or the more likely route.  When one vine didn’t produce, I bought and planted another.  And another.  And another.

We built a pergola for the shade-craving woodland flowers I’d brought from our prior shady yard:  May apples, ostrich ferns, wild geraniums (pink/purple, a rare color I hear) bleeding hearts in white and pink, Virginia blue bells, lilies of the valley and astilbes.  We added a wood lattice “roof” to the pergola, but the master plan was that the lattice would rot out after the triumphant wisteria had formed it’s own canopy, shading those woodland treasures.  I imagined multitudes of elongated clusters of lavender flowers, effusively hanging from the vines, filling the spring air with their light scent just as the clematis does in fall.  Good thing I have an active imagination!

The first was a Chinese wisteria, known for it’s aggressive growth and gorgeous flowers, some sources saying it blooms in two to three years!  Not mine!  After a dismal first year, it was moved to the back fence, where it died.  Later, I learned they don’t like to be transplanted.

A second Chinese wisteria replaced it, rewarding me with tremendous growth and green.  But no flowers.    It looked like a green afro, tendrils curling out of the mass of foliage atop the pergola!  But it wasn’t covering the lattice at all.

I welcomed another wisteria, this time an Amethyst Falls, a native American plant.  It grows carefully, thoughtfully, producing fat purple buds that open into an ovoid shape of multi-flowers.  Nice and gratifying to get blooms immediately, but the slow growth has barely taken over it’s corner of the pergola.  Alone, it will never be the canopy I imagined.

The fourth vine arrived, and having chopped down the Chinese wisteria that grew but didn’t bloom, I popped this new Chinese wisteria a foot away from the vine stump.  The chopped vine appeared to be dead for the next several years, while it’s new neighbor grew enthusiastically, twining and intertwining it’s tendrils into a mass of vines that have coalesced into a veritable trunk that now is easily 8″ in diameter.  Finally, two years ago, the new Chinese wisteria produced 1.5 – 2″ baby flower buds hanging down all over the vines!  Excited, these buds elongated daily and I anticipating a year 6 victory!  And then on Mother’s Day, this being Michigan, we had a frost.  Every single bud froze and fell off.  I was devastated, defeated.

But, what is a gardener without patience to do?  Put up another pergola, of course!  And plant yet another wisteria.  So, the new frame is on the patio next to the house and the new “Aunt Dee” wisteria took up residence.  I strung up twine for the vines to grow up, and was pleased with it’s quick growth.  And the next spring, a goodly number of clustered flowers on the new small vine!  Such a good show for the Aunt Dee vine.  I am a fan!

So this spring has been filled with anticipation.  Our second horribly cold and incredibly long winter in a row, and it was mid-April before the snow retreated so I could start dividing perennials and assess the winter damage.  Auguries of blooms, the intertwined Chinese wisteria produced hundreds of flower buds once again!  More than the frost killed.  The spring has been chilly, following the Great Lakes having frozen over both of the last winters, so I kept my fingers crossed.  Success!  The Chinese vine bloomed in profusion, at least in the middle and back.  So the best view of the lovely purple clustered flowers is from behind the garage, not from the back door.  Oh well.  I now know about that aggressive pruning preventing flowering in the front!

Patience is paying off.  The chopped off Chinese wisteria is sending up tendrils, and the Amythist Falls has lots of fattening purple buds which will probably bloom in a week.  The Aunt Dee is greening out, with lots of white fattening buds.  I trust it will produce lilac blooms in several weeks.  The frost threatens even on Memorial Day weekend, but so far has allowed my wisteria to reward my persistence.  A double reward was to see a Twisty Locust tree I planted two years ago with no expectations of flowers has burst into a few blooms:  lovely white, fragrant clusters of wisteria-type flowers!  Who knew!

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