Pruning Lessons

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust. Gertrude Jekyll

“Mom, you need to prune the wisteria,” my youngest daughter said.
My husband shot me a glance where I stood at the kitchen counter dressing our salad. He had made the same astute observation before our family arrived for Easter brunch. They knew I knew the wisteria needed pruning. They also knew a knee injury slowed me down.
I spied the feral, tangled bines four feet deep atop the pergola, tempted to offer my daughter and husband pruning shears. “I know,” I said instead. We enjoyed our meal in peace.
Years ago, a Master Gardener warned me about wisteria seninses, that its woody grip and weight would eventually “bring down” the iron support. This member of the pea family, Fabaceaeis a high-maintenance girl and requires pruning from early spring through fall. Temperamental, you never know when a wisteria will bless its keeper with bloom.
Usually, Mother Nature is to blame. Her late April frosts more often than not wither our wisteria’s swelling buds to dust. I could cry when that happens. You must cover a budding plant with a lightweight cloth to protect it from ice crystals. That’s not going to happen here.  
                  One fine day in May 2013, I chanced to look upon the structure and promptly went giddy at masses of cone-shaped buds. My farm staff gathered to celebrate the occasion. Just what stars lined up in biodynamic synchronicity to produce such a show, we’ll never know.
                  One on the north and south side, the wisterias first bloomed May 2010, winding to span twenty-five feet of the arbor’s iron ribs. According to experts, the stems must grow horizontal for five years before they’re allowed to grow vertical and bloom.  
                  Some flowers transformed into slender, green seedpods that twisted when they dried and eventually burst open. The seeds rooted. Some roots grew the width of the pergola. Like a fairy tale, tendrils twined the legs of tables and chairs within the leafy tunnel.
                  Ideally, I should’ve hard pruned our plants after we stored the pergola’s furniture last September. Rather, I preserved my vegetable garden and harvested the grape arbor. In October, we flew to California for our grandson’s twelfth birthday. With so much life to live, the wisterias could wait.
                  They did, with vengeance. Methodically, from the lilac tree at the west end, to the oak at the east, I climbed a ladder and pulled vines from the trees’ branches; pruned dead and green wood that spiraled from thick trunks through the trellis. The piles of castaways made a fine, crackling fire.
                  Dear Reader, the oak and lilac tree breathe easily again. The wisteria sisters splay their new girlish figures. They won’t bloom this year for I sacrificed their fruit in pruning.
As Ms Jekyll learned, I shall be patient and watch carefully. Prune when able. I trust entirely Nature’s fickle habits.