|Today in The Garden of a Lifetime: Miniature Wisteria|
The feathery finger-sized foliage of miniature Chinese wisteria makes this diminutive shrub a stump-the-guests treat in the Summer. The leaf and flower buds of normal-sized wisteria are a show in themselves, so why not those of this dwarf?
Indeed, the tiny brown bud scales are a pleasing contrast to the pale-grey stems. Will any of the buds develop into flowers? On the regular-size vines, buds that develop into flowers are grouped on congested, stumpy little branches—the antithesis of the slender foot-after-foot-long whips—known as spurs.
But everything about this wisteria is tiny, congested, and stumpy; it rarely remembers to grow whips at all. By default, all its stems look like spurs.
But, shucks: Just because the regular stems look like spurs doesn't mean that Wisteria sinensis 'Kofuji' will be a cloud of tiny flowers come Spring. In fact, this eccentric shrub rarely flowers at all.
In a shrub of nothing but growth that, in a regular wisteria, would qualify as a spur, a true spur could be hiding in plain view.
Look at the close-up below. What about the really stumpy one, angling up to the right about an inch from the tip? The one beneath it? The next one down the stem, which also angles upward?
One thing's for sure: That inch-tall vertical stem is this shrub's version of a go-for-broke, let-her-rip whip.
With buds that are scarcely an eighth of an inch long, it would take some micro-surgery to determine if foliage or flowers were beneath the brown bud-scale. But since the flowers are so rare to begin with, attempts to confirm flower buds before they do it themselves, by flowering, would only destroy any that were found. And with this shy-flowering shrub, "any" might actually be "only." It would be Pyrrhic, indeed, to locate the shrub's only flowers by destroying them.
Better to wait for flowers and foliage to announce themselves in Spring. In the off-chance that there are any flowers, the next step would be to mark the point on the stem where they originated. With a daub of finger polish? A stroke of a tiny paint brush, from an equally-tiny bottle of paint from a craft store? I'll be prepared, because flower buds emerge from spurs, and spurs can produce additional buds year after year.
If there's one cluster of flowers, there's one spur—and one spur, at last, to be identified as such.
Here's how to grow Wisteria sinensis 'Kofuji', as well as pictures of the plant in full feathery foliage.
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