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Posted: August 28, 2012 6:27 p.m.

My wisteria’s haircut

I gave my wisteria a haircut this weekend. I usually trim it about twice in the summer and then really cut it back in the fall when the leaves fall off. Every time I cut it in the summer, it gets really happy and grows at a greater speed and even flowers again.

The Chinese kind, which I have, is an invasive plant. It will take over the world. I have cut it out of my fig tree, which is at least 15 feet from the original plant, and from an azalea bed, which is more than 30 feet from the plant. The roots shot out from the original plant and popped up there. According to Wikipedia, the world's largest known wisteria plant in Sierra Madre, Calif., measures more than one acre in size and weighs 250 tons. It is like mine, a Chinese lavender. (How do you measure the weight of plant?) I advise those who are contemplating landscaping never to plant wisteria, no matter how pretty you think it is.

Anyway, back to the hair cut. I decided this year not to cut the plant until it went dormant for the winter. My reasoning was if I didn't cut the plant, it would not be happy and not grow as much. My reasoning was false and I finally had to admit defeat.

The wisteria grows over what my family laughingly calls Paula's patio. I never wanted a patio. But someone, more than 25 years ago, gave my husband about a half a pickup truck full of flag stones. He, never turning down anything free, hauled them home and piled them up in my back yard. When I complained about the pile, he would tell me he was going to build me a patio. After about five years, he finally did. Hence Paula's patio.

He built a pergola type structure over the patio and attached it to the house. He then covered the structure with that wavy clear plastic stuff. Then he planted the wisteria next to one of the outside posts.

The wisteria grew with a vengeance and the clear plastic soon turned to an opaque yellow. We had to remove the plastic when my husband fell through it demonstrating to the painters that it was perfectly safe to walk on. Removing the plastic involved cutting the wisteria back to a nub. It didn't care. It grew back just as luxuriant as ever.

He also had to replace the pergola structure eventually. Not because it rotted, but because the wisteria, as it grew, pulled the post it was growing on out of kilter and pulled several of the beams away from the house. It made the structure risky to walk under.

Back to cutting the wisteria. I usually get a ladder and a pair of loppers, climb the ladder and cut back anything I can reach with the loppers. Move the ladder and so on until I get as much as I can off the dratted plant. It takes considerable time, but I used the cool mornings we have had lately to an advantage and completed the task.

It went more quickly than usual. I had been complaining for several years about my loppers. I would have to cut half way through a branch and then turn them around and cut the other way to completely sever the branch. If I was on steady ground (or ladder), I would put one arm of the lopper against me and use both hands to close the other arm of the lopper. My husband (never buy anything new when you can fix the old one) said there was nothing wrong with the old loppers, and he would take them and sharpen them, but it really didn't help.

But this year, wonder of wonders, one of my daughters gave me a new pair of loppers for Mother's Day. Oh what a difference they make. I am not going to tell you they sliced through those wisteria vines like butter, but I did cut almost all of them with one slice. I didn't have to resort to turning them around and cutting more than once.

It almost made giving that wisteria a haircut fun. Almost.


Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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