Last week I participated in GardenScape 2020, Rochester’s premier garden show. We forced many Azaleas, Pears, Cherries and two Wisteria to blossom in March, rather than in May.
The two Wisteria bonsai woke up and the flower buds began to open. One of the bonsai was delayed, exactly one week behind the other. When the flowers racemes began to open they looked quite different. A couple of days later I realized one of the Wisterias was Chinese, and the other Japanese, Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys.’
The Japanese wisteria I forced suddenly became beautiful with the long, elegant hanging racemes which are also fragrant. This bonsai began as a two year old graft which I sold to a student in 2001 for only $8.00. Each year he brought the Japanese wisteria to my classes for advice and training. Since he is moving out of state I was able to purchase the bonsai and continued its training in my design.
The bonsai flowers peaked today. I do not like all the flower open, but rather appreciate the beautiful long racemes in opening bud. After photographing the bonsai I took a critical look at the silhouette and was not pleased, especially with the flat terminal. So, I thinned out the flower racemes and used guy wires to change a few branches to create the bonsai in my design. One flower raceme measured 24!”
Chinese wisterias are more popular in the United States than Japanese because they have naturalized in the southern states. Large heavy trunks can be collected and trained into pleasing bonsai in only a couple of years.
Chinese wisteria flowers are a bit larger and fuller than the Japanese species, which are considerably longer and more fragrant. I have both Japanese and Chinese wisterias growing in my garden and also trained for bonsai.
Chinese wisteria trained by Bob Blankfield
One of my favorite Wisterias is Rokushaku wisteria, Wisteria floribunda ‘Rokushaku.’ The Japanese word “rokaku” means six, and “shaku” is an old Japanese measurement of about 12”, so the name means six feet long. Yes, this cultivar is supposed to have floral racemes six feet long. I have only been able to measure one 56” in my garden. This cultivar was given to me by bonsai pioneer Saichi Suzuki who introduced Zuisho Japanese five-needle pine over 40 years ago when the trunk was the size of a chopstick. I planted it in my mother’s garden for a few years, then after I married Diane we transplanted it next to the “great wall.” The trunk has thickened considerably and is now over 14” in diameter, with considerable movement as well.
I have taken numerous cuttings and planted one in our front yard about 20 some years ago. In 2017 it produced a considerable show.
International BONSAI has featured Wisteria bonsai in two issues, 1990/1 and 2004/1. Here is an article about the differences between Japanese and Chinese wisterias.
There is also a Dwarf wisteria, Milletia microphylla, which is not really a Wisteria. It’s a beautiful plant with Wisteria-like beautiful foliage. Although it is easy to grow and train, it rarely blossoms. I’ve never seen one in person, but Boon has a blossoming plant and sent me a photo. This blog is getting lengthy and perhaps a Dwarf wisteria could be another topic. In the meantime there is a comprehensive article on Dwarf wisteria in International BONSAI 2004/1.
Enjoy the beautiful fragrant flowers of your Wisteria bonsai when they blossom later on in spring!