A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing:
What a little thing
To remember for years --
To remember with tears!"
~ William Allingham, from Flower Pieces and Other Poems (1888).
Spring is not the season for looking back: that’s autumn. In spring, we’re supposed to wrap ourselves in metaphors of renewal, growth, awakening and, yes resurrection. Which is one way of looking at it. Another way is to be reminded, again as in every year, how ephemeral and brief the season of growth is, and how inevitable and final death is. All those things that didn’t come back. All those perennials that turned into annuals. All the things I enjoyed last spring that didn’t make it to see this spring. I'm also thinking of all the things that will make it this spring, but won't make it to next spring. The picture above is my white wisteria vine in flower last spring.
I’ve had this white wisteria vine growing on a tall, four-footed redwood trellis for about ten years. The vine has begin to flourish and fill in the trellis. The trellis on the other hand, as continued to list dangerously because (the left) half of it was put on solid ground as hard as the granite boulders adjacent to it while the other half was placed on top of a filled-in raised bed (right side). Big mistake. I’ve propped up the listing half several times over the years. We’ve retrofitted the trellis itself with metal straps so it doesn’t simply pull itself apart as is settles. But it’s coming to the end of its useful life. It has already exceeded its aesthetic life, having become - as in this picture I took this morning - more of a lopsided folly than a serious trellis.
But the wisteria as it is now, lovingly pruned in January to encourage a final glorious display as a vine, will be seeing its final spring when it blooms in a few weeks. It tends to bloom later than others in my neighborhood because it grows in the shade of a large pine tree.
After the white wisteria blooms this one last spring, I’m going to tear down the trellis, cut back the wisteria vine and try to stake and train it as a smallish standard tree. This will open up the back patio area, but at the expense of about 2/3 of the growth of the wisteria. The primary stem is about the diameter of a ring formed from my thumb and first finger – just about strong enough to stand on its own with minimal staking.
In picturing the wisteria, as it will be next year, I look at the doomed trellis and happy about-to-flower vine and feel strangely guilty about its ignorance of its impending fate. Fortunately, wisteria grows like a weed once established. Within a few brief years, it will be reborn as a sort of miniaturized tree with a lovely weeping habit, where it will be framed by the large granite boulder behind it. At left is an example of a purple wisteria from my neighborhood that is what I have in mind. As a bonus, I will be able to give it an annual pruning without risking life and limb by having to prop a ladder against an unstable trellis.
So even though I’ve thought this through carefully and realize this is a smart decision, I have no doubt that I will remember it as it is now for years to come, probably with tears.