Historical Wisteria

All the wisteria here is blooming now, and it’s fairly spectacular.

by Rick Gush
Photos by Rick Gush

All the wisteria here is blooming now, and it’s fairly spectacular.  The purple flower clusters are almost unimaginably lush as they hang in thick sheets from fences, walls and patio trellises. 

Wisteria is a big vine, so it’s not used so much in the smaller gardens, but for all the big villas it’s practically a landscape requirement like the figs, laurels and olives. 

When driving along the sunny coast road where many of the villas are located there are many stretches where the whole road seems purple these days. The big bloom is in the early spring, but some plants continue a sporadic smaller blooming for the whole warm season. The purple wisteria is by far the most common, but there are a few white or pink wisterias also to be seen.

Hannibal's bridge

Some of the historic villas have extremely old specimens of wisteria vines still growing in their gardens.  One fancy monastery near Portofino has a wisteria said to have been planted at the beginning of the nineteenth century when Napoleon ruled northern Italy.  The thick trunks of this two-hundred-year-old patriarch wisteria flop messily above a large courtyard that looks out over the water.  When in bloom it supports hundreds of thousands of purple blossoms. Quite impressive.
We’re finally at the point in our own garden where we’ll be ready to plant a wisteria at the top of the garden complex next year, so I’ll buy a few dormant plants at the local ag fair in January.  In two hundred years I’ll imagine it will look great dripping down from the top of the big cliff.

The second photo is of Hannibal’s bridge in Rapallo.   The main river used to run where the street is now, but was diverted west a hundred yards about a hundred and fifty years ago.  After Hannibal and his elephants crossed over the Alps just a bit north of here, they passed through Rapallo and around 217 B.C. Hannibal’s troops built a bridge over the river in Rapallo, so they could continue their march south toward Rome. 

So, it’s a bit sad, but this will be my last blog for Hobby Farms.  It’s been an enjoyable year and more.  Blogging has a pleasurably cathartic effect on me, and I’ve met a bunch of interesting gardeners who have written to me.

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The good news is that I get to start blogging on the sister Urban Farm site.  I hope some of the HF readers will take a glance over there and find me.  I’d also appreciate it if even more of you would write to me.  And if you’re ever in Northern Italy with an hour to spare, please come visit Rapallo and my garden.


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