Thursday, 11 October 2012

The wisteria

I had decided that a wisteria on a trellis would improve the view from the bedroom.  At least, I thought, it would hide the gas tank.  I had taken a wisteria and all the necessary bits and pieces for the trellis over to France and all that was needed was for the job to be done.

Banging the metal post-holders for the trellis into the ground did not prove to be difficult, but inserting the posts themselves into the holders was a different matter. The holders were supposed to have been made to accept three-inch square timber, and the timber was supposed to be three inches square, but each of those posts was a fraction of an inch too large to fit into the holders. I had two toolboxes with me, each containing a large selection of tools, but neither of them contained a plane because that was one tool I didn't own.

I retrieved the work bench from under its covering of cobwebs, mouse droppings and other assorted gunk and started trimming down the posts for about six inches from the end. By the time I had finished, the posts slipped easily into the holders – too easily. I had taken off just a bit too much. I nearly left things as they were, but remembered that if a job is worth doing...

Mr Bricolage had just what I needed – little plastic shims, or spacers. I hammered these into the post holders alongside the posts until there was not a trace of movement.

Then, of course, the trellis had to be fixed to the posts. It sounds easy; indeed, I thought it would be easy. But I had overlooked the fact that in order to fix one end of the trellis correctly, the whole thing had to be extended to the required length. This really was a job for two people, but I was on my own and had not then met Claude.

I resorted to my usual remedy when faced with a tricky job – a cup of coffee and a cigarette. The coffee was only half drunk when it dawned on me that I had been going about things the wrong way. So, I drilled four holes in the trellis, one at each corner, and a pilot hole near the top of one of the posts. A screw inserted part way held the trellis in place while I extended it to reach the further pole. It was now easy to fix that end of the trellis, and the rest followed simply enough.

There had been just enough rain to make the clay soil workable and digging a hole for the roots of the wisteria took no time at all. I trained the seven or eight branches in and out of the trellis and congratulated myself on a job well done.

What I had not allowed for was the future growth of the plant and the fact that it would very quickly become stronger than the flimsy staples holding together the equally flimsy wooden struts that made up the trellis. Only a year after the wisteria had been planted, the trellis was collapsing – and with it, the wisteria. If I was to stop the wisteria stretching out along the ground, I would have to take corrective measures. Although when I had finished it did sag rather badly, the fencing wire I fastened to the posts made a better job of supporting the wisteria than did the trellis.

By the second spring, the wisteria had gone berserk. There were branches of it waving three or four feet in the air above the lilac tree, through which they had spread. Other branches had arched across to the house and were trailing down six inches from the bedroom window. Drastic pruning was needed, but this only encouraged more growth. I might not have any grass to cut, but each time we visit ‘Les Lavandes' I have to trim the wisteria.

This was how it looked when we arrived in July.

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