Let me tell you something about wisteria. Yes, it’s gorgeous, smells amazing, has seduced many a hopeless romantic into buying wicker furniture, but if given half a chance, it will fuck you over something awful.
When we bought our current dwelling eight years ago, it came with a gigantic front porch. Attached to that porch was a huge wisteria vine. And I really do mean huge. Someone with a serious knowledge of plants had taken great care to train the unruly vine into a trunk that twisted and curved gracefully eight feet up off the ground and spun a tangled weft of branches from one end of the porch to the other in a loose, leafy basket-weave. Like an arbor, but without the arbor. The main trunk was at least four inches in diameter. I don’t know how many years it took to get it to grow like that, but I have to think at least 15. Fifteen years of full-time, dedicated wisteria patrol.
I was newly pregnant with the First Grader the spring we moved in. That was when we witnessed the wisteria vine explode into an unbelievable display: dozens and dozens of fat, dewy blossoms hanging down like ripe bunches of grapes across the entire front of the house. It was amazing to see, but what was even more amazing was the smell. Like floral, purple-scented vanilla. I would have spent a lot more time on the porch that spring if it weren’t for the first trimester nausea.
Anyway, years went by and the vine grew more and more out of control. I tried my hand at trimming it back, but only succeeded in causing it to stop blooming altogether, while in no way impeding its westward progress across the neighborhood. I climbed up onto the roof to get a closer look, me with my comically tiny pruning shears. I already knew that the woody vines had anchored themselves around the porch’s beams and had just begun ripping the screens out of their frames, but from my higher vantage point, I could also see that the shoots had infiltrated all the gutters and had even forced themselves up through the roof. The house wasn’t holding up the wisteria. The wisteria was holding up the house!
Rebuilding the porch was always part of our plan. When me moved in, the floor was covered entirely in green Astroturf (mini-golf, anyone?), and underneath was 50% wood rot/50% carpenter ants. It was a safety hazard even without the wisteria. But when we were accepting contractor bids, nobody would agree to do the work unless we agreed to chop down the wisteria. It weighed an incredible amount and would undermine the structural integrity of the new porch, as well as contribute to another wood root problem, not to mention that wisteria has been known to lift whole houses up off their foundations. I knew it had to be done, but we were talking about a living creature much stronger than ourselves. I couldn’t be there when they did it.
Long story short, they cut it down and ground up the stump for good measure. We got a nice new porch in return, which is where I like to spend most of the summer. Two years later, the wisteria grew back. A shoot here, a shoot there, then about fifty of them. A part of me, the romantic part, hoped it would grow back, but now that it has, the wisteria and I are engaged in a bitter death struggle which is best viewed using time-lapse photography and looks something like this: me, dressed up like a ninja, rusty lopper in hand, stealthily creeping out the back door to approach it from behind. Like a fox, I trip over the 4-year-old’s baseball tee and awkwardly face plant while the lopper goes flying. Before I can recover, several wisteria runners creep over and slip around each of my wrists and ankles, pinning me to the ground while another stuffs my mouth full of blossoms to silence the shrieking. Once I stop struggling, the wisteria winds me up into a woody cocoon suspended up near the roofline. Until Husband comes home from work and cuts me free. Again.
Well. I had in mind that this post would be about a delicious wisteria ice cream I made from the fragrant blossoms, but words simply cannot express how truly awful my wisteria ice cream came out. Like being trapped in a humid, airless room with an entire wisteria plant rammed down my throat. How can something that smells so right be so wrong? Maybe I’m too colored by my own personal relationship with wisteria to be objective, but I wouldn’t recommend it for Mother’s Day or anything else. Not if you actually like your mother. Maybe just pick some flowers instead. Bring protection.