It was a major commitment six years ago, but we dug in anyway. Seventy bucks for two wisteria bushes, which looked like spindly sticks with four leaves, each in a cheap black plastic bucket. They didn't look stout enough to withstand the drive home, lying horizontal in the hatch.
"I can already smell the cascades of lilac-scented flowers," I gushed. I had studied pictures of the lovelies in landscape books. The wisteria vines, with their grapelike flower clusters (called racemes), swaddled rock walls, arches, and gazebos. You couldn't look at these photos without whistling.
"The wisteria will add some pizazz to the bland deck," I insisted. I whistled.
"The marigolds are only 39 cents each," the spouse noted. "Or three for $1."
The gardening pro warned me that there was nothing instant about wisteria. It could take "up to five years" to bloom. Secretly, I figured we'd pick a genius wisteria that would bloom under our nurturing after maybe two springs.
That first day, we planted the spindles in designer potting soil under the second-story deck and ran little guide wires between the sticks and the deck posts.
We carefully watered and waited. Each day we'd run out and inspect for new green shoots. Soon they were shooting out right and left and curling around their wires, heading up to the deck.
"These things are really taking off!" I noted. I whistled.
As with any new toy, the "new" wore off, and we forgot about the vines for a couple of weeks. Then one day I stepped onto the deck. The vines peeked over the deck floor like "Kilroy was here." I glanced over the side of the deck and gasped. The sticks were now bushes, big enough to cast shade.
In the fall, the spouse barbered them back, as the gardening experts suggest.
Year 2, the vines took off with a vengeance, growing several inches a day. They braided themselves around the deck rungs and took an obscene fancy to a tall evergreen nearby. Still, no droops of lilac-scented racemes.
"Maybe this will be the year," I said repeatedly that third spring. Every so often, I'd poke among the green thicket for buds.
"At least these hearty vines give us a little shade up here," I said nervously. The vines intertwined and climbed all over themselves like tangles of fishing line. They had jumped all over the tall evergreen, pulling it toward the deck. We now had a vine canopy over one end of it.
The fourth summer, I nudged a couple of the deck rungs that were in the clutches of the twiners. They wobbled.
Still no blooms among the several hundred feet of fiber.
Last spring arrived. B-day.
"Bloom, you pricey devils! It's too late for a refund!" I whispered. I'd run out and sniff the air for the scent of wisteria blossoms and check the brush for buds. Nothing.
I parked an old green metal glider on the deck where I could sit and watch for the racemes to develop and cascade. One morning I stepped out and the vines had snatched my glider. We tug-of-warred, and I won that battle, but not the wisteria war.
Still no waterfall of flowers.
This is year No. 6, and I'm growing weary of waiting for the wisteria to bloom. Soon, our entire deck will be slipcovered in vines. The whole deck feels shaky. Several rungs dangle in the clutches of the vines.
The once-stately evergreen hunches over like Grandpa Walton.
"If the wisteria doesn't bloom this spring, it's getting replaced by marigolds," I announced last night.
I swear I heard that wisteria whistle.
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