Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wisteria Hysteria

I just love this wonderful Cuff by Waterrose. It shows, to me, the best part of SPRING! Wisteria Hysteria!

Spring has sprung and pollen coats the world. Here in Carolina, there is sneezing...our cars are dusted yellow-green. The pollen dims our windows, colors our streets and makes chalky puddles.

Each day i walk my dogs through in the woods, and each day is magical... but today the lacey layer of dogwood trees is a veil, blossoming under the oak and sweetgum and pine. Yellow spirals garnish the trees, and bouquet from the ground where the Carolina Jasmine and forsythia flower. There is a feeling of approaching festivity as we stroll, crushing white and yellow blossoms underfoot. Little pink winged maple seeds scatter the forest floor, tiny shed fairy wings. The wind is high, and gradually, lavender flowers sprinkle among the yellow and white and pink, as we go farther into the trees to find the crowning glory: the great violet temple of drooping wisteria!

It has climbed into the highest parts of the trees, and drapes them from top to bottom in glorious shades of lavender, purple, white, brilliant chartreuse and tender greens; a living waterfall of blossoms, on all sides of the paths. The heavy scent overwhelming, even with the wind gusseting. It is a setting for a fairy wedding... and all i can thinks is: Oh what baskets it will make! Spring has come again to North Carolina!

Wisteria is one of my favorite weaving materials. It is flexible and sends out long runners. It can be used at any time of year (more on that later.) But, best of all, it is considered an invasive pest and many people want it GONE. See how it chokes these trees? No wonder.

But that is partly what makes it so great for weaving...Here it is in a sculptural basket

This is one of the most flexible of vines, even larger pieces can be used in rib baskets as weavers (bend around your finger without cracking!) One strand can render 4 or more weavers - split and then peeled. This also gives you two colors - white and bark - for variation. Here is a cornucopia made with split wisteria

The bark is strong and can be peeled in long pieces. It can be bundled and coiled

(Or used as a binder,) and makes a great lasher for a rim!

Use the half-round split wisteria for the rim itself! The bark is great for twining in fibrous baskets, and the inner white bark can be used as thread for stitching, or spun into lovely cordage.

Now is the time to find your wisteria for weaving.

Grab your camera and a notebook and go for a drive. Wisteria is so easy to find now because of the showy purple blossoms.

Some wisteria is white (rare) and often you will see it growing in people's yards, like here in my friend Alan's yard.

When you see a meticulously coiffed bush such as this, it is certainly worth admiring. But there is no point in attempting collection from a plant like this. Since the new growth is trimmed so often, any runners, even if they grow long, will not be mature enough to weave with.

Easier to spot is the purple variety. See if you can see the wisteria growing in the trees on this ride with me.

(it's on that big tree ahead on the left, click the photo to make it bigger...same for below)

When you see it somewhere, take note of where and how it grows. There is often a tree that it has climbed up into, and you will see it hanging. But then, off to the side, you see it peeking out of a bush, or growing on a fence. Take a photo to help you remember where it is. Then you can find out whose property it is and get permission to collect. Overgrown homesteads like this often offer an abundance.

It is not a good idea to pull this stuff down from the might pull down a tree with it, on your head! This time of year, with the flowers, there will be bees buzzing, and birds nesting in it's shelter. There will be snakes waking up and looking for food. Although, for baskets, it is possible to collect in the spring, it is not optimal. If you HAVE to have wisteria now, look for the runners on the ground BETWEEEN two places where the wisteria has climbed. If you have to disturb the duff to find these, again, you might want to wait until cold times when ground nesting bees will not be so easily disturbed.

Summertime is not a good time for collecting either, unless you are sure you are getting the mature runners. You don't want freshly running green pieces, they are not strong. Wait until the pieces you want have a slightly rough bark (not a skim of smooth bark) on them for the best weavers.

The time to collect vines is Autumn and winter. But by then,it is hard to find, unless you took photos and made notes when the flowers were up. In the Fall and Winter, the insects are becoming (or have become) dormant. Foliage has dropped and snakes are sleeping. This is the time to DIG DOWN into the dirt and really find great runners. If you have permission to clip out of trees, you can do that, too, but be very careful when pulling down not to bring a tree down on your head!

Please check back to Waterrose's etsy shop, she hopes to soon have more wisteria items! I want a little card with embroidered wisteria to put in my remember my favorite part of spring!

Looking for a great little notebook to keep your basket journal in? Check out WeeBindery for journals worth keeping!


Nancy Jacobs Basketmaster said...

Mmmmmm I love wisteria. I've never woven with it but I just love it's beauty.

Waterrose said...

I never knew that wisteria was an invasive plant. The only time I've seen it is has been pruned and trim. Even though I've been in the SE I've never noticed it. Thanks for the mention...still wish it grew here...

Basket gal said...

Beautiful post...I felt like I was on the walk with you. I planted wisteria a couple of years ago for future basket making, but the deer keep eating it. I am trying again this year with deer fencing and repellent. Fun to see what grows wild in the south.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips! I have wisteria that's trying to eat my house, orchard, and chicken coop.

Every single day I snap off a bundle of six-inch runners in a never-ending (losing) battle between woman and plant.

Glad to know there can be some use for this stuff.