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The Glycine Sinensis (the correct name for the wisteria in Victorian times), a glorious, hardy climber, was first introduced into Britain from China by Captain Welbank in 1816 and was first grown in the garden of Charles Hampden Turner, Esq., Rook’s-nest-park, near Godstone in Surrey.

There is quite a story to the first attempts to grow this in England. Initially the specimen was kept in the peach-house (a glasshouse set against a south-facing wall) in a temperature of 84 d. Fahrenheit.

Within weeks it was almost destroyed by vermin.

The heat was then reduced to 60 Fahrenheit, which resulted in the vermin vanishing, but the plant still did not recover well.

Early in August the gardener, D. McLeod, removed it from the wall of the peach-house, set it in a pot of vegetable mould, and tied its branches to a stick. In the month of September it lost all its leaves. It spend the winter on the floor of the greenhouse in a dark, cool spot, in which situation the mould in the pot froze three times during the winter. By March it was showing flower buds, and the gardener took its life in his hands and planted it outside, where it showed that it was hardy enough to survive the English climate.

The wisteria was not, apparently, the first introduced plant the early Victorians almost killed with heat and kindness.

By the late nineteenth century the wisteria was a popular garden climber – it survived in most soils, but preferred a deep, rich, warm loam of a light character.

The white wisteria was introduced in 1846.

Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.

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