Wisteria is in bloom everywhere I go. The blossoms hang suspended, moving slightly in the breeze, like lighter-than-air bunches of grapes. Wisteria decorates the arbor in front of the drugstore. It bends over cottage fences. It nestles alongside gateposts and climbs on old redwood frames built long ago, out of respect for this lavender phenomenon.
In this mild Northern California climate, Wisteria prospers, and every spring, when we’re rich in blossoms, I remember a coming-of-age visit decades ago to one of the world’s most spectacular Wisteria displays in Southern California.
In my teens I sang many Saturday nights at a giant auditorium in downtown Los Angeles, under the auspices of Youth For Christ. The onstage bands were composed of famous musicians mixed with young performers from all over Southern California. A competition sponsored by the organization was announced, to decide the members of an all-star band to tour the state. Our local group sponsor, Curtis Correll, encouraged me to enter and he worked with me on the songs I’d sing along the way.
Our group won and the first stop on our tour was announced. We’d be performing for teens at an outdoor stage in Sierra Madre, California. The date of our first show arrived and as we climbed out of our caravan of cars carrying singers and musicians and instruments, we were greeted by a wondrous sight. It was a Wisteria vine that went on and on and on. It was the largest plant I’d ever seen. Later I learned the vine is world-famous. It’s referred to as “One Of The Seven Horticultural Wonders Of The World.” *
Here and now in another spring, Wisteria still holds a fascination. Breezes carry petals from the flowers into the air and on our daily errands we walk through clouds of lavender. I’m not the only one stepping over the fallen petals on the sidewalk in front of the bank, reluctant to disturb their formation. I’m not the only one who stops to study the ways they arrange themselves on the ground. The individual petals have massed into waves of color that look as if they’re painted there.
Breezes will rearrange the waves many times before all the Wisteria blossoms are gone. It’s the work of spring to create these flower pictures. It’s also the work of spring to stir memories of a lavender-colored youth.
*The City of Sierra Madre assures us the famous vine escaped damage in the recent fires.
Ó By Anita Garner 2008