An amazing story of antique wisteria and garden karma

When I was a very young girl growing up in suburban New Jersey, my mother would sometimes take me to a place called the Van Vleck estate in Montclair.  It was a huge and mysterious place – its perimeter was surrounded by mounds of rhododendrens that were tucked behind tall, black metal gates.

Beyond the gates, there was an Italiante villa surrounded by immaculately maintained formal gardens.   It was a lovely place to get lost for a few hours – to escape from the busy, busy rush of everyday life.

Here’s a current image of the estate’s entrance – doesn’t it just draw you in?

Van Vleck house

The most memorable thing about the whole, grand place was the wisteria that grew up and ground the villa’s columns.  When it bloomed it was a sea of graceful, effortless beauty, and the scent was dizzying.

Here’s an image of the amazing wisteria from the Van Vleck Estate’s website.

ancient wisteria at Van Vleck estate

Isn’t that just amazing? I still remember staring up at the wisteria canopy from little-girl eyes – it was magical.

Fast forward 25 years.

I am buying my current home and the lovely woman we are buying from knows I love gardens, and – even though it is November – gives me a tour of the property’s plantings.

Here’s where the story gets amazing:

We were walking around the grounds of my soon-to-be-new-home, and she’s chatting away and pointing to goodness-knows-what and citing Latin plant names.  Oh, my, I thought.  Latin.  I am way out of my league.

Every now and then she’d say “and this came from Unc’s house” and “that came from Unc’s house” and point to different shrubs and gone-by perennials.  So many things seemed to have come from “Unc’s house”.

Finally we ended our walk on the south end of the house and she pointed to the wisteria growing up the chimney and barely had the words “Unc’s house” out of her mouth before it hit me full-on.

Her last name was Van Vleck.

And the wisteria I knew as a child was here – over 300 miles away – at my new house.  And retracing my steps, the rhodies, the hostas, the iris, the peonies – all of it was right here.

Nuts, right?

Here’s what my little patch of wisteria growing at the edge of my vegetable garden looked like early last week –

wisteria about to bloom

It always looks so odd to me just before it blooms – like little aliens!

wisteria bud

And this week, everything bloomed..

wisteria blooms

The cedar post at the edge of my garden is not nearly as grand as the plant’s ancestral home but it doesn’t seem to mind…

antique wisteria blooms

It transforms my little corner of the world…

antique wisterial close up

Into the most beautiful place in the world.

wisterial close up detail

I must have done some good in a former life for things to come so beautifully full-circle!


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  1. I think wisteria is so beautiful.

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