top of page


The establishment of wisteria in the Georgian era

As spring blooms blossom, our daily walks and social feeds are filled in abundance with flowers, especially the purples and pinks of wisteria.

Wisteria just might be featured in some of our favourite historical romance novels, as well, especially since it is a great signaler of spring in our daily lives now. The tricky question is, would our heroes and heroines have actually had wisteria in their gardens?

Probably not. That’s not a definitive or emphatic no only because it depends on what year the novel takes place. A late Regency novel, for instance, certainly could have seen wisteria in the garden. Mid-Regency? Not likely unless the gardener was a member of the Horticultural Society of London. Early-Regency or prior to? Not a chance.

Wisteria wasn’t introduced to Britain until 1816. Until then, it remained happily growing in China. John Reeves, a representative of the East India Company, is the man we can thank for bringing it from a Chinese garden all the way to England. Although he brought it in 1816, cuttings weren’t available to the public until 1819.

The first two gardens to plant wisteria cuttings were Kew Gardens and Fullers Brewery in Chiswick (in west London). To date, the wisteria in Fullers Brewery is the oldest wisteria in the whole of England and is a sight to behold! From there, wisteria took until the 1830s to establish itself as a prolific feature in the English garden. Not until the 1840s were other colours and variations introduced.

Short version: if the novel takes place before roundabout 1820, wisteria would be anachronistic in the garden. If it takes place after 1820, it should be a wee baby cutting and an exciting and exotic new addition that has not quite established itself.

Have I committed wisteria anachronism in my novels? More than likely. 😉 I’ll dub those wisteria the Dr. Who variety.

Enjoy this exploration of wisteria—and be sure to check out the wisteria that made its way inside Carnwath House through the floor, across the wall, and then through the other side:


bottom of page