I need a special licence to prune the wisteria vine climbing up our house, just outside our bedroom window. Like all schemes, it has a closed season, and there’s no point in applying from February to October.

Even though some gardeners actually recommend a light summer pruning, the powers that be here don’t approve. Besides, I macheted it one Christmas without a licence, but with terrible penalties. So, I had to get the procedure right now.

The season opens on 1 November and I gathered all the documentation on the pruning proposal, including a telehandler hire agreement from Athboy Hire, plus a safety statement.

But like with the Department of Agriculture, my application can be held up for months with no response. A follow-up call may help, but it’s risky – the application could be scuppered altogether.

Not on your own house

Anyhow, this summer, the wisteria was driving me mad. Yes, it is a climbing vine of great beauty and always much admired.

But the real beauty of a wisteria is not to have one on your own house, but to appreciate it on a stately home like Borris House or a country house hotel, where you might stay for a night or two in the middle of May. Think of a delightful hotel in the Cotswolds with an open-top Morgan parked outside.

I had to poke through the densely matted foliage to see out – similar, I imagine, to a monkey living high up in the tree canopy of a tropical rain forest

You’ll wake up to the lovely, purple cascading flowers waving gently in the summer breeze outside your four-star bedroom window, and feel the better for its presence. But don’t be convinced it would look beautiful on your own house. It may do, but be warned, it could also wreck your house – and possibly your marriage.

You see, truth be told, the very destructive wisteria should not be planted on any building with a slated roof, gutters and downpipes. Whatever it is about this very fast-growing vine, seemingly, its sole purpose is to coil around everything that will let it do so.

Say, for example, I was standing chatting outside our hall door. If this went on for more than 20 minutes, there’s a good chance the wisteria will have sent suckers spiralling upwards around my legs. Now, my legs are short and in another 10 minutes, it could be getting serious.

I’d have to summon Mrs P to carefully cut me free with the secateurs, on strict instructions to keep the pruning confined to the wisteria.


Our ancient wisteria has long been climbing up the house and grows in through our open bedroom window to wrap around the brass bedstead. Outside, it obsessively shoots up to the gutters and creeps snake-like under the roof, lifting the slates, causing untold damage if left unchecked.

So, the wisteria had to be tackled. This summer, it was blocking the sunlight coming in our bedroom window.

I had to poke through the densely matted foliage to see out – similar, I imagine, to a monkey living high up in the tree canopy of a tropical rain forest.

I pleaded with Mrs P for a pruning derogation, on safety grounds that it might creep in and throttle me some hot summer night. Attractive as this may have sounded, Mrs P was undeterred and Ulster said no.

“It isn’t the right time. I’ll think about it, but November is the season,” she helpfully said.

Anyhow, I got my application for the pruning licence in on 1 November past. In fairness to Mrs P, she fast-tracked it and I quickly got clearance.

The pruning’s finished – the licence was only for a light trim. But that was no sooner done and a windy night blitzed the whole top-half of the heavy seed-laden wisteria into a broken and tangled heap.

It’s the only favour the weather’s done for me this year, but I didn’t gloat, as Mrs P is in bits.