Wisteria is a great ornamental plant that can be trained and used for basketry. It’s runners have been known to run 50 feet or more when given an unobstructed area like a yard or wooded area nest to where it’s planted. Many people grow wisteria as a trellis plant and let the runners get very long each year and then harvest them at the end of the season (like honeysuckle, bougainvillea, confederate jasmine and other ornamental vines._
Harvest in the winter time as with other vines because the sap is down, although summertime harvesting for wisteria is not out of the questions, since most of the time it’s long, straight runners don’t have any leaves. For example, the place I get most of my wisteria for the year is a man’s house who lives close to me - his wisteria runners run under his deck and have none - ZERO - leaves in the summer. The runners grow about 20-40 feet in length and there are hundreds.
OK, so when you get them home, I’d recommend coiling and drying the vines. You can, however weave wisteria green because it’s such a woody vine, yet very flexible, there’s almost no shrinkage. If you want to boil it know that the bark will come off usually. HOWEVER, the bark, especially on the runners that are pencil to finger thickness is excellent for cordage and fine twining - kind of like honeysuckle bark but MUCH better. It’s actually akin more to kudzu bark, in that it stays together in one long strand much easier than does honeysuckle.
You can twine with wisteria very nicely or you can use it in random weaving which is what I use it for alot. The larger wisteria you can split like kudzu, by taking a knife to the end and making a vertical incision down the center of the vine. Pull evenly and hold the vine between your knees as you split. If it starts getting off center, simply pull to the fatter side as you split until it evens back up OR just re-clip it again with your sharp garden clippers or knife. Wisteria without the bark dries a very nice ivory white and very smooth. With the bark, it’s a beige color.
Of you’re planning to plant Wisteria around your house or condo, just make sure you’re ready to keep an eye on it during the growing months and train it where you want it to go. Otherwise you will have a beast on your hands - and PLENTY of weaving material.
For more information on Natural Basketry, visit http://www.matttommey.com/basket-weaving-classes.html and download my free PDF called "7 Tips for Making Baskets with Natural Materials".
Inside I'll tell you what materials are good for making baskets, when to harvest, how to store and protect them, and even common tools used in the harvesting process.
Matt Tommey is a leader in the contemporary basketry movement and has been a maker for over 25 years. The focus of his work centers around the use of southern invasive plant species in basketry. He has served on the board of directors for the National Basketry Organization and taught at Arrowmont, the John C. Campbell Folk School and other locations both in the US and internationally.