Friday, June 8, 2012

Bougainvillea: A Bold Stand Alone Statement Plant

This plant is quite capable of making a bold statement on it's own without any help from any neighbours or friends.

photo by Jeff (Non Paratus)
I have mostly practiced a gardening standard and principle of community planting in the urban landscape. I mean that is how nature does it in the wild. We now know that plants can  compliment each other not only in the garden, but from a scientific perspective they do very well in the wild as an interconnected community which cooperates together for each other's survival. But the Bougainvillea is simply not that kind of plant. Oh I'm sure it somehow cooperates with others in it's natural environment somewhere down in the South American lands of Brazil, Argentina, or Peru. I'm also sure it has it's own natural checks & balances which keep it in it's place. But even in the wild it must be a sort of wandering maverick if it's habit of overwhelming other plants in an urban landscape tells us anything.

 The best places I've ever seen it used is among the landscape settings down in the Canary Islands. I mean the plant must have Hispanic ethnicity encoded in it's very DNA. Can you imagine this plant not in a setting of Spanish Architecture ? It was everywhere in the Canary Isle of Tenerife. Take a look at one of our favourite Gardens next to Hotel Atalaya where we stayed on our very first ever trip. This is the perimeter wall around the very private gardens and pool areas. Not only was it a thing of immense beauty, but it was a formidable security defense barrier.

Photo: Mine
When I worked as the head gardener at the Property management company in San Diego, the equipment necessary for managing Bougainvillea were long blue jeans, long sleeve shirt and a pair of thick leather gloves and Corona Hand Clippers which were never far from heavy leather belt holster. You know how it is, a landscaper with out his Corona Clippers and holster is like a Tombstone Gunfighter with nothing more than a water pistola.
I remember one year where we had problems with neighbouring apartment properties where their residents, who were generally young people that used to climb a wall or chain link fence on a front border and jump an Ivy covered fence in the back of this one Mobile Home Senior Park we managed. The place was made into a regular thoroughfare because they didn't want to walk the extra mile around the block to get to the stores on the other side. Unfortunately many of these individuals were shady characters and they spooked some of the residents who were retired. The front chain-linked fence was next to the Park Resident's Launderette and it was the easiest to discourage the Jumpers by putting this super sticky substance called Bird Repellent made for discouraging Pigeons from roosting on ledges. Put this on the any fence's top cross bar and when it's grabbed you almost can't get this stuff off your hands without some sort of solvent. However they got clever and started using Newspapers or old Advert magazines as a sort of half glove for jumping over the fence anyway. 

But the back wall was a different animal all together. It was also a chained linked fence, but this was English Ivy covered and there were no places to put this sticky substance which didn't work anyway since they had found ways around that. Trying to come up with a solution was tough, but one day I was trimming a Bougainvillea which had really gotten out of hand with six to eight foot or longer branch suckers. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I could utilize these rather lengthy cuttings with a bit of clever weaving work into the top of the Ivy where they would be hidden. Let me show you why !!!

Nobody messes with these thorns. It's like an Ocotillo on Steroids. If the Bougainvillea plant had a face on  it to warn people off from it's nasty sometimes slightly toxic thorns , it would like this!!!

Nobody ever messed with that wall ever again and there was no clever defense around they could come up with. It's like messing with what appears to be a cute little doggie that actually has a feisty bite. Those wicked thorns would go through any newspaper. But back to Bougainvillea as a statement plant. The best place I've ever seen on the planet where this plant is used to it's full potential is the Canary Islands, especially Gran Canaria in a beach town called Puerto de Mogan. Take a look here, sit back and soak up some of the views.

What is it with ethnic Hispanic folk and their bright colours ? On the other hand, what is it with northern Europeans and their lack of artistic imagination ? Hmmmmm ? I'm in the wrong land.

These next pictures are of what are called Canals in Puerto de Mogán because of their striking similarity to canals in Venice.

Puerto de Mogán is also called Little Venice or the Venice of The Canarias because of it's obvious similarity with the canals which link the fishing harbour to their Marina. A person seriously does not have to be a camera expert to find just that right shot.  Taking walks down beautiful side streets and over  small canal bridges, everything, not just Bougainvillea here is in bloom, flowers of all sorts are everywhere,  Citrus trees, Coconut & Canary Island Date palms, crystal clear waters at the marina and for that matter all along the coast line of the Canaries seem to be so pristine, clean and refreshing to the spirit. And this is in winter. You can get yourself so lost that the CNN & BBC World News negativity brought to you continually on a daily basis doesn't even seem to exist anymore. I'm actually surprised more American Tourist don't come here. Mostly it's Europeans like German, British and incredibly Finnish. 

Well it's springtime here and for the past couple of weeks we've had our home heater on. Man this really stinks.  But hey, don't forget about planting or adding Bougainvillea to your landscape if your climate allows. Keep in mind that it will need regular care, especially with pruning. And I don't mean hack job pruning. I'm talking about sculpting for a creative artistic effect. Not everyone has this intuitive ability, but at least with Bougainvillea if you make mistakes, wait a few weeks. It'll give you another blank canvas to work with. As far as feeding, there is no real feeding that I have ever known other than your native soil when I worked with it. Mycorrhizal applications will always be a must, as they are for every plant on Earth. Unless I've missed something, others may contribute their experiences here in the comments section with their experiences and care techniques.

I don't know what it is about the Canary Islands. They have a draw for me like no other place. I could actually live here and have it feel like home. My present northern European location has never really felt that way, though I am close to our friends and family there and that makes a difference.But the Canaries are a feeling of home where I would rarely feel homesick for the land of my roots. *sigh* For now, all I have is my imagination to keep me company. I really need a new office location and work station cubical !!!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, I really feel at home in this place. It feels alot like So-Cal without the crowds.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Please don't spam, this is why I need to reset comment settings to prevent East European Spammers from junking up comments section with worthless links.

  3. I have 3 bougenvilleas in our front yard...2 of the traditional magenta and 1 purple. I actually enjoy the purple one the best, but this year it didn't have many blossoms (not enough rainfall, I guess!) The other two spill over our fence onto the driveway and yes, they make quite a statement! I love bougenvilleas and there are many of them here in our desert. Hmmmm....I'll have to do a "bougenvillea" hunt sometime!

    1. They are a challenge to trim properly but worth the effort. Sometimes you get freezes down there and if you do and you Bougainvillea freezes, just leave it till spring is for sure there. Otherwise trimming to early will encourage new sprouts to grow and another freeze may come along

      But they are definitely a statment shrub.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks

      You and your husband should plan to go there just once in your life.


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