- Author: Trisha Rose
Bougainvillea, a genus native to South America has found a home in many, many gardens.. “Discovered” by a French naturalist Dr. Philibert Commercon in 1768, he named the plant after his friend and ship’s admiral Louis-Antoinede Bougainville who sailed around the world between 1766 and 1768 with Dr. Commercon on board. By the early 1800’s two species were introduced to Europe while Kew Gardens distributed their propagated specimens to the British Colonies throughout the world.
The many species are relatively pest and disease free but are sensitive to frost and if they survive will behave as deciduous shrubs, dropping their leaves in the winter with new leaves emerging in the spring. As this shrub/vine is an exotic beauty, it isn’t the most hardy choice for all of Solano County. It does very well in Sunset zone 17 (most of Vallejo and Benicia) and can be a good “container on wheels “ choice for Fairfield, Davis and Dixon’s zone 14. In zone 9, Vacaville, it would take a lot of effort to protect this shrub from the frequent winter frosts and cold. If you can manage to give this shrub the environment it needs, you will be grandly rewarded with an exuberant mass of color. Although the true flowers are tiny, they are surrounded by intensely colorful bracts in red, purple, and magenta. Other milder colors are available, but for the most part I see only the intensely colorful species in our environs.
So now to my dilemma, I have had too much of a good thing. I inherited a number of well established bougainvilleas (aka bougies) when I moved into my home in Glen Cove. Two of the shrub/vines dominate the front garden. One has climbed up the garage wall and onto the roof below the 2nd story. Another is near the property line on the other side of the garage. The wall climber has required quite vigorous pruning (hacking) every year just to keep it in bounds. The 2nd grows so lushly it topples over once we get a good rain storm. I prop it back up and its none the worse for wear, except that it will fall over again and again until the rain’/wind storm subside in the spring.
Our son has been providing the big ladder pruning help each year until he moved out of the area. Don’t think this was an incentive to leave, at least hope not. So my husband and I have climbed up the big ladder and hacked at the long canes trying to corral them each year. Enough, late this past fall, we got out the loppers and cut the whole shrub down to about five feet tall. As spring has progressed we have been thinking what should we do with this shrub. We love the color but the maintenance is just too much. So , I had an ah ha moment. Let’s do an espalier and keep it to a height I can easily reach with my pruners. Of course, we are giving up the big drama, but we are also avoiding the “waiting to happen” problems the use of really big ladders invite.
Also, we decided to bungee cord the other bougie and attach it to an eye-hook a couple of years ago. This has worked wonders, no more falling bougie!
- Author: Betsy Buxton
Were you one of the smart gardeners who signed up to work with Ken Williams on the Vallejo Garden Tour? You weren’t – you didn’t? Boy, did you miss a great time touring through the selected gardens!
Lanie (newbie) and I (oldbe) were assigned a garden on Fern Place. Since this short street is right off Tennessee St near downtown, I figured that my directions were wrong; surely I didn’t err in following MapQuest! Nope, I correctly read the map, but what a difference 1 block off a main drag can make!
As I slowly went down the street, “casing the joint” so to speak, I began to forget the traffic noises and began to relax, enjoying the landscaping as I passed? Is this the place? NO!! Can this be the one?? NO!! Finally toward the street end, I saw the banana tree (Ensete ventricsum) with its deep red leafstalk and red-tinged leaves. I was there! Getting out of the car, I could barely wait to see what else was growing here!
Oh no, nobody answered the door! Was it the right day and wrong time or the wrong day and the right time? I squared my shoulders and walked down the driveway past the roses, past the gladiolas, and closer to the garage. There were pots of cacti, succulents, and other goodies that confirmed that no car ever went this-away!
There was my host, Mario, and his “helper” watering and weeding in honor of our visit. Apparently he figured that we would criticize if it weren’t “perfect”! With all the grassy weeds in my yard, I don’t point fingers at any one!
What a yard! The most gorgous exotic shade garden I have ever seen! There were pots (big ones) full of cannas; those wonderful striped leaf ones (the ‘Tiger’ series); ferns galore in even larger pots; Brugmasia, both in pots and in the ground; an enormous Philodendron bipinnatifidum with the deeply cut leaves at least 3 feet long and as wide at the stem!
All of this was growing in the shade of an Acacia tree, which was very well behaved – no suckering from the roots. Three water features, one with small koi swimming around in the basin, kept the noise from the side houses and the rear neighbor at bay.
I couldn’t understand why visitors kept mentioning how warm it was; my feet thawed out around 1pm! Looking from the shelter of the tree, I noticed just how sunny both neighbors’ yards were; I was comfy!
Leaving through the garden gate with its arch of grape vines (in barrels), the visitor was then amongst Mario’s collection of sun plants, including a Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’, and then back down the driveway past the roses and to the street.
Having a river rock ground cover with both many large stepping stones and small intimate seating areas made the garden seem very large; of course, the large mirror pieces reflecting key pieces of garden statues and featured plants helped also!
Except for the large tree, this is a young garden! Mario and his life-partner, Calvin, told us that there was nothing in that back yard seven years ago when they moved in! All the work and all the planning was done by the two fellows with help from their large circle of friends! As I told them: “ya done good!”
PS: Mario asked me for a possible plant list to add to the already exotic look! I ended up trading him 2 Cymbidiums for 2 small Canna rhizomes! He thinks he got the better side of the trade. Boy, he doesn’t know!
On June 1, the entire group of volunteers goes on a “field trip” on all the gardens on the tour! I can’t wait!
PPS: Thanks to Ken Williams who coordinated this tour!