For the 25 years I’ve lived in this house, I’ve wanted Bougainvillea climbing onto and spreading out across the white railing of our bedroom balcony, brilliant against the blue stucco. I’ve bought potted ones twice and failed dismally to keep them alive.

Recently our friends the landscaping consultants helped us choose and erect a trellis, pick a potted Bougainvillea and plant it in our side yard.

Actually they tried to steer me away from the one I wanted, because it was puny, just one branch really. But I liked the color so I stuck to my guns. That was over two weeks ago. Here it is after it was planted. (To be honest, all the blooms have fallen off since this was taken, even though there’s plenty of new growth. Our friends say I’m either overwatering or underwatering it.)

Here’s the Bougainvillea in context. Remember the little quad we fixed up at the end of the walk? (“Beauty in small spaces,” July 11)

If this one dies, I can console myself with the fact that at least I have learned how to spell Bougainvillea. Who knew it starts with a capital and has all those extra letters in it?

As for our avocado pitling (“Avocado,” June 21, July 7, 8), its leaves are green again and it has grown an inch and a half. But when I told my friend I’d pinched off the top two leaves she looked at me, speechless with shock, for several seconds and then asked slowly, “Why did you do that?” “A website told me to.” “The new growth?” “It said it would make the tree bushier.” “You can top it when it’s full-grown.” “I guess I shouldn’t have done it the minute we put it in the ground.”

I prayed for it and now I note it has at least one tiny bud-possibility where the littlest leaves were. Maybe it’s going to risk trusting me again. Poor baby.


About Jessica Renshaw
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6 Responses to Bougainvillea

  1. Diane Lowell says:

    Underwatering of Bougainvillea is what produces the flowers. They do not like water as much as other plants. And beware of the thorns!

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you, Diane! It did seem whenever I watered it (only when the ground is dry down six inches, they recommended), more flowers fell off. I do better with plants that like to be ignored. For a year or two I had a spider plant over my kitchen sink that thrived on negligence. (That’s the one that got too much attention from the St. Bernard puppy. “Thumb confessions,” June 21)

  3. We are in drought conditons here in Indiana. On top of that, our little “city” has a water ban. We can water vegetables. So, I sneak my hose over to my lone rose bush and put the water on trickle once a week. It is happily blooming. No arrest warnings–yet. I hope the very best for your bougainvillea. I think it is very pretty. What a wonderful God of creation to give us so many choices in our plant world.

  4. Diane Lowell says:

    Six inches! Gee, that is pretty dry. Anyway, a new plant does need more water at the very beginning to get established. Even if the blooms do fall it is probably more important right now to make sure the leaves don’t droop. Like strawberries…the first season or so you pick off the flowers so you don’t get berries and all the nourishment goes to the leaves. Big beautiful leaves will produce wonderful fruit the next season. (I have a strawberry plant called Alpine which survives thru the winter and has white strawberries).

  5. Topping an avocado too early can result in a strange shape. I had that happen with one i had before. You wait until it has a certain height before topping it. Good luck with your plants.

  6. Jessica says:

    So much for trusting strangers’ advice on the internet!

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