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The Beautiful Bougainvillea

By Expert Author: Brooks Richmond

Imagine, if you will, the most lavishly colorful and flowery bonsai you can think of. You would have a good concept of what that would be if you thought of the Bougainvillea. Such rich color it is almost fluorescent, and the florescences come in so many different hues: rich red, orange red, orange, yellow, strong purple, bright pink, light pink, bright rich purple, dark purple, multicolored, and more delicate hues like soft yellow orange.

In fact, it is so floriferous, and so bright, there are those who think it is too bright and detracts from the overall beauty of the tree. Their reasoning is perhaps because color, especially bright colors, is seen before form (the form of the tree) and thus reduces the effect of the look and feel of the reality of the tree.

Nonetheless, if you wish to pick a platform for the best and most vibrant, powerfully colored plant; and that is perhaps the most flamboyant and the fullest flowering, one of your candidates for that plant would have to be the Bougainvillea. As an aside, let it be known that the showy parts of the plant are actually not flowers but bracts which surround the rather small and much less showy flowers.

The white and miniature flowers surrounded by the powerful and elegant bracts. It is also easy to grow, with few pests except an occasional aphid. It is fast growing and the trunk thickens up easily. Still, it tends to be a vine, so a lot of pruning will always be necessary. It is also able to be made to flower as a young plant, and despite being fast, it is easily tamed to become shapely.

Sometimes one might find it difficult to create the appearance of taper in a point in the stem, and if so we must then “cheat”, by, for example, using the heavy flowering to hide where the “taper” isn’t. It is also fairly easy to graft, so if you have a plant with a remarkable trunk but whose color is not to your liking, pick another color and change it.

You can also take cuttings easily; they can hardly fail to strike roots. All varieties are easy. The florescences come in so many colors, and there are even double flowered forms. And as long as you don’t let it dry out entirely (it is quite drought tolerant), it will be hard to kill, if kept warm; even having a fairly high salt tolerance, so you can grow it alongside any water as well. It is also a fairly fast almost rampant grower, and if you feed it heavily, it will reward you with all the growth you could want.

Further, when pruning it, if you let the tree get leggy, it will work back readily and develop many more branch and flower shoots easily. So it is easy to wire, easy to prune and fast and easy to grow. Perhaps nicest is the fact that the bloom is at its peak in winter. No wonder it is so popular for bonsai!

Within its hardiness zone it is hard to kill, and in fact will often take the slightest touch of frost, but why try? Keep it warm. What’s not to like? Its thorns come to mind, and they are often
fairly long , but you can cut them off if they detract or are dangerous. About the only thing some might find uncomfortable for those who like the delicacy of form and color of the real tree is
that the colors are so overwhelming and vibrant and tend to overcome any other aspect of the tree’s design. Don’t worry that there are at least two species that can be confused B.spectabilis and B. glabra, for you can use them equivalently, along with several other species and hybrids, for they all have the same characteristics and hybridize as well. A whole bench of Bougainvillea might take away from your bonsai collection, but put one on your collection and it will be a point
of color that will be unforgettable.

A beautifully styled tree, but with a degree of “cheating” where (as is typical of the Bougainvillea) pure taper is hard to enact (see the left hand trunk at about the level of the top
of the right hand trunk where the lack of taper is hidden by florescence.)


Clif Pottberg started in bonsai in 1965. By 1971 he had started teaching basic classes in the Baltimore area. Clif has held numerous Bonsai administrative positions. Now he wants to share his valuable information with you! Learn the art of Bonsai! Turn your project into a unified pictorial composition, effects only marveled at by stylists - and full size landscaping artists as well for free. Subscribe to our Newsletter http://www.pasiminan.com/newsletters/ or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/plantsforbonsai

 

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