Background Switcher (Hidden)

Beauty, Thy Name is Bougainvillea

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's snowing today, off and on, maybe an inch on the ground. Which makes the bougainvillea "Raspberry Ice," a rare variegated plant, glow from within. Stepping out of a snowstorm into the steamy heat of the Garden Pod, and being greeted by two huge bougainvilleas in full bloom, is enough to get me through any gray winter day.
I have several hidden agendas on this blog. One, of course, is to get cute pictures of my dog all over the place. Another is to celebrate my family. Another, to appreciate the forest and fields I love so much. And another is to show you the plants I can't live without.
Every year, I have a couple of Plants of the Year. Variegation in plants is an acquired taste, I know. When I was in my 20's and 30's, I thought variegated plants looked sick, and I noticed that they didn't grow as vigorously as green plants. I've come to appreciate them so much, though, for the way they light up a border or hanging basket. And for the added horticultural challenge they present. I like coddling my funny tri-colored geraniums, and I don't expect them to grow madly; I like their slow, measured pace. When I saw this bougainvillea, I simply had to have it. But it was $45.00, ouch ouch. I raved about it so much Bill got me a tall one, trained on a trellis, for my birthday. And I subsequently found another for 75% off at another garden center, doubtless because the plant hadn't bothered to bloom at all by August. Snapped it up. And they sat around with nary a flower, but still beautiful, until November, when the close, humid heat of the greenhouse warmed the cockles of their hearts, and they burst into bloom. Just when I needed them most. In summer, the flower bracts (they aren't really petals, but modified leaves) are brilliant, eye-popping magenta. In winter, they're this bewitching coral-salmon, which I actually prefer. There's nothing about this plant I don't adore, except perhaps its inch-long thorns! I'll be taking cuttings this spring, to spread the joy around.
Another variegated plant I've kept for many years is a true miniature geranium called "Grey Sprite." A miniature geranium takes maybe three years to get as big as normal geranium gets in a single season. Its leaves are tiny. Grey Sprite is a free bloomer, with bright warm-pink single flowers, and these beautiful grey-green leaves, edged in pink.Many variegated plants will "sport," or send up a shoot lacking variegation, that's colored like one of their parents. I don't quite know the mechanism of sporting, but conventional wisdom is to cut the sports off the plant, because they invariably grow much faster than the variegated parts, and might sap the energy of the plant. Here's Grey Sprite sending up a rare sport. As you can see, it's quite a bit more vigorous than the parent plant. Even its flowers are larger. I may make a cutting of this, because I think it's pretty, too.
For Ann L. and Barbara, here's "Bolton," a geranium developed in Bolton, Mass. When we were visiting my sister Barbara in Massachusetts last June, Chet broke a sprig off the Bolton geranium that Ann had given her. I took it home and rooted it. And now look at it, seven months later, spilling out of its pot, bent by the weight of its blossoms!
I just adore geraniums. They seem to know no other words than Thank you! Thank you!
And now, for a snowy hike with The Baker.


[Back to Top]