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A cascade of flowers
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville tried to circumnavigate South America, his expedition included scholars of every subject, as well as a botanist, who brought some specimens of a beautiful creeper, found in the forests of his homeland. Brazil, to which he gave the name Bougainvillea, derived from that of the head of the expedition. Over the years this vigorous climber has been increasingly successful and, in addition to finding species also in other places of South America, over the centuries the bugainvilleas found space in many places of the globe, where they now also develop in nature, as in the Mediterranean area, in Africa and in tropical Asia.
Over the years the various species have bred each other, in the last period the breeders have given a hand to nature, it is therefore now difficult to understand which are the progenitors of the specimen of bougainvillea that we have placed in the garden.
The most successful species at the time were B. glabra and B. spectabilis, but the bougainvillea self-hybridize with each other with ease, they tend to natural mutations, they cross even without human help, and several decades have passed since when the first Bougainvilee were imported from South America.
The bougainvillea are vigorous climbers, more rarely cultivated in shrub form, with beautiful semi-evergreen, heart-shaped, and bright green, often slightly bronze in the buds; in the tropical zones the leaves are persistent, if the climate becomes particularly rigid or very dry, they lose the foliage, completely or partially, which will begin to develop again as soon as the climate returns ideal.
The development of the plant is vigorous, and can quickly reach 5-6 meters in length, producing large masses of vegetation.
When the climate is mild, then in Italy from March to April until autumn, it produces innumerable small funnel-shaped flowers, cream-colored, gathered in threes and in bunches; each small bunch is subtended by large papyrus bracts, typically of dark fuchsia pink or yellow depending on the species.
In addition to nature, man has also helped the bougainvillea in the hybridization process, and therefore in the nursery we can find bougainvillea with bracts of varying color, generally in shades of bright pink, but there are also red, white, yellow, orange, brick. There are also varieties with variegated foliage.
The bougainvillea usually have a climber development, very vigorous; however, there are hybrids with shrubby habit, small hybrids, and even simply creepers pruned to form a squat trunk, which makes them look like small shrubs.
At the time of purchase, let us know from the nurseryman about the type of bougainvillea we are buying, if it is a creeper pruning to form a small shrub, let us remember to prune the plant frequently, to prevent it from developing excessively long ramifications.
Grow the bougainvillea
The bougainvilleas are not plants of difficult cultivation in Italy, especially in the central and southern regions; they settle in a very sunny place, possibly sheltered from the most intense winds, in a good very well drained soil, if we want we can use the soil for citrus fruits, which is lightened with pumice stone or lapillus. This is not a particularly demanding plant, and generally bears drought without problems, often suspending the blooms if the climate is not ideal.
At the end of winter we proceed with a vigorous pruning, because these shrubs bloom on new branches, as happens to roses, it is therefore fundamental to favor the development of new branches, and therefore of buds; from March to autumn we proceed by watering regularly, avoiding leaving the soil dry for prolonged periods of time, and adding fertilizer for flowering plants to water, every 12-15 days.
In autumn the watering becomes more and more sporadic, until it is almost absent in winter.
Bougainvillea - Bougainvillea: Exhibition
If the climate is particularly rigid or dry, the bougainvillea loses its foliage, which generally reappears in the spring.
These plants generally prefer winter temperatures above 5 ° C, it is therefore appropriate to repair them if we want to grow them in northern Italy. In fact in this case they are often grown in pots, so that they can be moved to a sheltered place during the cold season, or they are covered with non-woven fabric, so as to preserve them from frost.
Recall that the bougainvillea suffers if left completely dry for the whole winter, especially if in a not particularly cold place; as far as plants grown outdoors are concerned, this problem does not usually occur, because rainfall guarantees periodic watering; plants cultivated in a cold greenhouse, or sheltered under a terrace, or covered with sheets, can suffer a great deal due to drought, especially if it is prolonged a lot and if the climate is not particularly rigid.