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Three waves of bougainvillea; different colors with different bloom schedules.

Three waves of bougainvillea Exuberant blooms of bougainvillea carpet a gentle berm in this Temecula, California, garden. Landscape architect John Vogeley selected the three varieties for their drought tolerance, growth habits, and tolerance of poor soil.

Because each variety peaks at a different time, the color balance shifts throughout the year. Shrubby and compact, 'La Jolla' produces bright red bracts, mostly in spring. 'Rosenka' blooms peach, ages to pink, and peaks in midsummer; it's slightly more difficult to train horizontally (wayward shoots that sprout on mature plants are either pruned or staked). B. spectabilis, a vigorous rambler, produces purple flowers most profusely late summer to fall.

If your water supply is not limited, this month--with all danger of frost past--is a good time to plant bougainvillea; look for plants at nurseries in 1-gallon cans ($5 to $7.50 each). Where occasional frosts are expected, plant vines near a warm wall or in the warmest spot in the garden.

The first year

Vogeley spaced gallon-size bougainvillea 4 feet apart (3 feet on slopes). He took care not to damage the delicate rootballs, planting in generous holes dug into unamended soil. After planting, he sprinkled a small handful of 16-10-4 controlled-release fertilizer around each plant's base. He fertilized again in early summer.

Plants are watered by a sprinkler system with low-volume heads. (Nozzles on steeper slopes have smaller openings; they apply the same amount of water at a slower rate.) To encourage roots to go deep during the first winter, Vogeley watered for 11 minutes two or three times a week unless it rained.

A month after planting, using 12- and 18-inch plant staples, he began staking branches 8 to 24 inches from plants' bases at the first sign of vertical growth; staking continued throughout the first year.

Watering, feeding, and care

Now that plants are established, they're usually irrigated twice a week during summer and once a week in winter (more often when Santa Ana winds blow). To discourage excessive growth, they're fertilized only once a year.

Temperatures below 30 [degrees] caused leaf and bud drop during the first two years; Vogeley waited until plants fully budded before cutting off dead wood. Once plants are through the first couple of winters, they're usually big enough to take some minor winter damage and recover.
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Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Making every inch count. This small garden in Orange County makes full use of limited planting beds and outdoor entertaining space.
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