Propagating Bougainvillea – Two Months Later

It may sound strange to you if you live in an area where the temperatures are closer to freezing, or below, instead of being a Beach Day in the middle of December, but I did manage to catch the season right for planting.

In October.

When I went to propagate the Bougainvillea, it was because the vines were being eaten away by Subterranean Termites.

We get those termites here in South Florida, and protecting things here requires creating a toxic soup barrier around your house.

I expect that the Bougainvillea arbor that is the “mother plant” is just outside of the Toxic Soup Zone.

These vines are as thick as my thighs in some places, and I have very large thighs as I am an inline skater who considers a 2200 calorie workout “light”.  But these vines were also eaten to the point where I may lose the plant in a year or so.

They wobble freely on their roots.

I trimmed off random sections of the older growth to start new plants.

Half of them began putting out tiny leaves, the others sat there looking like dead sticks.

Since this is my life, weirdness ensued.

The ones with the tiny leaves either died or went dormant.   I will leave these alone in my highly watered propagation pots.

However the ones with no growth on them began to sprout leaves and some are already blooming.  On a two month old cutting.  In a pot.

I find it strange too.

My expected date of planting is the first day of Spring, March 21.  It is currently (looks at my watch) December 10th.

So I have more time to grow.

The Sticks not withstanding, are fine.  The ones that have gone “dormant” or have died will have until March to make up their flowery mind whether to live or to be turned into mulch.

In the interim I have high hopes for some cuttings that I made from the mother plants that were new growth.   Yes, in December, these things are putting out new shoots.

They are in the “nursery pots” and are not drying up like some of the other cuttings have been, so who knows.

I’m also nursing 55 Rosemary cuttings and none of them have decided to curl up and die yet.  We will be using them for ground cover.  Ground cover you can use to make a pizza or spaghetti sauce.

March, being three months away, gives me time to obsess and wait to see what survives.

 

All that Rosemary came from what a good friend of mine in Atlanta described as “One of those sad little xmas trees that they try to guilt you into buying at the supermarket”.

 

I’ve been told that I truly need to stop doing this though.  I’m seriously running out of space.  Just this morning, I snipped what I thought was a twig.  Finger thickness branch was cut off the salmon bougainvillea.

 

By the time I got that “twig” to the ground, it had pulled off two other “twigs” with it and was over six feet long.  Two meters of nasty bitey thorn filled branches.

If I get any spare bougainvillea I’ll let people know.  FOB My Front Porch.  I never have any luck giving anything away but I will make the offers.

That Gardening Bug.  I guess really it is “Landscaping” because I’m rapidly approaching an industrial scale.  It gets under your skin and makes you feel like you’re doing something productive.

Guess what?  You are.

 

Poinsettias Sparking in the Early Sun

If you ever caught the old, I mean 50 year old, TV show called Green Acres, you have an idea of my back yard.

Mind you I’m not creating a farm on a Park Avenue NYC penthouse with a ditzy blond, I am just doing my planting in my own backyard.

Unlike Oliver Douglas, my own container farm eventually does go into the ground.

All those pots do give me something wholesome to obsess over, and I have been planting things all my life.   The flowers are pleasant to look at, and once in a while I get something to eat out of them.

This particular pot has Poinsettias.   I actually got the plant from a backdoor of a shopping center as they were set by a dumpster so someone else could enjoy them after the holiday season.  This was at least nine years ago that I found them.  Periodically I would take cuttings and stick them in the soil.  They grow well in South Florida and make a showy display of red leaves in Early November for the holidays.

My godmother tells a story how she did something like that after the holidays were done and eventually got a Poinsettia growing into a shrub until some random pests got to it.

That pot also has ended up being a scaled down nursery because it has some of Betty’s Vincas and some of the latest obsession, Propagating Bougainvillea.

The Bougainvillea inspection was what drew me to it.

And for the record, after four weeks, I have a couple of viable Bougainvillea plants that are in pots and in the ground already.  Go for it, if you have them, I’m getting better than 2 in 3 cuttings survive.

It was after sunrise but before the sun comes up over the tree line to hit the plants in the yard.  I noticed everything was dusted like it was a coating of sanding sugar on them.  The indirect light was reflecting and sparking at me more than I had expected.

It made me come back out again about an hour later when the sun did hit them directly and the result was a rather fascinating show.   As you move around I was treated to a series of rainbows, sparkles, and other things that flash in the light.

I guess it’s those “other things” you need to watch out for in life!

A cross between some of those reflective coatings they use in road striping and that sanding sugared surface greeted me.  Luckily that display lasted just long enough to record it.

Once done, I realized that Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) was hovering to go back inside.

There’s only so much you can do when you have a wet nose staring back at you to move along.

Butterfly At The Pool

The thing about gardening is that you have a lot of visitors.

Through the years, I’ve been visited by various reptiles, more lizards than I can count, insects, and other neighbors.

Both two and four legged.

This morning, going out to inspect my nursery pots and see how my bougainvillea cuttings are doing, I noticed that there were literally dozens of monarch butterfly caterpillars happily eating my milkweed down to pegs.

As a gardener it is at once frustrating and pleasurable.  I would love some seeds from those milkweeds, but courtesy of a neighbor and friend here, I have a cage that I could put the plants inside so they would go to seed.

As one who enjoys nature, that is why I plant the milkweed.  It’s there so the butterflies come to my yard.   It is a rare day that I don’t see a number of those Monarchs on the wing, floating around, coming to a landing somewhere.

To paraphrase:  If I build it, they will come.

Home (plate) I guess is in my backyard.

I don’t wander around aimlessly back there, there’s a purpose.  Usually I’m being herded back to the back door by my boy Rack the McNab SuperDog(TM) after only a few minutes, so standing at the back door and taking one last look means I am trying to think if there is anything that needs to be cared for.

I let him back inside because I realized I needed to deal with a visitor.   This Butterfly was perched, resting, on my sad little Hibiscus that so often is ravaged by Iguanas.

Yes, we have herds of those beasts running around.  The Iguanas turn the neighborhood into something reminiscent of Jurassic Park, and usually result in my thinking “I hope there will be a solid cold snap this winter”.

Their muscles can’t function below 45F, and if it gets into the 30s it will kill them.

Good.

But this Butterfly seemed to be enjoying the rest and watching me go about my own stupidity.

Good.   They’re welcome here.    One of at least five different daily visitor species here.

If you’re seeing Butterflies in the yard and want more, the next step is to leave a little fruit out there for them to find.  The Fairchild Gardens in South Miami does exactly that in their butterfly house.  A little banana or orange goes a long way to help these beautiful creatures survive.

As for the Iguanas?  I hear they’re good in a Curry Sauce.  Chicken of the Trees!

Lowering the Mango Tree

Some of us can’t get near the fruit, or they hate it.

I’m over the moon with it. I can’t really get enough mangoes.

I even have a tree in the backyard.  Therein lies the problem.  You see, Mango Trees can get insanely big.  In South Florida they can get to 40 or 50 feet tall.

Lets call that 17 meters for the imperially impaired.

 

There is one that big just a short walk from my front door.

So unless you want fruit that is upwards of two pounds or a Kilo falling from 50 feet onto your head, or breaking glass in your car, you want to lower the things.

I’ve been telling people this for years.  Don’t let it grow up, make it grow out.

Yes, I am turning my mango into a bonsai.  Not one of those little trees in a pot, but a tree that could be huge is going to be cut back to about six feet.

It’s a manageable height for these things.

I know it is something that works because I did a test cut a month back and I am trying hard not to allow myself to finish the job.

I had gone out there and found that my tree was almost 20 feet tall and growing out of control.   About the time I took cuttings from the Bougainvillea, I walked to the Mango with saw in hand and lowered the tree on one side by about a person in height.  It also got narrowed to about 10 feet.

How do I know it worked?  Simply because the plant told me.

I didn’t do a simple beheading of the tree, I cut back long arms to the core.

One month later, everywhere I cut, the tree put out lots of little branches like fingers.   I stopped where I did with the tree because I was afraid it would pout and not put out more fruit for next year.  Since flowering and fruiting happens in spring here, I have to wait.

My Theory is that I can gently reduce the height in stages and not shock the plant.

At least it’s not a skyscraper any longer.

Motto of this exercise is that if you have a truly tall tree that is getting out of control, take a measured approach and trim it back.  But do so gently, after all you do still want the tree.

I will say mine is vigorously putting out new growth and should be in perfect form for blooming in early spring.

Propagating Bougainvillea is Easy

The first time I propagated bougainvillea, i used what my family “on the farm” would call “Involuntary Propagation”.

There was a pot with a little pine bark mulch in the bottom, and a little soil.  It sat under the bougainvillea arbor that I have behind the house.  I came through one day and trimmed it back and a small bit fell in the pot.

I didn’t see or ignored the clipping instead of throwing it out.

Months later when I went to use the pot, I pulled the clipping out and it had begun to grow roots.

Bougainvillea is an amazing looking plant but it has thorns all over it.  Whenever I work with it, I end up having arms that look like I was trying to give a pill to a cat.  Shredded.

But it is one of the reasons why I bought the house.  Standing at the front window, you can see through the house to the arbor in the back, and when it is in bloom, it is a wall of flowers.

It also has a very thin bark that scratches off with a thumbnail to show a little green underneath.

Many plants down here are like that, and it is pretty easy to find a plant that I can propagate easily with better than 50% success.

With the bougainvillea, you will want to find a piece with green growth at the end and some leaf buds on it.

Cut the stem, and trim it to a 45 degree angle to make it easier to stick in the soil.

Treat the cut end generously with rooting hormone.

Push the stem into wet soil deep enough to allow the cutting to stand more or less upright.  Larger stems will need more support and will need to go deeper.

Once in soil, water generously until it is obvious that you have new growth and roots developing.  It can be as long as 3 to 6 months before the new plant can go into the ground, so be patient.

In one case I have seen new growth in about two weeks once all the old leaves had fallen to the ground.

Finally, the plant does not seem to care whether it is getting started in a pot or directly in the ground.  I have cuttings starting in both the soil and in pots on my irrigation lines.

Wanna hear a roof joke? Alright, the first one’s on the house.

Gardening.
The easiest rule of thumb is to plant what your neighbors have in their yards. Since you want something to look distinctive, and not copy cat, go a block away and see if you can figure out what they have.
Then when you get home, and have all your precious cuttings in hand, make sure that they aren’t invasive. I found out that some of the plants that propagate so well are deemed invasive by the different groups here in South Florida.
Won’t stop me though, I have pots of the stuff in my backyard that are “shovel ready” to go in the yard.
Ooops.

 

Or you could easily take this old gentleman’s idea to heart and plant a forest instead.

 

There was an old man who lived by a forest

As he grew older and older, he started losing his hair, until one day, on his deathbed, he was completely bald. That day, he called his children to a meeting.

He said, “Look at my hair. It used to be so magnificent, but it’s completely gone now. My hair can’t be saved. But look outside at the forest. It’s such a lovely forest with so many trees, but sooner or later they’ll all be cut down and this forest will look as bald as my hair.”

“What I want you to do,” the man continued, “is, every time a tree is cut down or dies, plant a new one in my memory. Tell your descendants to do the same. It shall be our family’s duty to keep this forest strong.”

So they did. Each time the forest lost a tree, the children replanted one, and so did their children, and their children after them. And for centuries, the forest remained as lush and pretty as it once was, all because of one man and his re-seeding heirline.

A Walk Through The Garden

My routine is stable.  You might even describe it as calcified.

Up early, even if “early” can be as late as sunrise.

That late is rather rare.

At any rate, haul my bulk out of bed, get the dog up, get him out to water the garden, and the walk.

When I get back, there’s Dawdle Time.  Depending on how much time there is I can get a lot done in Dawdle Time.   I’ve said I get more done before sunrise than many people do some days.

But Sunrise varies, and I have to be outside at 7:30 AM every day, unless it is raining.

All of these plants do require care.  Sometimes they require care by others, and I can find homes for the extras, other times, I end up watching for where the water is being irrigated and putting out new plants.

South Florida has a wet and hot tropical climate.  It never freezes here, the USDA freeze line for Coastal Eastern South Florida is 8 miles North of me.  Clint Moore Road in Boca Raton.  Ok, sure that’s a bit silly to be that specific, we know there is little difference whether something is actually “freezing” or thawed at 1/2 degree warmer, but hey, it’s a talking point.  Even if the line could be well north of that on any given year.

But the other thing about this climate is that we get 50 inches of rain per year.  Give or take, Depending on whether a tropical storm deposits itself overhead.  But on average it’s 50 inches or about 125 cm.

Since that is 40 inches or 100 cm in the wet season, and the rest in the other six months of the dry season (December to May),  it’s been described as a part time desert.  It requires irrigation.  Twice a week for certain hours sprinklers may be used, or every day if you have drip feed irrigation.

If you don’t, your flowers die.  This is a very artificial look here that we have.  Those Hibiscus hedges and Palm trees are not native.  The soil is Beach Sand, and now the ground water is suffering from Salt Intrusion because too many people from other places don’t want to freeze in the winter and have settled here.

Like me, guilty.

But for now, the Global Warming that isn’t supposed to exist, hasn’t really hit my specific area too hard.  I’m at High Ground – 15 feet above sea level the charts tell me.  Miami Beach on the other hand has regular floods due to tides.

 

Outside of the ash piles called “Mount Trashmore”, the next natural hill is 200 miles North of me.  Florida is flatter than Kansas.

I putter in the garden and am followed around as I decide what to prune, and what to propagate. Milkweed from cuttings have gravitated to being hidden in the hedges because when they are found, they get eaten to sticks.

Coleus is literally everywhere because they readily go to seed.  Cut the tops off and the seeds are tiny, get flung into pots.

Snapping a bit of Coleus off and tossing it into the garden means the stuff grows where it’s tossed.

There is a story told to me about a groundskeeper in San Jose, Costa Rica.  A wise man who said, “Señor, estamos en las tropicas.  Arrojar una semilla en el suelo y crecerá.”

Sir, we are in the tropics.  Throw a seed on the ground it will grow.

But puttering isn’t always interesting those who don’t have a putter.  You get followed around lost in your thoughts and the noises of the feral Parrots that are having their Call To Flock in that first hour after Sunrise.  The Pigeons call to you “Meh! Meh!” like grey feathered Simpsons characters.

And the Dog.  Rack.  Bored with what you’re doing, and having finished fertilizing the fence posts, tells me it is time to go inside.  Move onto the next task and into the house.  Besides, there’s breakfast to make, and you have already decided which trees to fell five times over.

Time to go in.