There are a lot of flower beds in my garden. Some would do incredibly well with height added, others are better suited to shorter or medium-height plants.
One particular one in my front yard was demanding for a couple massive bougainvillea to fill the spot. So that’s exactly what I did.
Or rather, what I had gardeners (who we no longer need, wonderfully) do when they ripped everything out of our overgrown yard and put into place a bunch of newly bought plants.
This was back in November 2018 for reference.
Now, I don’t know why, but there are tiers, basically tiny ledges, going up this particular flower bed. No bother to me, as when the entire wall is covered in bougainvillea it would look just as nice.
I thought I’d take advantage of the situation once the branches were getting pretty long, and so instead of drilling into the concrete wall to add hooks for the plant, I tried using somewhat heavy terracotta pots to brace the branches into the places I wanted them.
These are pictures of what that looked like, back in June 2020:
Not bad, you could definitely see progress, though of course not much if you consider the fact that we planted these in 2018 and it was 2020.
But I do feel bougainvillea needs a while to find it’s footing, then it just explodes in size.
But back to the pots for a little while, because I do want to mention, if you have a situation like mine, this process does work.
Of course it means that the branches you place underneath the pots will mostly be warped to follow the wall, but this is an aesthetic I didn’t mind.
Especially since I wanted the final result to be quite thick and lush, which would cover most of the bends of the branches.
Did the pots fall off? Some of the smaller ones, yes, especially if the wind blew exceptionally hard and/or the branches beneath were getting very thick and tilting the pots.
But I placed things inside them to weigh them down, and everything was alright.
I’d keep testing by removing a pot to see if the branch would keep in place, and if it grew enough so that it did, I’d use the pot to weigh down another section, rinse and repeat for months, and, well here’s what happened, and what I mean about the exploding in size, by the way (this next shot is from April 2021):
Crazy progress. And to me, this not-even-a-year-later growth, to me, felt like I could see the perfect end in sight.
In terms of training, the vast majority at this part was basically just tucking long bits behind parts of the plant that were strong enough to hold the branches in place.
I hadn’t pruned anything at this point, because I just wanted growth, growth, growth.
In my head, the more leaves, the more photosynthesis, the bigger the plant would be.
I could always take off plant material once the bougainvillea was large enough, and I still didn’t know what I wanted the final result to look like, besides covering that wall in as much colour and leaves as possible, so I let it grow wild, and just kept tucking new growth behind old growth until I had a mess of colour.
One side definitely did better than the other, so I started paying more attention to pulling new growth through to the second side.
From the beginning, I was suspicious that I maybe had two ever-so-slightly different colours, one that was a hint more purpley, the other that was a bit more pink-toned.
At this point, I really started believing it, but I was already overlapping branches from the two bougainvillea anyway, which I think is pretty to do if you have more than one colour, so I didn’t mind if that was the case.
I started underplanting with succulents at this point, as well.
Initially I had envisioned a wall of bougainvillea from top to bottom, nothing but that, but I had placed rocks in this section and still ended up with so many weeds, I couldn’t handle it. So underplanting was my way of dealing with this.
A flower bed completely full of succulents isn’t going to get many weeds, if any at all, so that was my new goal, maybe with a little rock in the center (though now I’ve changed my mind and want succulents everywhere).
Anyhow, let’s jump forward to when I finally decided to jump the gun and prune the bottom of my bougainvillea, October 2021:
Much better, right? I got fed up with the look at the base of the bougainvillea being way too bottom heavy and decided to try lightening things up on the bottom, giving more attention to my now quite gorgeous succulent underplanting.
Obviously, I am so happy I did!
Basically, I just took everything off the bottom, making sure not to snip sections that had a lot of growth at the top.
All the small branches, gone, and the remaining branches would just get thicker and more beautiful in time. Nothing left to do but wait.
Here’s how it looked a couple months later, in December 2021:
Still holding up very nicely, though the succulents (I had added a few more varieties) were really starting to fill in the bottom.
Sorry to say that poor neighbourhood cat (doesn’t belong to anybody though many neighbours feed the ownerless cats here) probably won’t be able to use this spot to sleep in one day, since I really want the entire flower bed overflowing with succulents!
But it’s alright, there are many other good nap spots in my garden.
Now, it’s not a good season for bougainvillea to shine at this particular moment. Essentially we’re right before the growth season, and one of the two bougainvillea lost most of it’s leaves in the winter.
It’s starting to grow back in, getting ready for another stunning show, but I decided to prune again before that happened, taking my shears and cleaning up until the point where you could see an entire tier/ledge before there was any foliage.
I did this for a few reasons – to give the succulents some more room to be seen, because I was really, really loving the exposed branches at the bottom of the bougainvillea aesthetically and wanted to see more of that look, and because a new growth season means I’m gonna get a lot more growth, which I’d rather be on the top than near the bottom of the plant.
So far, I think this process has yielded a plant arrangement that’s way more stunning than I originally imagined.
It may have taken me literal years to get here, but I think I’m well on my way to the perfect look for me for this particular flower bed!