Bougainvillea Seduction
October 22, 2010
Allan in Bougainvillea, Flowering Shrubs, Flowering Vines, Garden Design, Garden Inspiration Photos, Israel, tropical flowers

Copyrighted image by Paul Charles WolfeTropical flowers are a rare sight in the northern hemisphere of US Zone 4 or Canada Zone 5. That is where I garden. With the exception of red rhododendrons, dahlias and zinnias, there are few opportunities to experience intensely colored plants.

A trip to the Middle East, this past summer, put an end to that situation. Admiring lush, vividly colored tropical flowers became one of the highlights of my travels. After landing, as our group drove along the highway from Ben Gurion airport to the city of Tel Aviv, we saw roadsides lined with groves of flowering Bouganvillea. I had never before seen this plant; I was stunned and euphoric, at one and the same time.

Abutting the highways were privately owned citrus orchards delineated from public land by wire fencing. Decorating many of these boundaries were shrubs of Bougainvillea in a variety of tropical colors. In a hot country, such as Israel, most of the landscape is made up of sun bleached rock and limestone so that seeing any flowering plant becomes a treat for the eyes.

Image courtesy of Hearts of Israel. comUnderstanding the visual impact of this flowering shrub, some of the farmers deliberately composed groupings containing one Bougainvillea of each known color, in order to create striking visual effects. I would have liked our driver to stop the van to capture the sights with a camera. Unfortunately, there were no safe highway shoulders for parking. That made my need to record visual impressions of Bougainvillea all the more acute.

Image copyrighted by allanbecker-gardenguruDriving around the country, we got the impression that nature was making a defiant biblical-type statement: Bring on the heat, bring on the sun, bring on the drought and let me show you what marvels I can conjure up. Bougainvillea plants became star attractions but they also had a supporting cast. In many instances, we would find, tucked among these shrubs, other summer flowering plants that were equally at home in drought. Lantana, Hibiscus and Oleander are three other flowers that held their own in the brutal heat.

Image copyrighted by allanbecker-gardenguruThe decorative touch of vividly colored flowering plants was pervasive. No matter where we visited, we would always find a little grove of color to rivet the eye and break up the monochromatic landscape.

Image by wikipedia.orgOften, a strategically placed Bougainvillea would add the finishing touches to a landmark, making it more attractive to photograph.


Image copyrighted by allanbecker-gardenguruAs I travelled from one awesome tourist destination to another, I noticed that there were large stretches of highway that were barren, monochrome, and devoid of visual interest.  It occurred to me that it might be a great idea if the Israeli Ministry of Tourism would encourage garden designers to plant intricate, multicolored patterns of late-summer flowers on all unused tracts of land. Perhaps a prize might be awarded to the best composition. Such an event, creating a land covered in spectacularly configured blooms, might imitate the Dutch tulip festival of the Netherlands. Perhaps that might make this Middle Eastern country a late-summer destination for horticultural photographers. I would imagine also that tourists, who make camera pilgrimages to Monet’s garden at Giverney, and travel to English villages to admire perennial gardens, might be an ideal target group for such a festival.

Image copyrighted by allanbecker-gardenguruOne of my l concerns about visiting the Middle East in August had been the fact that most plants are not in bloom at that time. As a gardener who is passionate about flowers, I anticipated that the timing of our trip might turn out to be a missed opportunity. What a relief to have discovered Bougainvillea, Hibiscus and Lantana. I was very happy. Oh, by the way. In this part of the world, Lantana is nothing like the polite cascading container plant that we see at home. In the Middle East, it grows as tall as Lilac bushes do. What an experience!

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (
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