Resort hotels are great places to look for gardening ideas. Take, for example, the Hyatt Regency in Aruba. The hotel seems to be on a beautifully maintained piece of property with tons of ideas that you can take home to your balcony or patio.
The resort’s Flora & Fauna Expert (how do I get that job?!), Erwin Noguera, says that Bougainvillea filters out dust and cools the air that passes through it. Also, because cool air is heavier than hot air, a canopy of bougainvillea will trap cool air underneath it. Sounds like a great take-home idea to me!
A closer look at one of the Hyatt Regency’s patios.
According to Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening book, June is a good time to plant Bougainvillea (except for extremely hot interior zones). Some varieties of Bougainvillea can get really large or bushy, so if you would like to train your plant to provide a shade canopy, be sure to pick a vining variety that will be the appropriate size for your space. Or you can look for one trained as a large patio tree. She also recommends cutting the nursery pot away from the root ball and treating the roots and crown of the plant very gently, as they don’t handle rough treatment very well.
I saw this Bougainvillea patio tree at the South Coast Plaza garden show. You can see what a nice “umbrella” it can create…
To use Bougainvillea to shade your balcony or patio, I recommend getting a pot that you can just barely wrap your arms around, and that is taller than it is wide. Water deeply on the day you plant it, and on each of the three following days. Thereafter, you only need to water once a week (or if you see signs of drought stress), but always water deeply (until you see water flowing out of the drainage holes). Pat Welsh recommends fertilizing once a month between April and August.
Speaking of interesting places to get gardening inspiration, if you’ve ever been to The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, you’ll surely have seen the columnar umbrellas of Bougainvillea in their gardens. You can get a similar umbrella-type trellis to use on your patio. Or you can train it up onto your patio cover or onto a traditional trellis.