BOUGAINVILLEA THE FLOWER OF THE PHILIPPINE SUMMER
BY VINA MEDENILLA
SUMMER is the season when bougainvilleas bloom the most. It is one of the most prominent plants in Philippine horticulture. This rapid-growing vine is commonly seen in neighborhoods, parks, and sidewalks. Its bracts or clusters, which many people mistake as its actual flowers, usually appear in magenta, but can also come in various shades of orange, pink, purple, white, red, and yellow. Some bougainvilleas or bougies also produce bracts with diverse hues and color combinations in one tree that makes it stand out. This May to June issue presents three bougainvillea growers who make a good profit in cultivating bougies. Creating a stress-free environment for themselves is their common ground in practicing horticulture. PROPER TENDER LOVING CARE Bougies thrive well under minimal care and are tolerant to high temperature, high light, and drought. According to the “Ball RedBook” (Volume 2) edited by Jim Nau, moving bougies to areas with full sun will induce flowering. If the growing area has access to full sun, it is best to establish young bougainvillea plants first in a shaded spot for seven to ten days. In terms of watering, Josefina Bunquin, a bougainvillea hobbyist from Alcala, Pangasinan, waters her bougies twice a day and applies well-decomposed cow dung once a month to fertilize them. A good medium is a key to growing any plant. As per Bunquin, do not use soil for it has a lot of bacteria that can lead to root rot. She prefers the use of sand and carbonized rice hull (CRH) instead. For Shirley Villamor, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software consultant and a part-time gardener, bougies are in the best condition if they are only watered when necessary. This is accompanied by the application of slow-release fertilizer (SRF) every two weeks or so. Norma Durado Palay, a former teacher turned agripreneur said, “Bougainvillea plants are not sensitive and easy to care for. Just water them daily and apply any blooming fertilizer twice a month, and should receive at least six to eight hours of sun exposure.” EARNING FROM BOUGIES These growers prove that ornamentals can also be lucrative. As their bougie collection grew, they also discovered ways to earn by selling cuttings and propagations and in Palay’s case, by turning her garden into an attraction. After Palay’s resignation as a teacher, she started gardening to keep her occupied while also earning extra cash from what she considers her paradise, or as she calls it, “Bougie Wonderland.” For Palay, growing bougainvilleas allows her to enjoy the bloom most of the year and save money due to less maintenance costs. Bunquin also sells over 200 plants a month. Her secret? Consistency. Bunquin does not only maintain her flower garden personally, but she also makes sure not to increase the prices (despite the demand surge) as to keep the trust of her regular clients and to increase repeat buyers. Despite having a full-time post, Villamor can also gain around ₱ 20,000 to ₱ 30,000 a month through selling cuttings on social media. In more than six years of gardening, Villamor learned the value of research in growing plants. Learn more about the story of these gardeners and how their garden came about in the succeeding pages.