At least SOMETHING likes this heat!


At 11:40 a.m. this morning, I was dismayed to see that the digital thermometer read 100 F (38 C). I love the sun but not when it beats down at temps this high. According to weather reporters, today could potentially reach 115 F (46 C). Our climate is considered a Mediterranean climate, but even at that, these temps are off the charts.

Fortunately, living in very close proximity to the waters of the San Francisco Bay has its advantages during our summer heatwaves. The water usually has a cooling effect once the sun slips over the horizon, causing our temps to dip down overnight often as much as a full 30-40 degrees. So although our heatwaves rival those of a desert clime, they are far more tolerable.

The water and the hilly geography of the San Francisco Bay Area creates many micro-climates within a relatively small radius less than a hundred miles. Even though San Francisco is only about 45 miles (72 km) away, it is a world away as far as its growing zone. And Oakland is only 30 miles (48 km) away but still there is a vast difference between there and here.

This overriding consideration for micro-climates leads to some tricky calculating when one is at a nursery picking out plants. If I'm at a nursery anywhere too far outside my micro-climate, the selection will not be appropriate for my home garden even though I may only be a half hour drive away from home. The Sunset Western Garden Book eventually becomes any serious Bay Area gardener's best friend for this very reason. There's usually a copy at every nursery I go to in case I need to make a quick check before buying something I'm not familiar with.

One of the plants that can either thrive or fade depending on which Bay Area micro-climate it's planted in is bougainvillea. Bougainvillea LOVES heat! In San Francisco proper, some strains of bougainvillea may not do so well because of the city's famous foggy skies and cooler temps (hence the infamous quote "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" [often inaccurately attributed to Mark Twain]).

Well, here in our little micro-climate the bougainvillea only struggles through a few freezes and frosts every winter and then comes back like gangbusters once spring has sprung. By summer, it is trying to take over the driveway that borders the white picket fence the bougainvillea climbs for support. I whack it back regularly so Hubby and his car aren't injured by the deadly inch-long thorns, and it just keeps growing. The reflected heat from the concrete driveway and the full sun location make it thrive.

One particularly bad freeze a couple of winters ago zapped all of bougainvillea so bad that I'd thought for sure I'd lost them. Even the big 3-4 inch trunks died. But the bougainvillea came back sending shoots out from its roots--which is why I have no idea which varieties I still have except for the obviously identifiable Raspberry Ice with its variegated leaves (see top photo). The rest are now a mystery.

So on this day of record-breaking high temps, there will be at least one living thing thriving and basking in the heat out in the garden. And that will be the bougainvillea.

As for me, I'm hibernating inside in my studio with a paintbrush in hand. The bougainvillea can have my share of the outside for today.



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9 comments:

  1. I have always wished I could grow Bourgainvillea but the winters are too cold here. At least it does not get as hot here in the summertime - never been above 98F/36,8C. I really do not like temps above 100F - too hot. So keep cool in your studio ...

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  2. I love bourgainvillea! The colours! Unfortunately it can only be a houseplant even here on the coast. We have a similar microclimate -Ormskirk 7 miles away inland can have snow and we will have had Winter sunshine. It also has longer and sharper frosts.

    I wish I could send you our weather today- there are a lot of flood warnings in England today, and I've heard about the fires in California.

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  3. 38 C is very hot Cindy and I am glad we don't experience temperatures like that over here. Right now we have a cold spell with temperatures around 16 to 18 C which makes it feel like autumn. And there is rain, lots of it.

    I'm amazed that your bougainvillea is growing outside in your garden. How lucky you are that it's warm enough to do that. I had a bougainvillea in my conservatory a few years ago but I had to get rid of it as it was taking over the whole conservatory.

    BTW thanks to you I'm twittering! :-D

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  4. Oh my, the colors in that bougainvillea are exquisite! I'm glad they like the heat...they can have all ours, if they like. :)

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  5. I've seen the Bougainvillea thriving at my sister's house in Arizona, but I never knew there are many varieties. I should have known: it seems most plants have many varieties.

    Arizona is another state with many microclimates and extreme changes only an hour or two away from the desert. It's a fascinating world!

    Right now I'm in the boreal forest of Maine, but it feels like I'm trapped in a jungle at the equator. The air is so hot and sticky that it hits you like a blast from a furnace.

    I'm with you in that I'm letting the waterfowl and red squirrels have MY share of the outdoors, today!

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  6. Ah yes, my bougie is thriving this summer. I keep it in a big pot so it doesn't overgrow.

    I do love bouggainvillea and am so blessed to live in the mediterranean climate, but south of you, where we almost never get a real freeze.

    Stay cool!

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  7. Your bougain villea are beautiful. I'm from MIssouri so I don't know if we can grown these, but I think I'll give it a try. Do they need lots of water?

    I'm glad someone is getting some painting done.
    Hugs,
    Cathie

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  8. I love that pink/orange shade of bouganvillea! It always makes me think of rainbow sherbet.

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  9. I do love flowers on fences- what pretty photos!

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