This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
"Whatever else of interest may belong to this charming place, situate in one of the most pleasant parts of the fine agricultural county of Oxfordshire, it has come to be regarded as the home of the glorious Bougainvillea speciosa. It is now cultivated in many parts of the country; but here the visitor can see a specimen of it so grand in development and ravishing in appearance, that he can only stand by it wrapt in mute wonder, and be filled with gratitude that he has been permitted to look upon such a wondrous floral vision. The plant at Swyn-combe was brought here from South America, in 1857, by the Comte de Rouelle, and was then so small as only to have two or three leaves on it. It was pushed on into growth by Mr Daniels, the gardener at Swyncombe, and in 1860 it had attained a considerable size, and bloomed profusely, throwing out from each terminal spray a number of lovely mauve-coloured bracts in the form of an inflorescence. Cut specimens of it were taken to the great London shows, and the whole country rang with the praises of this horticultural wonder. Years ago it had been brought to England, having been introduced from Rio Janeiro by Mr Bougainville, from whom it derived its generic name, but all attempts to cultivate it failed.
Mr Daniels planted out his specimen at the end of a low span-roofed house, close to the boiler: he gave it an abundance of dry heat, and very little water; and in adopting this plan he hit upon the mode of cultivating it best adapted to bring out its superb beauty. Since then, each succeeding season has brought a recurrence of the marvellous display made by the plant; and year by year the plant increased in size, and at the present moment, were each terminal spray hanging down from the roof clothed in glittering mauve, spread out over the interior of the house, it would be found to cover a space of some 800 superficial feet. Happily for its grand effect, it is almost incapable of strictly formal training; the shoots hang like pendent wreaths in the most admired negligence. The natural freedom thus assured is far more elegant than the restraints of art; you look above on to an inner roofing of the brightest, and yet softest, hue of colour; its luxuriant wealth of flowers can then be rightly appreciated; and the heart in fine admiration feels more than "lip can e'er express." Would that the house in which it is growing were better adapted to show off its manifold charms ! What was said of it in 1860 can be stated now with accumulated truth: " One wants to look down upon it, as it is looked upon by the sun, to which its blossoms are displayed.
At a distance from it, and standing on a somewhat higher floor, you see imperfectly the upper surface of the mass of bloom lying nearly close to the glass; and in the slanting light of the evening sun, the whole of the leafy canopy reflects on one side an almost glowing sheet of colour; while on the other, partly in the shade, and the semi-transparency of the coloured bracts thus coming into play, it has more of an amethystine hue".
Some idea of the size of the plant may be gained, when it is stated that the stem, near the surface of the pit in which it is planted, measures 16 inches in circumference. The lateral shoots forming the blooming wood are simply thinned out, not headed back; the plant is thus allowed to extend itself, but all gross shoots springing from the old wood are cut back close, and on no account allowed to grow. This strong growth can readily be distinguished from the wiry growth that furnishes the blooming wood. The roots of the plant have got away out of the house, quite beyond the control of Mr Daniels. He supposes they have penetrated into a neighbouring vine-border, also into a pit used for forcing Potatoes, as well as into the chalk rubble underlying the paths about the house. Notwithstanding this freedom, it blooms as profusely as ever, without stint of quantity or beauty.
The house it occupies was originally a long low span-roof in two divisions; the Bougainvillea being planted at the farthest extremity of the house. It gradually filled the division it occupied; the glass of the top of the partition was then removed to admit of a passage through for the leading shoots; and last year, additional liberty was afforded it by the removal of the partition altogether. A fine specimen of the later-blooming B. glabra shares the roof with it, and occupies that portion of the house nearest the door. Just as the glorious beauty of B. speciosa begins to fade (it begins to bloom early in March and continues till the end of May), then B. glabra takes up the floral service, and from April till Christmas hangs on its branches blossoms numberless, in such clustering masses as to hide the glass. The bracts of B. glabra have a glowing light pink hue, and form a fine contrast to B. speciosa. This species is cut back hard to the old wood in the same manner as a Vine, and flowers from the young wood of the first growth.
B. speciosa flowers from the wood made the preceding year. Mr Daniels cultivates several other species, but with the exception of these two, and B. splendens, having larger bracts than either of the preceding kinds, which are of a very bright pink colour, shaded with crimson, the others are scarcely worthy cultivation. Many gardeners about the country have B. spectabilis, but fail to bloom it. Try what they will, their best efforts are abortive. Mr Daniels states it is a winter-blooming species; the bracts show in November somewhat freely, but drop oft* for want of sun heat and solar light. All attempts to change its season of blooming have failed. In his own words, recently contributed to the ' Gardeners' Chronicle,' Mr Daniels shall describe his mode of treating the Bougainvilleas: -
"I will now proceed to give a few plain directions for their treatment, which, if followed out, will not fail to produce blooms. If they are to be seen in their full beauty, they must be planted out, and allowed to fully develop themselves. Then we can get beautiful branches of bloom from 3 to 6 feet long. I would recommend any one receiving a young plant to proceed as follows: - If small, give it a shift, and plunge it in a Cucumber or Melon house, or a Pine-pit, with plenty of bottom-heat. Shift on as often as the pot becomes filled with roots. It will fill a 13-inch pot with roots in the course of one summer. Train out the branches to their full length, and withhold water about August for the purpose of thoroughly ripening the wood. Stand the plant away in a warm corner of the stove for the winter, only giving sufficient water to prevent its leaves from dropping off. Early in the spring prepare a pit for it, 3 feet wide and 6 feet long, and larger in proportion if more than one are to be planted in it.