Home > Life, Politics, Really? > Taming the Beast, or, Recovering from Bougie Fever

Taming the Beast, or, Recovering from Bougie Fever

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The St. Petersburg Times ran an article in the Sunday paper about the results of the unrestricted growth that was allowed to take place in Florida over the past several years.

“Gold fever” overtook investors who bought up properties with the intent of “flipping” them and getting rich. The tide turned, the gold ran out, and what is left is a bunch of angry “miners” trying to find a place to lay the blame. Meanwhile, others who were encouraged to get into homes they couldn’t afford are living in their cars outside of the houses where they once enjoyed some comfort. The houses stand empty.

I thought about this as I ventured out into the front yard to attempt to untangle a mess that has been expanding like the bubble that burst in our economy, and as usual, it is through an encounter with nature that I’ve learned about the workings of the world.

Like the time all the plumbing in my house backed up and it was discovered that one tiny root of grass had snuck its way into the joint of an underground pipe and from there had created a massive 18-inch grass root snare. One root became two that became four, etc. I’d never really had a working understanding of the term “grass roots” as it applied to politics before then.

I had a similar revelation yesterday as I took a pair of loppers to the hideously overgrown Bouganvillea in my front yard.

bougieIf you’re not familiar with “Bougies”, they’re lush, flowering plants that grow in the south (though I recently learned that they are not native to Florida, but then, who is?). I decided it would be cool to plant one in front of the palm tree out in front for a little splash of color.

Well, this “little splash of color” turned into what my neighbor kindly described as “The Beast”. As the palm tree grew, so did the bougie, wrapping its limbs greedily around the palm trunk out there in the hot sun of the front yard, up-up-and-away from my reach. In this primo spot, it was sending out new growth daily, shooting opportunistic branches straight up to the sky, covered with massive thorns that inspired an immediate bone ache in any offended flesh (including my heel through the thin sole of my shoe – YOUCH!). My ladder, loppers, leather gloves, and even my pole saw couldn’t keep up with it.

theBeastSo finally, the Bougie and I had a come-to-Jesus moment. This unrestricted growth without intention had to stop. The blossoms that made it such a thing of beauty were being choked out by the bully branches that elbowed their way up to the glorious sunlight. It was clear to me that a botanical smack-down was in order.

Carefully, I began to trim away the bottom branches I could get to without causing 3rd-degree scratches. Little by little, as the useless inner limbs were cut away, a new form began to emerge that revealed a lovely trunk system and left only the blossom producing branches on top. Once again I could see the garden behind the tree and could even back the car out of the driveway without running over any small neighbor children.

I discovered, just as the state of Florida has, that it is only with the thoughtful management of cluttering growth that sun and air can circulate to allow a Bouganvillea, or a state, to thrive and produce vibrant blossoms. Through careful pruning and pinching, the “plant” is best able to supply nutrients to all its growth, and it is necessary sometimes to tell a branch that its expansion will neither help the whole nor add to its aesthetic impact, so it can’t grow there.

newBougieI’m not a horticulturist. In fact, if a real one reads this I’ll probably get spanked for my bad pruning technique and dirty tools. I’m also not a community builder/planner, but I do know that as I drove around this area during the boom and saw entire new neighborhoods sprouting invasively out of the earth like untamed Bougies, I knew madness would ensue and eventually we’d be left with a nearly dead plant because of an onslaught of over-eager branches.

What was gained in sacrificing the beauty of our blossoms for the sake of new growth sprawl?

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  1. Tina
    November 18, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I love the lines “…the Bougie and I had a come-to-Jesus moment” and “It was clear to me that a botanical smack-down was in order.” Your writing makes me smile…life is good in our village!

  2. November 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I’ve learned all my best lines from YOU, Tina!

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