The Balinese are keen horticulturists as well as rice farmers, In addition to growing a variety of fruit and vegetables, they are also fond of colourful flowering plants and shrubs which enhance the beauty of their homes and villages. In this last respect, they have been assisted by the government’s tamanisasi policy which is aimed at turning Bali into a garden isle. This has been implemented on a communal basis with coordinated planting schemes outside people’s homes and by the side of the road. In terms of variety, relatively few plant species are found in such settings compared to the profusion of species occurring in the wild. Furthermore, many of these ornamental plant species are ‘exotics’, introduced to the island from elsewhere for their decorative or shade creating qualities, Exotic tree species include the magnificent rain tree (Albiziasaman) from tropical America and the flamboyant or flame tree (Delonixregia) from Madagascar. The former gets its name from the fact that with the approach of rain, it collapses its leaves, there- by ensuring that maximum rainfall reaches its root system.
The flowering shrub hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) originally came from China, buttoday is found everywhere inthe tropics and is grown in almost every Balinese compound or garden. Its flowers, which are produced each day in great profusion, are used in offerings and to decorate temples, statues and other religious structures. They are also often tucked behind the ear as a personal adornment. A wide range of colours are available, but the most common is the bright red variety.
The frangiparii (Plumeria spp.) is a native of the Americas and was first introduced to Southeast Asia by the Spaniards via the Philippines. The most widespread species of frangipani in Bali, Plumeriaobtusa, is easily recognizable by its waxy white flowers with yellow centres, and its long leathecry leaves with rounded ends, Plumeriaacuminata, with its pinkish blossom, mixed with yellow and white, is also commonly planted, particularly in temple precincts and Muslim cemeteries.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spp.) is a native of Brazil and is named after the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville. The flowers, which grow in groups of three, are actually quite inconspiouous, being thin, tubular structures with a slightly flared mouth. Rather, it is the often brilliantly colouredbracts—the leaf-like structures that surround the flowers which provide thc floral display. The latter have a papery quality which gives the bougainvillea its Balinese name of kerms (literally, ‘paper’). Some species are always in flower; others only bloom in response to dry seasons. The most spectacular example is the aptly-named B. magnifica, which has large magenta coloured ‘flowers’ and blooms all year round.
The flamboyant or flame tree (Delonixvegiu) is a native of Madagascar but was introduced to Bali in the 19th century where, like the rain tree, it is planted as a road side tree, partly for its shade dispensing properties, but also for its brilliant red flowers. The latter appear towards the end of the dry season, first blooming in mid-September, with the greatest profusion in November. The flowers are eventually replaced by seeds contained in dark brown pods.