Bougainvillea are an immensely showy, floriferous and hardy plant. Virtually pest-free and disease resistant, it rewards its owner with an abundance of color and vitality when it is well looked after.

Florida plants and gardens are brown and crispy after the cold

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In the grim bloodbath that was Florida vs. Cold, Florida lay gasping in a pathetic shambles. Drive around, look out your window, sniff the putrid burn, and you'll know the carnage.

Grass, once green and lush, looks like dry fettucini. Palm trees have all the vitality of a paper lunch bag sprayed with starch. Leaves have the audacity to crunch under our shoes.

"It looks pretty sad," said Irene Liporto, whose pink and orange hibiscus plants are crispy and angry at the universe. Her crown of thorns have no will to live. Her pink and white bougainvillea — the prettiest thing in history — is a shadow of its former self.

"Oh, yeah, that's one of my favorites, and it looks terrible," said Liporto, who lives in St. Petersburg's Old Northeast neighborhood. "Right now, I sort of want to blindfold myself so I don't see it. It's kind of sad. I garden. I put in a lot of work."

Her pruning pal and neighbor Sue Skaggs commiserates. She has lived on Bay Street for 40 years. Her garden hasn't done this kind of death march since the 1970s, when she lost her orchids and mango trees.
Some people are frantically hosing down the brown with off-limits water.

"We've had an increase in violations in the last couple of days," said Terrie Grace, who is in charge of Pinellas County's water restriction program. The rules still apply. Same goes in other Tampa Bay area counties.
Overwatering your plants is bad anyway, experts say. For now, it's best to stand by. Don't massacre dead leaves with shears or drown them in a fit of panic. Have faith that life springs eternal.

The Old Northeast pals did a scratch test on a bougainvillea, running a fingernail over the gross brown branch. Underneath: a miraculous streak of green.