Connect with us

Thai Life

E is for ericas and eucalypts – Phuket Gardening

Legacy Phuket Gazette



E is for ericas and eucalypts – Phuket Gardening | The Thaiger
  • follow us in feedly

PHUKET: There are plenty of plants which names begin with the letter “E” but none that can rival the 2,000 strong euphorbia family. So large is the genus that that one unheralded member completely slipped through the net last week.

Naturalized here, E. cotonifolia bears absolutely no resemblance to the exotic crown of thorns, or even to the brilliant yellow spurges of cooler climes. Instead, it has conventional reddish leaves which can become a brilliant crimson in the right conditions, namely, in full sun.

Slender-stemmed and multi-branched from the base, it will tolerate poor soils and even shade, though in such conditions the foliage will remain a dull greenish purple. An ideal plant for bare spaces where little else will grow. One of the first plants to colonize waste land, it is a real toughie and easily propagated from cuttings.

Some ericas or heathers are also pressed into service as border or bedding plants. Most varieties such as carnea or alpine heath, ciliaris or Dorset heath and cinerea or bell heather are generally found growing wild on temperate heathland, providing impenetrable cover for ground-loving birds such as grouse.

Often replaced here as a dense low growing border or rockery plant by easier to grow cuphea or false heather, there are nonetheless South African or Australian natives which will thrive in Phuket.

For example, E. densifolia, an unusual South African variety, has tiny green leaves and spikes of tubular red flowers whereas E. australis which actually, hails from Spain and Portugal, has an upright, spire-like habit and can reach three meters in height. Most ericas are characterized by tiny narrow leaves and pink, white or red tubular flowers; almost all require an acid, peaty or neutral soil.

Altogether more tropical in appearance is the torch ginger or etlingera. For a long time, I marveled at these heavy cone-like red blooms atop thick ram-rod straight stems which appeared as cut flowers in local markets. They look even more impressive in their natural surroundings, extravagant clumps, up to twenty feet across, of huge pointed dark green leaves and fleshy 4-5 foot stalks rising straight from the ground and bearing these cone-like, flaming, waxy inflorescences.

If any plant epitomizes the tropics, this is surely it. Unsurprisingly, its native habitat is the jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia where it thrives on the humus-rich moist soil of the rainforest. If you want to grow etlingera , remember that it will, like all gingers, need organic soil, protection from wind and time to spare. Oh and plenty of space!

I suppose we should allow the eucalyptus a modicum of space. That, unfortunately, is the trouble. Give this tree an inch and it will take a yard. There is a large colony, fully fifty meters tall, of what Australians call “gum trees” at the end of my soi. I can’t imagine they were put there deliberately, since this clump has never been harvested as timber [the trees are notoriously fast growing], though they are planted in Mediterranean climates as roadside trees to provide shade.

Perhaps some public-spirited Thai did just that. But they are a mixed blessing, for though the saplings are pressed into service here for scaffolding, the mature trees syphon up vast quantities of water. In Southern Spain, they have begun to remove them for this very reason.

Eucalypts are nonetheless interesting. The juvenile leaves are often different from the adult ones, broader and more attractive than their seniors. The wood is rich in fragrant oil and the flowers are replete with nectar and include some of the world’s finest honey plants.

Perhaps we should try more of the interesting ornamental varieties in Thailand: for example, E. alba which has beautiful smooth white bark, E. blakelyi which has ornamenta l value with showy clusters of whitish flowers, or E. cicerea or cordata, both of which possess silvery-gray foliage. There are 700 species to choose from and they will all grow here. Spoiled for choice.

Tip of the week – Pollination of your plants

You may have shrubs or trees which are not yielding fruit. There may be many reasons for this lack. All conventional plants need to be pollinated to bear crops. This can be achieved by self-pollination, a process whereby pollen from the stamen (the male part) is transferred to the pistil (the female part). Often this transfer takes place in the same flower: for example with tomatoes, egg plants, peas and beans.

With many plants, cross-pollination, known as allogamy, is essential, so pollen from one plant is transferred to another of the same species in the vicinity. Cross-pollination, which often produces stronger offspring, requires the assistance of (mainly) insects. Bees are the most important bio-pollinators, but butterflies, beetles, hawk-moths and flies also contribute importantly to this exchange.

In California, 1,000,000 bee-hives are moved into the almond groves every season to ensure the flowers are fertilized.

If you have a question, or a garden that you would like featured, you can email Patrick Campbell here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages, follow us on Twitter @phuketgazette or join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Never miss out on future posts by following The Thaiger.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Things that have changed in Thailand in the Covid Era | Top 10 | VIDEO

The Thaiger



Things that have changed in Thailand in the Covid Era | Top 10 | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Top 10 things that have changed in Thailand during the Covid-era Things have changed. In some cases they’ve changed a lot and may never be the same again. Many people are suffering as a result of the impacts of lockdowns and the border closures. Some people are being forced to re-invent their lives as a result. Here are some of the main things we believe have changed since January this year. Face Masks The now every-present face mask is now with us for a long time. In Asia, it was never uncommon to see people wearing face masks, for traffic, […]

Continue Reading


Riding and renting a motorbike in Thailand | Top 10 tips | VIDEO

The Thaiger



Riding and renting a motorbike in Thailand | Top 10 tips | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Motorbikes and scooters are the most popular mode of transport in Thailand, and most of south east Asia. In many cases, they’re the ‘engine’ for the local economies. Most of them just go and go and go, they’re astonishingly reliable. Getting around on a motorbike is easy enough and will get you to your destination faster, whilst the cars and trucks are plodding along in the traffic. But riding a motorbike in Thailand can also be very dangerous. If you stick to the common sense basics – ride within the speed limits, wear a bike helmet, obey the traffic rules […]

Continue Reading


Khao San Road to reopen for Halloween

Caitlin Ashworth



Khao San Road to reopen for Halloween | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: The Club Khaosan

The party is coming back to Khao San Road this Halloween. The once booming backpacker district went through a renovation during the lockdown period and now the Bangkok governor says they’re ready to reopen the street. Khao San Road has long been a district frequented by foreign backpackers. It’s known for it’s grungy and lively bar scene as well as its eccentric mix of street food, like scorpion on a stick. During the lockdown, 48.4 million baht was put into the streets for major renovations like leveling out the road and footpaths, adding some gutters and designating space for emergency […]

Continue Reading
Follow The Thaiger by email: