Connect with us

Thai Life

Gardening: Aristocratic aquatics

Published

 on 

PHUKET: Hydrophytes are plants that can grow only in water or in soil that is permanently saturated. Some simple souls merely float on the surface and dangle their roots below, but the majority are rooted to the bottom or to the muddy margins of lakes, marshes or rivers.

A few can actually survive in brackish or saline conditions, but for most, salty water prevents the natural process of osmosis and is a recipe for disaster.

Some are edible, for example, wild rice, watercress, morning glory, lotus and water chestnut, and all are extremely useful in filtering out impurities and toxins that plague both our visible and invisible supplies of water. Since they consume the same nutrients as algae, hydrophytes help to control algae’s damaging presence, while most absorb various metallic compounds – for instance tin in Phuket – and help stabilize acidity-alkalinity levels in the water system. Furthermore, blooming water dwellers, such as lilies and lotuses, consume huge amounts of nitrates, an inevitable result of having fish in your pond or fertilizer in your garden soil.

But despite all these unheralded benefits, we grow water plants primarily for their visual presence. As the painter Claude Monet knew, few flowers can rival the beauty of nymphaeas or water lilies, and every Thai enthuses over the virtues of its equally splendid cousin, the lotus or nelumba nucifera, a sacred symbol for both Buddhists and Hindus.

Let’s begin with the water lily, if only because it is a universal horticultural presence, even in cool climes. While most tropical varieties will bloom profusely only if they are placed in a sunny position, water lilies will survive in less favorable conditions, even, as I recall, in my London garden.

There are stunning hybrids, mostly derived from capensis or Mexicana stock, in a range of colors few flowering plants can emulate: scarlet, magenta, violet, white, yellow, orange and even blue. The large and dramatic star-shaped blooms come in double and single forms. Even the single flowers have a minimum of eight dramatic petals. Go to your local nursery and you will probably discover rows of water lilies of every hue, rooted in the rich mud at the bottom of black, watertight, plastic pots. Most of them will be day-blooming tropical varieties, but there are also hardy and night-blooming forms. The most commonly grown cultivars include the orange escarboucle, the double-white blooming gladstoniana and pale-yellow marliaciea.

To grow a lily, take a potted specimen, complete with its own roots encased in mud and already in bloom, so you know which color you are getting, and simply drop the container into a pond or wide ceramic bowl. A vigorous feeder, all your nymphaea will need is the occasional fertilizer tablet or two (available everywhere) and if the roots (actually rhizomes) become too large, a supplement of the sticky mud on sale in garden centers. Alternatively, you can divide up the clump if the plant gets too big for its boots.

Lilies do best in still or very slow-moving water and they need plenty of room. The large, rounded leaves – called pads – float on top, but pots with small surface areas will soon become overcrowded, resulting in the leaves bunching up or hanging untidily over the side. Also remember that in favorable conditions, the flowers, which are borne at the end of stiff, but fleshy stems, may rise several inches above their surrounding mat of greenery.

Not only humans who love lilies. Fish enjoy the superior water quality that nymphaeas provide and the cool, shady areas beneath the pads, while dragon flies and frogs appreciate the gentle resting place above. Low- maintenance perennials, lilies are both a utilitarian and aristocratic aquatic plant no garden should be without.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, e-mail: drpaccampbell@gmail.com. Further information about this gardening series and Patrick’s other work can be viewed here.


— Patrick Campbell

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand6 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Thai actress arrested for promoting a ponzi scheme

Thailand7 hours ago

Giant monitor lizard climbs up power pole to escape pack of dogs in central Thailand

World7 hours ago

“Drink more booze” Japan urges youth with new contest

Bangkok7 hours ago

CCSA leaves entertainment venues in limbo over 4am closing

Travel8 hours ago

Fun things to do indoors on a rainy day in Thailand (2022)

Bangkok8 hours ago

Tourists by locals in Bangkok: mad, bad, and dangerous to know

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Chon Buri8 hours ago

‘Dead body’ on Thailand beach turns out to be sex doll

Central Thailand8 hours ago

Shooting after comedy show in central Thailand, 1 seriously injured

Thailand9 hours ago

UPDATE: Woman who allegedly abused a soldier is a police officer

Kanchanaburi9 hours ago

Police shoot and kill major drug trafficker in Kanchanaburi

Tourism9 hours ago

Thailand’s CCSA talk tourist stats, visas on arrival & home isolation

Thailand10 hours ago

RTN’s ocean conservation activity accused of spoiling ecosystem

Chon Buri10 hours ago

Ferocious cobra bites rescuer’s girlfriend in Chon Buri

Thailand11 hours ago

Angry tourists demand refunds from tour operators in Thailand

Thailand12 hours ago

Motorbike taxi driver saves teenager from suicide in eastern Thailand

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending