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Phuket Gardening: Alpha shrubs start with ‘A’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: Alpha shrubs start with ‘A’ | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Last week we considered annuals, but today it is the turn of their big brothers – the shrubs and ornamental trees that form the backbone of any tropical garden (click here for last week’s article).

Acalypha hispida
, also known as the chenille plant or red cat’s tail, is alphabetically the first to come under scrutiny. Unlike its cousin, A. wilkesiana or Jacob’s coat, which is grown entirely for its unique, multi-colored foliage, hispida has conventional leaves, but the most unconventional of flowers – masses of long crimson catkins which hang down beneath the foliage. These blooms feel soft and velvety to the touch – hence the colloquial name of cat’s tail.

It is a tolerant plant which will put up with poor soil, provided you give it a sunny position and a reasonable supply of water. Granted the right conditions, it will bloom freely all year round. The only proviso is that it may need pruning, since it can become leggy. Often used as an informal hedge or in dramatic groups, the chenille plant is one of the best starter plants for the inexperienced gardener. It is also easily propagated from cuttings.

Another distinctive shrub, but far removed from the chenille plant in appearance, is the adenium obesum or desert rose. Also a favorite with Thais, the adenium is basically a desert plant, a succulent which stores water in its thick, knobbly, sometimes leafless stems. Indeed for some growers, these grey, distended stems are the principal attraction, though it does produce trumpet shaped flowers and club-shaped, glossy foliage. Rarely grown in open beds, the desert rose is usually found in rock gardens or containers. An ideal choice for a pot since it will thrive in dry conditions. An occasional drenching is all it requires. In fact the adenium is much more likely to succumb to over-watering (which leads to stem and root rot) than to under-watering. If you do plant it out, the desert rose is a perfect candidate for a xeric regime.

In Thailand the desert rose has been extensively hybridized: the common pale pink, plumeria-like flowers, which appear on rather gaunt branches, now often superceded by more dramatic white, cream edged with deep crimson, or vivid red blooms. Horticulturalists tend to prune top growth to encourage flowering, but in truth, the plant is such a slow grower that it is often treated as a bonsai specimen. Personally I would let well alone unless it becomes too leggy. Propagate from calloused cuttings left overnight to dry out.

When I drew up a list of top twenty shrubs a couple of years ago, the allamanda topped the list. I have no reason to change that opinion. It wins on many counts: one, as a beautiful flowering shrub possessing huge yellow trumpets with a golden center; two, because it is tolerant of almost any conditions; three, because it has attractive glossy evergreen foliage which is a perfect foil for the flowers; and four because it seems immune to disease of any kind.

At the height of the recent driest season for years, it continued to bloom and bloom. If the allamanda has a fault, it is that although technically a vine, it does not produce tendrils, so it is unable to attach itself to adjacent surfaces. The whole luxurious structure of branches, stems, leaves and flowers, can easily become top heavy without support of some kind. But trained to a trellis or tied to a wall, it looks magnificent.

There is also a yellow, bushy variety with narrow leaves and smaller blooms, often used as a roadside border plant, and a dusty pink variety, A. blanchetti which does twine more effectively, but lacks the dramatic impact of its golden cousin.

What of more ‘A’s such as acacias, and abutilons?

Well, they will have to wait in the wings for another time.

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

Keep checking our online
Phuket Lifestyle pages and join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

This article appears in the current (May 18-24, 2013) issue of the hard-copy Phuket Gazette newspaper, now on sale at newsstands throughout the island. Digital subscribers may download the full newspaper, this week and every week, by clicking
here.

— Patrick Campbell

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Phuket

“Self-myofascial release” – what is foam rolling?

The Thaiger

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“Self-myofascial release” – what is foam rolling? | The Thaiger

by Krix Luther

The word is out about self-myofascial release – foam rolling – and, no, Thailand people, this doesn’t have to do with a ‘soapy’ or ‘happy-endings’.

So what is foam rolling you ask? Well, it was once a secretive technique used by professional coaches and therapists but has become a regular practice for people across the spectrum of all fitness levels.

Self-myofascial release is just a fancy term for a technique of self-massage that helps deal with muscle tightness and trigger points.

With a massage parlour never being farther than a kilometre away, and decent one-hour massage costing you less than 500 baht, it might be difficult to see the point of learning the technique – which would explain why I always see a bunch of rarely used foam rollers in the corner of Nai Harn Gym in Phuket (one of the places I work).

Nonetheless, the understanding of your body and muscle structures that comes with practising the technique can offer many benefits.

  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Prevents chances of DOMS
  • Reduces post-workout stress
  • Helps with post-workout cooldown
  • Reduces recovery time
  • Prevents training-related injuries
  • Reduces chances of overtraining

The practice can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, Theracane or your own hands by simply applying pressure to specific points on your body, aiding in the recovery of muscles and assisting in returning them to normal function. We can think of ‘normal function’ as when your muscles are elastic, healthy and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.

Foam rolling after a workout will provide deep compression that will help relax tight muscles and adhesions (fibrous bands) between muscle layers and their surroundings. The benefits of foam rolling are outstanding, in addition to increasing blood flow, which will speed up muscle recovery. Foam rolling can be used for a variety of corrective bodywork.

It can loosen muscles to re-balance posture, re-establish proper movement patterns, enhance performance and help create pain-free movement.

Stretching alone is not always enough when it comes to releasing the tightness, which makes the technique very helpful. Additionally, you are able to feel exactly what is happening and adjust the pressure so that it is uncomfortable, but not unbearable – not always the case when it comes to the toes of your Thai masseuse digging into your back.

Krix Luther has been a Personal Trainer in Phuket for more than 10 years, he specialises in weight loss, strength & conditioning, TRX and CrossFit. For more information about Krix and his services, visit krixluther.com

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Thai Life

Japan’s legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away

The Thaiger

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Japan’s legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away | The Thaiger

by Kaoru

Do you travel frequently between Thailand and North America and want to break your journey on the way? Or are you simply looking for somewhere to escape the scorching weather forecast for the next few months? 

Japan has become a very popular holiday destination among Thais with visitor numbers expected to reach one million a year. Many of them are excited to see snow in winter but March~April is a more pleasant time of year with spring flowers and festivals all over the country. Cherry blossoms are well known but the plum blossom season starts earlier in mid-February and the flowers last longer. 

While in Thailand I met so many expats, mainly farang, who had “been there, done that” all over Asia but not yet been to Japan. It seems these days, it’s the free-spending Thais who are travelling in numbers. Budget airline Nok Scoot started flying from Don Muang to Tokyo Narita last year and Thai Lion has now joined the competition. 

Those of you bound for North America can connect flights in Tokyo or Osaka, flying legacy carriers like JAL or ANA out of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK.) Actually, Tokyo has two international airports, Haneda (HND) which is close to the city and Narita (NRT.)

Japan's legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away | News by The Thaiger

Narita Airport is about 60 kilomentres from Tokyo but lies close to a temple town of the same name, only 10 minutes by train. Plum blossom festival is held there until March 3, Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated earlier than Thailand in April, and there will be two days of drum (taiko) performances on April 13 and 14.

However the largest plum blossom festival in the region is held between February 16 and  March 31 in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, about an hour and a half from NRT by coach.

To visit this event you might need a stopover of at least one night. The main venue is the Kairakuen Garden with 3,000 plum trees spread over 50 hectares.  On selected dates an outdoor tea ceremony will be held, and you may also like to taste local plum wine which is sweet and a lot milder than sake (Japanese rice wine.) 

“Plum Blossom Ambassadors,” ladies dressed in traditional costume (kimono) greet visitors at the gardens. Thailand is a photogenic country and so is Japan. I was in Chiang Mai until a few weeks ago, so with memories still fresh from the Flower Festival, I quickly approached of them for a photo shot. 

Then, a prominent feudal lord who ruled Mito reappeared from a few hundred years ago and also wanted to join the photo. Known as Mito Komon, his retired life is dramatised as a legendary figure who travels around the country disguised as a commoner, confronting villains and exposing corruption while helping the weak.

Even if you are familiar with Asia you will notice big differences as well as similarities when you come to Japan. “Will I be able to communicate and find my way around?” You might ask. Japan’s ranking in terms of English proficiency is in the same league as Thailand, only slightly ahead, according to one research by an international language education organisation. That sounds challenging to any foreign visitor but it shouldn’t put you off- If you enjoy life in Thailand you already know how to adapt to a different culture. 

* Special thanks to Mito Tourism and Convention Association for arranging my visit. Thai visitors please let them know beforehand that you are coming so that they can display their welcome banner. 

Japan's legendary cherry blossom is only 5 hours away | News by The Thaiger

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Thailand

The legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes, is now in effect

The Thaiger

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The legalisation of marijuana for medical purposes, is now in effect | The Thaiger

Grass, pot, ganja, marijuana… cannabis.

Whatever you want to call it, it can now be grown legally in Thailand and used in medical and scientific applications with the consent of the authorities, under strict guidelines.

The Narcotics Act 2562, which seeks to amend specific provisions of the Narcotics Act of 1979 to enable the use of marijuana for the treatment of patients, study, research and development, has now been published in the Royal Gazette.

The revised also allows for cultivation in agricultural, commercial and industrial uses for medical benefits as well.

However, the legal use of marijuana will be placed under the control of a committee headed by the permanent secretary of agriculture and comprises heads of several departments such as the Health Support Services Department, the Industrial Works Department, the Mental Health Department and the Medical Council.

The law also allows for the legal use of “kanchong”, or hemp, with consent from the committee.

Import and export of marijuana in quantities, appropriate for medical treatment of certain ailments, is now permissible under the law, but there must be a prescription or a certificate from a certified medical practitioner.

However, the import or export of marijuana in excess of 10 kilograms remains prohibited as this will be considered trafficking in narcotics.

This is the first time in Thailand that marijuana can be used legally for medical or scientific purposes despite the fact that the studies indicate the plant may possess medicinal qualities of value to some patients.

The controlled use of marijuana for medical and scientific purposes is considered an initial step which will eventually lead to wider use for other purposes.

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