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Phuket Gardening: Bromeliads offer a true taste of the tropics

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: Bromeliads offer a true taste of the tropics | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: I last wrote about bromeliads more than a year ago, but our focus on the letter “B” prompted a re-think. Apart from their deserved popularity as shade and house plants, I have re-focused my attention on this vast genus of more than 3,000 species for other reasons (click here for article).

Recently I visited the Phuket Botanic Garden (click here for article). It has a magnificent collection of bromeliads, some more than a meter high and wide. Mostly planted in containers or sprouting from bark-mulched beds, they sport shades ranging from pale green to deep magenta. If ever a plant deserved a place in the (filtered) sun on account of its foliage, the bromeliad does .

Many of these plants are neoregelias, one of the most widely hybridized. A Thai book on shade plants, which I much value, called Surath Vanno’s Plant Collection, is the product of a lifelong fascination with such plants. It has photographs of no fewer than 19 different neoregelia cultivars, many with picturesque names. They all grow in the author’s nursery. “Tricolor” has striking, curved, leaves which are dramatically banded in green and yellow, “Piccolo” is similar but with pinkish tinges.

Red varieties include “Blushing Bride” and “Grace”, while “Charm” has green mottled foliage which shades to pink at the crown. What amazes me about these assuredly tropical specimens is the appearance of these large rosettes of strap-shaped leaves; they are so glossy they look as though they have been sprayed with clear varnish. Excellent water retention of course.

These neoregelias are not hard to find. Thais, who know them as sapparot find their neat growth and unusual characteristics most appealing. One of my local nurseries has more of these varieties than any other plant. But they are relatively expensive, so you would do well to begin with small potted ones that are suspended, as most of your orchids probably are, above the ground.

Recently I came across another bromeliad in my local Tesco Lotus. I bought one (170 baht) and a customer immediately inquired if it was plastic. It certainly would have passed for a copy. In fact it was real enough with a striking spike of red flowers rising from the crown. The variety? Guzmania. Probably a hybrid called zannli.

Bromeliads are better than most plants at coping with indoor conditions. For a start they are so-called air plants or epiphytes and require little or no feeding. Just give them what they appreciate in the wild – an initial soaking and a few drops of clean water in their cup. Then let them dry out. Make sure they have a well-draining soil base – for example, coconut fiber – some filtered light and relatively high humidity.

They don’t appreciate Stygian gloom or wet feet. Moreover, they won’t last forever indoors – no plant in the tropics will – but mine has managed a month. Soon it will start to turn brown and will need to be taken outside where, hopefully, it will eventually produce small plantlets from the base.

My personal favorite is the aechmea, partly because it was the first bromeliad I encountered. My prized specimen sat imperiously in my London tiled fireplace and attracted many comments from visitors. In those days it was a rarity.

Now they are widely available, a most desirable plant with a distinctive rosy pink spike, so named after the Greek for spear. The curved rosette of long, grey-green leaves, beautifully striped with bands of silver-grey, nicely complements the rosy pink of the aechmea’s flower. It’s probably a bit hot for the aechmea here, but I have seen it flourishing in the shaded area of nurseries. It will naturally do better in the garden – in a shady and well drained spot.

Tip of the week – Pots or beds?

It can be hard to be sure which is best for that new plant – a pot or planting it in a bed? If you are unsure about a shrub’s needs, try growing new acquisitions in different conditions. Put one in a roomy container and another in open ground.

Obviously, you can determine conditions in a pot more readily: for instance, the type of soil, the amount of watering and feeding needed, and the shrub’s position in relation to sun or shade. If potted plants tend to do better, it is because they get more attention.

Nonetheless some shrubs, for instance most climbers and rapid growers with large root systems, do better in beds or borders. Plumerias, hibiscus, bougainvilleas, milkweeds, heliconias,hamelias, ixoras and gardenias are not really at home in containers.

My potted gardenia needs daily watering: it produces masses of buds, but most do not fully open. Slow developers and dwarf varieties generally do better in pots, for example: wrightias,euphorbias and adeniums.

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

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

World

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him

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Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies – May the force be with him | The Thaiger

“…his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding, shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.”

Darth Vader has died… May the force be with him. The man who played the bad guy in the first Star Wars trilogy, British actor David Prowse, died at the age of 85 after a short illness.

American actor Mark Hamill, who played Darth Vader’s son, Luke Skywalker, alongside with David and the initial cast of the epic saga, sent his condolences in a tweet.

“So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.”

“Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP”

Star Wars co-star, and fellow Brit, Anthony Daniels, who played the gold-plated and effusive C3PO in all but one of the 12 Star Wars instalments, paid tribute to Prowse’s contribution to the saga.

“Dave’s iconic figure dominated the finished film in ’77 and has done so ever since.”

David wore the ominous black suit and helmet to play the Star Wars villain Darth Vader although it was the American actor James Earl Jones who provided the character’s voice in post-production. George Lucas felt that David’s West Country English accent was “unsuitable for the part”. The decision to replace David’s voice caused a long-term rift between actor and director that eventually saw David cut out of official Star Wars publicity events. But his swish with the black cape and his screen presence in the foreboding shiny black high-tech exoskeleton won him a legion of fans.

Darth Vader actor David Prowse dies - May the force be with him | News by The Thaiger

David’s career as an actor spanned 50 years, but it was his role as the Sith Lord in Star Wars that brought him international fame and attention.

But it was his role as the “Green Cross Code Man” from a British road safety campaign that Prowse said he was most proud of. David was awarded an MBE, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in 2000 for that role.

David Prowse was born into a working class family and grew up in a council estate in Southmead, in southwestern England. He gained a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar School. He had a passion for bodybuilding and was crowned British Weightlifting Champion several times in the 1960s. He became lifelong friends with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger in his weightlifting years.

His towering figure helped land him roles as monsters and villains in TV shows and films. He played the monster in “The Horror of Frankenstein” in 1970 and a bearded torturer in “Carry on Henry” in 1971. That same year he made an appearance as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian film “A Clockwork Orange” in 1971. He went on to play Darth Vader in all three of the original “Star Wars” films, in 1977, 1980 and 1983.

With the success of Star Wars, Prowse became a regular on the fan circuit and attended conventions around the world for almost 40 years, but he was rumoured to have later fallen out with director Lucas and was banned from official events in 2010.

He published an autobiography, “Straight from the Force’s Mouth,” in 2011.

SOURCES: Reuters | CNN | BBC

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Chiang Rai

Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia

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Ron Howard to direct cave rescue feature film ‘Thirteen Lives’ in Australia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The entrance to the real Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border in far north Thailand

The Australian Government is putting up A$13 million to Imagine Entertainment and film giant MGM to shoot a live-action feature film called Thirteen Lives, based on the Chiang Rai Tham Luang cave rescue story. The film will be shot in Queensland, Australia in the hinterland areas behind the Gold Coast.

The film will be directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The Da Vince Code, Cocoon, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Splash, Frost/Nixon), and start filming in March 2021. The state’s Gold Coast hinterland will double for Thailand with a similar hot, humid climate.

The Australian Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher MP, says the production should inject more than A$96 million into the Australian economy, “directly creating around 435 jobs for cast and crew”.

Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”

Thirteen Lives follows the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding in Chiang Rai, far north Thailand. After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group of diving and rescue experts from all over the world were called up to work together with their Thai counterparts to save the 13 young men. Among those experts were a group of divers from the United Kingdom and Australia.

The first major feature film about the rescue operation was The Cave, released in October 2019. The film was quite critical of the Thai red-tape which hampered much of the early rescue efforts.

Ron Howard has worked with plenty of Australians in the past.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

Imagine Entertainment and MGM’s Thirteen Lives will be distributed by Universal Pictures International.

Watch a message from director Ron Howard HERE.

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Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

The Thaiger

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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