PHUKET: I have deliberately kept the heliconia for another day. Why? Because, despite the name, the connection with the sun is less obvious than with the sunflower brigade. I can only assume it is because one common variety has chrome yellow spikes, much used as a cut flower by florists. But whatever the reason, the heliconia is a favorite here in Phuket; a tall reed-like plant with large oval pointed leaves that thrives best in marshy terrain.
In fact the species has, like the canna lily, become naturalized around klongs in parts of the island. Colloquially known as the “lobster claw” or “false bird of paradise”, its numerous exotic cultivars bear showy waxy flowers that consist of brightly colored and oddly shaped bracts. Many retain water and become home to insect larvae.
These clusters of bracts may be erect or pendulous and while they are predominantly red and yellow, they do come in other hues. There is such a range of new strains, owing to the intense activity of hybridists, that the plant now has its own club (Heliconia Society International). These new forms vary enormously in size and shape with “stricta” strains producing rigid upright bracts, such as “golden torch” – much in demand as a landscape plant in public locations – and dramatic, hanging rostrata varieties.
But do remember that if you want heliconias to thrive in your garden, they will need rich soil, heavy feeding and plenty of water. And remember that each stem flowers but once, so cut back old growth: this practice will encourage new underground activity and healthy rhizomes. Typically heliconias come into their own in the wet season. So, while they abhor droughts and cold weather, perversely, and despite their name, they do not need an excess of tropical sun.
How time flies, it is now three years since I composed a list of the “Top Twenty” flowering plants. The hibiscus came in, perhaps rather arbitrarily, at number ten. Most enthusiasts would rate it more highly: certainly on looks alone. H. sinensis, the best known species, is not easily upstaged. Its familiar, showy, trumpet-shaped flowers come in almost every color under the sun. Visit your local garden center and you will find small plants already displaying spectacular blooms in luminous shades of red, yellow, magenta, orange and white. Many consider the hibiscus to be the tropical flower par excellence, noting that its red blooms are traditionally worn in the hair by eligible Tahitian maidens.
H. sinensis is frequently employed in Phuket as a hedge, since it is a woody shrub, robust enough to form a tall barrier. And its propensity to flower most of the year round gives it an advantage over most of its rivals. If it has a disadvantage as a candidate for hedging, it is because the ovate or toothed leaves are somewhat sparse and a hibiscus screen is not always very dense. One variegated variety which has leaves in shades of pink, white and green, is often preferred for this purpose. It has a more compact habit, prunes readily and has smaller but vibrant red flowers. The unusual hybrid “Snowqueen” has cream foliage when young: it turns either crimson or pale green when mature.
But there are downsides. The flowers are ephemeral – they last only a day – and the plant itself will need plenty of TLC during the initial stages of growth. If you experiment with the hybrids available in nurseries, you may well find them difficult to establish here. The strains have often been developed in Florida or Hawaii (with names such as “Blue Bayou” or “Hula Girl”) and are not quite right for this climate. Maybe they would do better as carefully tended container specimens. Disease, moreover, can be a problem. Ailing plants are very susceptible to attacks by mold and fungus, so ensure all your hibiscus have plenty of water and nutrients.
Next week, we will have a look at other and startlingly different species of hibiscus – H. schizopetalus, H. mutabilis and H. sabdariffa. Unsurprising when you consider that there are more than 200 species in this fecund family.
Gardening tip of the week
Later than usual, the dry season is finally upon us. As a consequence, the ground is rapidly drying out and becoming hard and unworkable. So daily watering is needed, especially for newly transplanted specimens, for most grassy areas, and for container plants. Soak pots and other containers thoroughly, then allow the soil to become almost dry before another watery application. Porous pots will need more water than glazed, plastic or concrete ones because of higher levels of evaporation.
Continuous direct sunlight suits certain shrubs: euphorbias, neriums, bougainvilleas, ixoras and adeniums. These will only require water in droughts and will bloom more abundantly in dry conditions. Pereskias, jasmines and gardenias also thrive in full sunlight, but need moist soil. At the other end of the spectrum are plants that will need frequent watering and some protection, even in open ground. These include all the ginger family, canna lilies, heliconias and the currently fashionable lilac-hued ruellia.
If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
— Patrick Campbell
‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people
On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.
From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.
The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.
One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.
There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.
This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.
This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.
21% of Thai teenagers are gambling
PHOTO: Gambling, local style, Rai Et, north-east Thailand – Pinterest
Early in October the Thai Health Promotion Foundation met to discuss the gambling situation in Thailand in 2019. Also present were the Centre for Gambling Studies, Stop Gambling Foundation and related groups.
The meeting was set up after a report revealed that more than half (57%) of the Thai population, or 30.42 million people, gamble. The director-general of the Centre for Gambling Studies at Chulalongkorn University shared the report, which was based on data from a survey of 44,050 people across 77 provinces.
The figure is an increase of 1.49 million people from 2017. While most Thai gamblers are of working age, 2.4% of the total were aged between 15-18 years. This means that 21% of that age group are gambling.
According to California’s Council on Problem Gambling, youth, like everyone else, gamble for many reasons, including entertainment; socialisation; competition; loneliness, and boredom; to get rich quick; to impress others; be the centre of attention; make new friends, and because winning provides an instant, temporary boost of confidence.
“The California Council on Problem Gambling lists depression as one reason youth turn to gambling, noting that depression can just as easily be an effect as a cause. This is especially important to note in a country like Thailand.”
In an article in The ASEAN Post, it was noted that in December 2017, Thailand’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) reported that an estimated one million teenagers are believed to suffer from depression, many of whom go untreated, with two million more are at risk, making upward of three million among a population of eight million teens then.
The DMH said that stress and anxiety may affect a student’s ability to concentrate and perform well at school, and they may show several warning signs, such as lack of attention, loss of interest in daily activities, lethargy, sadness, and sleeping issues.
“It is clear from studies that depression and gambling go hand-in-hand: the unfortunate case in Thailand is that it is affecting children too.”
SOURCE: The ASEAN Post
Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare
A professor of Rangsit University has criticised the previous military government for focusing too much on tourism and not enough on the welfare of the Thai people. The professor was speaking at Chulalongkorn University at a seminar discussing street stalls and urban development.
She questioned the National Council for Peace and Order’s policy of clearing street vendors in all but a few areas such as Yaowarat and Khao San Road that mainly cater to tourists.
She claimed that the NCPO – in power since the coup of 2014 until this year’s election – was more interested in economic development through tourism than in the welfare of the public.
Having affordable street food options was not just about tourism, she said, it was vital for poor workers who have migrated from the countryside, adding that it was part of an informal rather than a formal economy.
“For years people had earned their living from selling goods and services, including food, on the streets.”
This in turn provided an affordable option to eat for workers who came to Bangkok on for large investment projects. The issue, she said, was not just about tourism but the wider economy that might benefit.
The professor noted that CNN had once called Bangkok the best place in the world for street food but this had changed with the sanitized food trucks that have appeared since stalls and vendors were banned from most areas.
The Thaiger notes that banning street vendors has divided the capital. Many are happy that the sidewalks are easier to navigate, but others – including tourists – have said that the lifeblood and character of the city has suffered.
SOURCE: Naew Na | ThaiVisa Forum
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