Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening – It’s all about looking pretty

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: In the next few weeks, this space will be devoted to small trees suitable for your Phuket garden.

The distinction between small trees and large shrubs is a blurred one. So what are the differences between shrubs and small trees?

Both are perennials and both live for a number of years, but neither is a herbaceous perennial, as are fleshy plants such as Dieffenbachia, Aglaonema or even the banana, all of which lack permanent woody tissue in their stems.

Trees need these woody stems to support the heavy boughs and foliage of a large structure. Moreover both shrubs and trees renew their growth above ground: they do not have to put up new aerial growths from a rootstock every spring, but can sprout again from the previous year’s branches.

Small trees will be defined here as woody plants rising well above human height. Usually they possess a single bole or trunk, whereas large shrubs are normally bushy and produce a number of main stems: for example Azaleas, oleanders, or Hibiscus.

While such shrubs are generally better at providing overall cover in the garden bed, small trees, especially those with spreading canopies, are better at providing pockets of shade.

Thailand, which has extraordinary biodiversity, has a treasure-trove of small trees to choose from. Some are ornamental, with either decorative blooms or leaves (sometimes both); others are primarily functional, and provide edible fruit. A select few have all the virtues, like European apples, plums, or cherries. These trees are both beautiful and delicious.

Let’s begin with the ornamental ones. Brownea is a small tree that does well here, but has somehow avoided mention in this column. Like the peacock flower, it is a legume that belongs to the Caesalpinia family – so, not surprisingly its fruit resembles a flattened, woody pod. This gives Brownea its common name ‘scarlet flame bean’. When new, Brownea’s evergreen leaves hang limply like bundles of rags, at first bronze-colored, then cream and finally, erect and deep green in color.

The blooms are also distinctive since they are grouped in heads that hang below the leaves. Pink, red or orange, the actual flowers are funnel-shaped and point downwards beneath a group of colored bracts.

In the case of Brownea ariza, the flowers are very large – up to ten inches across – but are sparsely scattered among the branches.

Capitella, which hails from equatorial South America, has attractive pink flowers with long, cream stamens. Latifolia is even more exotic, with brilliant red flowers, flaring petals and huge pink stamens with yellow anthers.

Brownea is a tropical par excellence, requiring ample summer rainfall and plenty of humidity. It should be quite enjoying this year! A slow grower even under ideal conditions, it nonetheless satisfies two of our main criteria: one, both flowers and foliage are decorative; two, it is an excellent shade tree with a dense canopy.

Note, however, that the lower branches tend to sag toward the ground, and it may be necessary to raise them on props to allow viewing of the spectacular flower heads, as well to enhance the tree’s shade value. It is predictably much in demand throughout hotter climes, particularly for use in lawns and courtyards.

Brownea is not the easiest tree to start. Sowing seeds may be the most effective method – if you can get hold of some – for cuttings are difficult to strike. It’s best perhaps to track down a potted plant in a good nursery.

Phuket gardening tip of the week

Weeds are plants growing where gardeners don’t want them to grow. They rob other plants of water, nutrients and sunlight, they can harbor pests, and they look unattractive.

Some plants, such as bindweed, are regarded as pests wherever they grow; others are weeds only in specific situations such as when they invade a lawn.

Some plants spread so aggressively in the right conditions that they are considered weeds, especially climbers such as the butterfly pea or morning glory, and many varieties of grass.

Some ornamentals have gone beyond their native habitats, invading other environments where they have been introduced either by accident or design. Water hyacinth and water lettuce are pests in parts of America. Lantana and rubber vine are weeds in Queensland.

On the positive side, weeds can help hold soil together on steep banks, preventing erosion – something that is now an important consideration.

Phuket Gardening is Phuket Gazette columnist Patrick Campbell’s feature of all things flora.

If you have a garden that you would like featured on this page, please email Patrick by clicking here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

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

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)60 mins ago

Delta variant now the predominant strain, 78% of Thai infections

Coronavirus (Covid-19)3 hours ago

Controversial food delivery only rule faces criticism

Drugs5 hours ago

Expat arrested on drug charges allegedly claims to be a local “Robin Hood”

Sponsored11 hours ago

Tour Phuket’s Islands with 5 Star Marine

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Thailand5 hours ago

Thai Airways selling 10 properties to raise capital

Best of5 hours ago

The 5 Best Cafes in Koh Samui

Thailand6 hours ago

Thailand News Today | record Covid deaths, ban on ‘mass gatherings’ | August 4

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Vaccine updates for expats; hospital extends hours to accelerate vaccinations

Guides7 hours ago

8 things to do correctly in Thailand

Best of8 hours ago

Thailand’s 5 most absolutely luxurious hotels

Myanmar8 hours ago

Myanmar envoy updated to Brunei’s 2nd Foreign Affairs Minister

Thailand9 hours ago

Thailand’s national parks ban the use of some sunscreens containing particular chemicals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 20,200 new cases, provincial totals

Guides9 hours ago

Visa Exemption Rule – 56 countries to enter Thailand without a visa

Coronavirus (Covid-19)10 hours ago

Third phase testing successful for Vietnam Covid-19 vaccine

Phuket10 hours ago

Phuket police arrest 2 men and seize more than 160,000 methamphetamine pills

Thailand5 months ago

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

Tourism5 months ago

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

Phuket5 months ago

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

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

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

Tourism5 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

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

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8