Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening -a sticky note for gardeners

Published

 on 

PHUKET: Despite its unfortunate name, pisonia is a most unusual and spectacular plant. It’s unusual because it’s grown as a garden shrub or small tree entirely for its distinctive foliage, which is sometimes a brilliant light green, but often a luminous golden yellow. It’s spectacular because no other shrub has leaves of quite the same hue.

An unlikely member of the bougainvillea family, it occurs widely in tropical regions of the world with most of the species hailing from America. But Pisonia grandis, which can grow into a large tree, is now found on many islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans where it forms dense thickets.

Perhaps that’s why one variety seems to be so at home here in Phuket. There are magnificent examples dotted around the island, mostly in front yards, especially in the Nai Harn and Rawai areas. These are specimens of Pisonia alba, a cultivar known in Thailand as saeng chan, a shrubby tree which produces the most showy and translucent leaves – hence its popular names of ‘lettuce tree’ or ‘moonlight tree’.

The sticky seeds are relatively insignificant. Although they trap insects, apparently they do not absorb or ingest the creatures, unlike the carnivorous pitcher plant I described last week. Interestingly, these seeds account for its other name of ‘catchbirdtree’, since they supposedly trap birds in their gummy embrace. This may be a fascinating idea, but it’s highly improbable. Anyway, in Phuket at least, it produces very few sticky seeds.

Pisonia alba is a tricky shrub to establish since it requires well-drained, sandy, slightly acidic soil. However, once pisonia gets going, it grows rapidly and soon provides a striking contrast to nearby shrubs.

Because it produces such dense foliage, it’s particularly effective as a verdant screen next to a lawn. It’s readily available here as a container plant in nurseries. It’s best situated in a dryish part of the garden where drainage is good, and where it will get plenty of sun.

It will survive as a container plant, but it tends to get leggy and is happier in the open garden. You can propagate from fresh seeds or cuttings. Variegated forms are now being developed, but pisonia remains a shrub that is more or less ignored in books on gardening. I find this to be a strange omission.

On a side note, the story continues on Lavender – the subject of my last article. You may recall that a reader asked if Lavender could be grown in Phuket, to which my answer was a resounding “no”. Just recently, one of our readers kindly pointed out the fact that Lavender is being grown at the Royal Agricultural Station on Doi Ang Khang in Chiang Mai.

Actually, lavender potpourri is being sold under the Doi Khan brand, and lavender water (eau de toilette) will be marketed soon. Of course, the growing site is higher and much cooler than Phuket. But at least it is being given a run here in Thailand, as many other subtropical plants should be.

After all, you never know until you try.

Phuket gardening tip of the week

Recently we discussed how to create areas of shade in your pristine garden. Trees such as golden cane palms and sturdy evergreen shrubs grow so rapidly they can provide pools of shade quicker than you ever believed possible. My garden, all of three years old, now has more shady than sunny spots.

No problem. The intensity of the Phuket sun is such that none of the tropical plants object to living in partial or filtered shade – what the Italians poetically call chiaroscuro. So out and out sun-seekers, including the popular ixoras, cacti, euphorbias, durantas, acalyphas, adeniums, and allamandas, will do equally well in semi-shade, so long as their root systems are in well-drained soil.

On the other hand, all of those rainforest understory plants, such as bromeliads, aglaonemas, dieffenbachias, philodendrons, anthuriums and indeed most twining climbers, will appreciate the newly secluded parts of the garden.

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

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:

Crime43 mins ago

Author Salman Rushdie stabbed at New York lecture

Transport6 hours ago

Daily trains begin between Malaysian border and Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Virologist predicts most of Thailand will have had Covid by 2023

Sponsored2 days ago

BKFC THAILAND 3: Moment of truth set for September 3

Transport7 hours ago

Bangkok gets 20 new electric buses next week

Crime8 hours ago

Armed robber escapes with gold worth 800,000 baht in Thailand

This is Thailand9 hours ago

Similarity of Mothers Around the World | Thai Mother’s Day 2022

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Crime10 hours ago

Foreigner faces prison for Parrotfishing in Thailand

Bangkok11 hours ago

Woman escapes death after car hit by fallen debris in Bangkok

Crime12 hours ago

Thai paramilitary ranger kills two, injures one after row in bar

Indonesia12 hours ago

Unexplained plane mysteriously sitting in a field in Bali

Cannabis13 hours ago

Thailand getting high on cannabis boost to tourist economy

Politics14 hours ago

Anupong says he will leave government with PM Prayut & Prawit

Tourism14 hours ago

Thailand’s economy grows but it still misses China’s cash

Thailand15 hours ago

Bars and clubs in Thailand proposed to open until 4.00 am | GMT

Bangkok15 hours ago

Three bars shut down in Bangkok lacking licenses, Covid safety

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