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Phuket Gardening: They’ve got it made in the shade

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: They’ve got it made in the shade | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Planting some ground cover plants is a practical move that will add exceptional interest to your garden. For now, I’m going to pass on the most common ground cover plants in Thailand, such as the spider lily and the spiral ginger, both of which attain heights of over 50 centimeters and are practically employed in undercover environments all over Phuket.

Instead, I will describe those unobtrusive plants that hug the ground, and rarely trouble their loftier neighbors.

Ground cover plants are valued for several reasons. They look decorative; they provide a sort of natural mulch by aiding the retention of moisture; and, most importantly, they perform a valuable function in carpeting those bare and unsightly areas in shrubberies and borders. They can also be used in containers where their foliage provides an attractive contrast to the grander incumbents of pots such as Euphorbias or desert roses, shrubs which reach skywards, unimpeded.

Common throughout the tropics is Tradescantia spathacea, a member of the spiderwort family, and more familiarly known as ‘Moses in a boat’. It has characteristically dense rosettes of lance-shaped leaves that are dark green and often glossy above, and purple underneath.

Though it hails from Mexico, this vigorous grower is available in garden centers everywhere in Phuket, usually potted in small plastic containers. The fleshy root system is shallow, and the plant can easily be propagated from cuttings, especially if you remove a small piece of root with the stem.

Because it’s an understory plant from the tropical woodlands, it likes moisture and some shade, though the leaves may lose their purplish underside in very low light. This is hardly a problem in Phuket, but it’s an issue sometimes when the spiderwort is grown as a house plant in temperate areas, as it often is.

Here in Phuket, it can be grown outdoors, singly or in clumps, and its neat habit makes it suitable as a border plant, or for edging pathways. By the way, it got its name because the small, white, three-petaled flowers appear between boat-shaped bracts in the axils of the leaves.

As with so many plants, hybrids are beginning to appear in garden centers in Phuket. Look out for a pretty, variegated cultivar with striped foliage in shades of yellow, pink or deep purple.

The purple heart, or Tradescantia pallida, is another much cultivated member of the family. Again, it may be a familiar houseplant to European and American readers. Its leaves are a similar lance shape, but are a striking shade of smoky purple. It has small pink flowers, but it’s also grown for its foliage.

It is less durable than its relative, has brittle stems, and a trailing habit. The other small drawback is its attractiveness to slugs and snails – you may need to protect your new plants with slug bait.

As with ‘Moses in a boat’, it needs some sun to produce its most attractive hues. However, it’s even easier to propagate from cuttings, so beg a few snapped off stems from a friend if you want to introduce it to your garden. Given the right conditions, it will spread quickly. Yours truly has many flourishing in pots alongside their bigger brethren.

A less widely known plant is Hemigraphis alternata which comes from Indonesia. Like the purple heart, it has a trailing habit and is often seen in hanging baskets. The oval leaves are metallic green on top and purple below.

Already, cultivars are appearing, one with turned down leaf edges (exotica), and another with long, notched foliage (repanda). To discover them though, may require some undercover detective work in local nurseries.

Gardening Tip of the week

EVERY Thai garden should have its share of orchids. They are the biggest and perhaps oldest single group of perennial herbs, and have arguably the widest range of forms and colors of any flowering plant.

Contrary to popular belief, orchids are relatively easy to cultivate. They have aerial roots and they are mainly epiphytic – their natural tendency is to anchor themselves to forks and crevices of tree limbs. Only a few terrestrial orchids grow in conventional soil, so, not surprisingly, they need relatively little water, and most thrive in filtered sunlight.

Of course there are variations. Orchids with thick, leathery leaves need more sunlight than those with long, thin foliage. The former retain moisture by means of a waxy cuticle which limits evaporation. In the garden, they are best grown in hanging baskets which offer some similarities to their natural conditions.

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

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

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Property

Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real?

The Thaiger

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Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real? | The Thaiger

If you’re looking to invest in overseas property, search the market and it’s not unusual to find condos for sale with guaranteed rental returns of 40%, and some even higher. Yes, it DOES seems too good to be true, but the offers are out there and the packages often come with free legal fees and other such benefits. Clearly, before diving in, you need to seek some expert and professional advice.

So, what is the debate about? And what questions should you ask prior to investing?

Guaranteed rental returns are obviously enticing for investors and purchasers alike, with standard net returns usually being advertised below the 10% mark.

In the opinion of many, this is not a cheap marketing trick. Yes, it does have ‘marketing power’ and it might just be the additional financial package that helps developers and agents clinch the deal. But for the investors, they genuinely are guaranteed a minimum return on their investment. Surely that’s positive. It eases the concerns of investors and keeps the market buoyant. And why wouldn’t buyers prefer to go with the property that guarantees this return, over the property that does not?

Other experts are not so sure. While acknowledging that a rental guarantee clearly offers agents and developers an advantage in marketing and selling, there are voices within the industry that urge caution. There’s a suspicion that developments that come with a guarantee may be overpriced and that the developers may have factored the cost of the guarantee into the actual price of the property that is being offered.

Those that hold this negative opinion about guarantees suggest that a better strategy for any investor might be to really understand the market in which the property is being offered, aim to get the lowest price possible, do the deal and then organise the letting independently.

Other cautious voices wonder if investors aren’t being tantalised with a vision of unrealistic long-term returns. The question that is asked is what happens when the guaranteed period ends? It’s not unknown for the guaranteed period to expire, and for the investor to suddenly realise that the true rental value of the property is much lower than they believed. Rental incomes suddenly drop, and they suddenly realise that they have overpaid into the wrong investment.

But still, many deny that developers overprice properties when offering guarantees. And no matter what, it’s clear that a rental guarantee is important for certain investors who need the security that it offers. And genuinely, it appears that there are some good guarantees out there on the market. So what to do?

The trick is to apply common sense and due diligence to the situation and examine the legal, commercial and financial strength of the guarantee and the market in which it is being offered. Here are some questions worth considering:

Legally, how is the guarantee structured?

Is it underwritten with a contract in which legal recourse is an option, should you not receive the income that is guaranteed? This is clearly important.

Commercially, is the guaranteed rental figure in-line with the rental market in which the property is situated? Basically, are the developers offering you more rental income than is actually achievable in the current market? If they are offering you more, then once the guaranteed period expires, you’ll probably see your returns on investment drop.

Financially, how does the guarantee work?

Is the guaranteed return dependent upon the commercial success of the project?

Some guarantees are based on projected annual revenues and are subject to these revenues being achieved. In other words, if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, the full guaranteed amounts might not be paid to the purchaser.

In addition to this, some guarantees may also come with the proviso that the amount being ‘guaranteed’ is ‘subject to the competency of’ the management of the complex. This may seem vague, but it’s possible that if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, then the blame for this failure is going to be put solely on the management company.

The vagueness of such a ‘competency’ proviso might also be used to cover all manner of issues. For example, is it possible that forecasted rental revenues might fail to materialise, not because of the bad management of a complex, but because the original forecasts were set too high? It might be easy to blame all manner of poor results on the incompetence of how an apartment complex is managed and to do this with no liability.

With this in mind, once again, it’s very important to look at the rental market in which the property is located, and then ask: are the projected annual revenues realistic in the current market? And of course, you will have to do some research on the developers.

Do the developers have a track record of successfully managing properties, renting them out and ensuring that incomes are generated?

If the answer to this is ‘no’, how then will they be able to generate the income that they are guaranteeing? This may be a sign that the property price has been ‘artificially’ increased to cover any foreseen shortfall in future income.

All-in-all, there’s a lot to consider. Guaranteed rental returns do offer investors a level of security, and it is natural for people to feel compelled to buy into them, and yes, there are some good offers on the market. But it’s worth remembering that in the right location, you’ll always be able to rent out a property.

As we always recommend at The Thaiger, do your homework!

To find thousands of available rental properties in Thailand, click HERE.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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