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Phuket Gardening: The three o’clock flower

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: The three o’clock flower | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Today we consider two purple bloomers new to these columns. One, the Indian rhododendron (melastoma malabathricum), with flowers a glorious shade of deep magenta, was discovered by your correspondent in a garden center on Chao Fa West, south of Phuket Town, better known for its range of rustic stone.

For a moment I wondered whether it was the same shrub I had seen flourishing in gardens in San Francisco, but those had been small trees and possessed larger and even more spectacular blooms. Further research revealed that the Californian version belongs to the allied genus, tibouchina.

Nonetheless, the Thai specimens were constrained by plastic pots and although they were compact and shrubby, apparently they can rival their American cousins in height. The lance-shaped foliage is deeply veined and dark green, and the delicately separated, five-petaled flowers, borne in small terminal heads, are somewhere between those of a tulip tree (bauhinia) and a hibiscus.

The shrub requires reasonably fertile, well-drained soil and a position in the sun or filtered shade. Propagation is usually from half-hardened cuttings. In India, it occurs naturally, so it must be tough, but I had not spotted it in Phuket before.

Today’s second newcomer has delicate, tissue-paper-thin flowers in a heavenly shade of lavender. The blooms are so ephemeral they last only until three in the afternoon and then fall. Hence its common Thai name “three o’clock flower”.

The showy, funnel-form flowers, slightly darker at the center, are produced on thin reddish stems, and are complemented by attractive, narrow leaves. Without seeing the blooms, one might be forgiven for thinking it was a Michaelmas daisy. Its name is ruellia squarrosa and, like the Indian rhododendron, it is beginning to appear in garden centers. Only today, I noticed a newly planted bed outside Central Festival.

Views concerning its cultivation differ: one expert maintains it can be grown as a marsh or pool-side plant with its roots immersed in water, after the manner of papyrus or water cannas. Personally, I am trying it out in a ceramic pot in full sun, while ensuring, unlike adjacent desert plants – euphorbias, yuccas and adeniums – that it gets plenty of water.

Every day, it produces fifteen to twenty blooms. Apparently there are purple and red varieties, but the lavender one seems so much more refined. Although it is soft stemmed, ruellia can be grown from cuttings.

A couple of sturdy annuals escaped mention last week. Both are uninvited visitors to my garden, their seeds, I assumed, borne by the wind or birds. One, marvel of Peru (mirabilis jalapa), was prone to self-sow in my Spanish garden. Indeed, like the balsam, it is naturalized in parts of Phuket. It seems to appear from nowhere, and since it is bushy and fast growing, it is useful for filling the odd gap. The small, long-stemmed flowers can be white, yellow, pink, or even greenish in hue. It needs moist conditions. Ideal for a wild area of your garden.

The West Indian holly or sage rose (turnera ulmifolia), which comes from Central America, has flowers which are buttercup yellow – the same color as the much larger giant sunflower, perhaps the most spectacular of all annuals.

But the blooms of the sage rose, attractive to bees, butterflies and birds alike, are not insignificant; 3-4 centimeters across, they are copiously produced. The leaves are deep green and serrated. One surprising fact: the seeds are often dispersed by ants, this may account for its unforeseen appearance in my pots. Like the ruellia, it has a built-in time clock: susceptible to light conditions, it closes its flowers at four o’clock. Two flowers to set your watch by….

Tip of the week – street trees
Few of us have our own street [soi], but we may be in a position to suggest suitable trees.

In a housing development in Chalong, rectangular spaces were left in the pavements for champaks. They now form an attractive avenue of perfumed greenery. For urban/suburban streets, it is preferable to choose small evergreen trees (4-5 meters), without branches that will eventually interfere with overhead wiring. Coconut palms are too risky. On the other hand, many palms are chosen, because they are graceful, can withstand dry periods, have smallish roots and do not shed their fronds.

The foxtail palm is ideal. If a median strip exists, it is better to plant trees there, since the foliage will provide relief from headlight glare, the roots will not crack the paving, and branches will not need annual trimming. Cassias, neem trees, jacarandas and crape myrtles are popular choices in Southern Thailand.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email the author here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages 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.

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

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.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

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.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

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.

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Thailand

21% of Thai teenagers are gambling

Greeley Pulitzer

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21% of Thai teenagers are gambling | The Thaiger

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

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Bangkok

Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare

Greeley Pulitzer

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Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare | The Thaiger

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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