Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening: The three o’clock flower

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

Phuket Gardening: The three o’clock flower | 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

 

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

image

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:

Best of7 hours ago

Phuket’s 5 most family-friendly resorts

Transport8 hours ago

Transport Company announces bus services are suspended until August 31

Thailand10 hours ago

Thailand News Today | 29 provinces now on curfew, booze ban in Phuket

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!

Insurgency10 hours ago

Volunteer ranger killed in grenade attack by suspected insurgents

Best of11 hours ago

Top 5 Spas in Koh Samui

Thailand11 hours ago

Hemp ice cream hits the Thai market

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Chon Buri11 hours ago

Chon Buri sets local order, restaurants in malls to only offer food for delivery

Thailand11 hours ago

Samut Prakan man dies in fire, possibly self-inflicted

Thailand12 hours ago

Royal Thai Police say bitterleaf can’t cure Covid

Coronavirus (Covid-19)13 hours ago

Tuesday Covid Update: 18,901 new cases, provincial totals

Thailand13 hours ago

Air Asia technician arrested for allegedly stealing electronics

Pattaya13 hours ago

“Pattaya Move On” reopening likely to be postponed as Covid cases surge

Thailand13 hours ago

3 metre long python caught near family’s house in Phuket

Thailand15 hours ago

Government says not to buy Favipiravir/Avigan online, says it might be fake

Phuket15 hours ago

Phuket bans alcohol sales at restaurants, issues order amid rise of Covid cases

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

Thailand6 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

Trending