Connect with us

Cannabis News

Putting the ‘I’ in your Phuket garden



PHUKET: You probably hadn’t noticed that I was plowing my way through the botanical alphabet before getting distracted by more alluring prospects, or the pressing horticultural needs of a four-month- long drought.

Well, anyway, most of the tropical plants listed under the letter “I” are in the index by virtue of an Indian designation: Indian banyan, Indian cork tree, Indian rubber vine, Indian shot, Indian rhododendron, Indian laburnum.

Indeed, the botanical name “Indica” means that the plant hails originally from India, though the epithet is used colloquially by aficionados to indicate – oh dear, more puns – a variety of cannabis. Still I suppose we can at least talk about “ganja” or “weed” these days since it has now been legalized in Canada and certain American states. Dreaming again…

Of the aforementioned plants, the one that first springs to mind is the golden shower tree (cassia fistula) which is putting on a marvelous show around Phuket at present. The dry spell has meant fewer leaves (which normally appear as the flowers arrive), but has induced a spectacle of cascading yellow racemes. A small compact tree, rarely more than twenty feet tall, its hardiness and propensity for tolerating dry conditions make it ideal as a yard tree, to front a wall or as a specimen ornamental on a lawn. Grow it from seed or from cuttings.

At the other end of the scale, as far as ease of cultivation is concerned, is the Indian rhododendron. The name too is a mouthful – melastoma malabatricum and is certainly no easier in Thai where it transliterates into something approximating to khlong kheng knii-nok. A fairly recent arrival in Phuket’s nurseries, it is an evergreen, spreading shrub with large, purple, five-petalled flowers. It grows wild in parts of India, Assam for example, but struggles here – at least in my experience. I have seen the similar but even more spectacular tibouchina ablaze in Southern California, but melastoma seems to find the Thai climate, or at least my garden, a bit oppressive.

The variety you will most likely encounter is melabathricum, which has attractive veined leaves, but it will need plenty of TLC – humus-rich, fertile, moist soil, but not waterlogged conditions. I would be keen to hear from fellow enthusiasts who have successfully cultivated this shrub: in the case of my potted specimen, the leaves turned brown and the plant slowly expired. The variety M candidum is hardier, grows more vigorously and has white as well as pink flowers. But I have yet to see it in garden centers.

I just took a peek at my Indian rubber vine. In contradistinction to melastoma, this shrub loves Phuket’s climate and soil, even though my normally profligate specimen today sports a solitary bloom. It really does miss the rains, but the wonderfully glossy, olive green foliage is as lush as ever. Like the Rangoon creeper, the allamanda, and the chalice vine, it normally produces masses of flowers – in this case musky scented, creamy pink trumpets – and like these other vines, it will need some support. Strophanthus (yaem pii nang in Thai) is likewise a vigorous grower, too big for a container, but ideal against a wall or a trellis. A must-have shrub.

The last plant in my Indian super league is millingtonia. Also known as the Indian cork tree, it is a bit too big for the average garden but if you can accommodate it, it will repay your hospitality, allowing smaller plants to flourish in its dappled shade. Anyway, millingtonia looks great as a yard or wayside tree. It has distinctive, deeply furrowed, corky bark, and a drooping habit, but its pride and joy is clusters of delicate, star-shaped flowers which cascade down from long white stems, creating the illusion, almost, of falling snow. A world away…

Most plants survive by using the green chlorophyll in their leaves to convert light energy into chemical energy that can be stored and used to promote growth. The process is call photosynthesis.

It follows then that plants normally seek light by turning towards a light source. This process is called phototropism. Sun loving plants that follow the sun’s movement are called heliotropic – for example sunflowers and heliotropes. Rare shade lovers such as the moonflower vine exhibit negative phototropism.

The gardener should recognize this need. In the case of outdoor pot plants, turn them occasionally so that the shaded part gets a chance to enjoy the sun. Otherwise you may get uneven growth.

And house plants, mostly understorey dwellers in the wild, and chosen because they require lower levels of light, will still need to be taken outside periodically to a place where they can enjoy filtered sunlight and thus increase the process of photosynthesis.

— 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:

Politics1 hour ago

Vladimir Putin officially annexed four parts of Ukraine

Transport4 hours ago

Phuket Airport officials pulled tourist from van, insisted they use airport taxi

Thailand5 hours ago

Thailand’s strange laws – 10 strange laws in Thailand

Sponsored1 day ago

10 Best Seed Banks that Ship Cannabis Seeds Discreetly to You (Free US Shipping)

Politics5 hours ago

The long goodbye – Which way now for PM Prayut?

Pattaya6 hours ago

Pattaya Police Chief cleared of vice slurs, back on duty

Tourism6 hours ago

Reopening Thailand has a busy activity schedule

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Tourism6 hours ago

Today is the day! Full post-pandemic Thailand reopening

Pollution8 hours ago

Garbage in canals is worsening flooding in Bangkok

Weather8 hours ago

Hurricane Ian lashes South Carolina

Tourism9 hours ago

5-star squatters evicted from Layan Beach

Video10 hours ago

All you need to know about Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival

Protests10 hours ago

Anti-Prayut rallies expected across Bangkok

What you get for $X1 day ago

What $100,000 buys you for a condo in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Hua Hin

Thailand1 day ago

Thailand News Today | Activists plan protests all across Thailand

Thailand1 day ago

Snitching on parking space hoggers could earn you 5,000 baht in Thailand

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

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

Tourism2 years ago

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

Phuket2 years ago

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

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

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

Tourism2 years 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