How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
can be a simple way of cloning a neighbour’s delicious fruit variety.
Seeds are the natural propagules for
plant reproduction, also providing genetic diversity which is important in
restoration projects. For a gardener who wants to multiply a certain
variety, say a particularly beautiful flower or tasty fruit, cloning is the
option. Previously I have blogged about mango grafting. Another cloning
technique is by taking cuttings. For some species like Ixora, Cassava,
Plumeria and Malabar spinach this works without problems, simply put a
cutting in the soil and water.
In many cases this does not work
because a particular species may not cope with the water losses, and so you
can bend down living branches and put a stone on the branch and cover with
soil to induce root formation. This is a way of natural cloning, performed
by lianas such as Pride of Lanna (Congea tomentosa, Lamiaceae).
If this is technically impossible due
to an erect tree or shrub, you can bring the soil up to the branch, i.e. you
can wrap a branch section in a plastic bag with moist soil, wait until roots
are formed, and then detach the branch. To further stimulate root formation,
you may cut the bark (more precisely the phloem under the bark) so that
sugars can not disappear from the branch, but water can still transport into
the branch via the wood (xylem). This is called air layering.
Working in the tropics gives many
surprises and I am still not used to the tremendous force of growth here.
During the past rainy season we simply tied socks and shade cloth to
branches of guava. After a few weeks, we unwrapped the branches and sure
enough there were roots. No need to bring soil or think of watering!
www.dokmaigarden.co.th. [email protected]
A natural organic sponge
unbleached luffa from Dokmai Garden.
The vascular system of the cucumber
relative ‘luffa’ or ‘loofah’ (Luffa cylindrica syn. L. aegyptiaca,
Cucurbitaceae) is often used as a sponge at spas. This native of the old
world tropics has a remarkable and flexible surface which contributes to
keep your skin in good trim (removing dead cells). We grew a batch at Dokmai
Garden in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, mostly for food since they are
edible when young. Recently we harvested our mature fruits and so garden
school students and family members have enjoyed using these luxurious
sponges for skin massage while taking a shower. ‘Angled luffa’, L.
acutangula, is more commonly sold in the Chiang Mai markets as food. This
Indian fruit has ridges, while true L. cylindrica are smooth. The vascular
bundles of this species can also be used as a sponge, but they are less
If grown as a sponge, even systemic
pesticides which go inside the plant may have been used. Personally I would
not rub my skin with such chemicals, designed to kill.
Our lifetime members may pick up up an
organic luffa for free next time they come and visit. Other visitors may buy
one for 50 Baht to support the Orchid Ark.
www.dokmaigarden.co.th. [email protected]
The Sandpaper Fig
figs are named that way for the rough surface of their leaves. (Photo by
Ficus hispida (Moraceae) or ‘sandpaper
fig’ is a very common fig tree around Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It is
a fast-growing tree characterized by a white latex, rough, sandpapery leaves
and fruits formed straight on the trunk and main branches. The sandpaper fig
often pop up like a weed, even in flowering pots. It is highly resistant to
drought, a rare trait among figs.
The Dokmai garden specimen was probably
introduced by a bird and is now a low tree with a massive production of
fruits. The fruits are not as tasty as those of F. racemosa and F.
auriculata, two other native fig species found at Dokmai Garden, but their
abundance make the tree a good bird magnet. The figs can also be used to
feed our wild boar or be used for making marmalade.
A Beautiful edible gingerr
surrounding jungles harbour many interesting organisms. Wild orchids, wild
boar and here the fleshy edible bracts of a wild ginger. According to our
garden school student Emily Driskill it tastes like ‘spicy celery’. I have
failed to identify it, inspite of Kai Larsen’s eminent book ‘Gingers of
Thailand’. Would anyone know this species?
A few years ago people did not believe
me when I said there was a gorgeous mountain valley with no tourist
adaptations within an hour drive from Chiang Mai airport. During yesterday’s
excursion to this Mae Kanin Tai I had to conclude the magic is gone, a
resort is under construction, but maybe that is good?
The current culture of the valley,
surrounded by the Opkhan national park, was doomed anyhow. Today’s rice
farmers who are in their 40′s may go on for another 20 years, but their
educated children will not bend backs for 300 Baht a day. The question is
how the valley would develop when that happens? Establishing a resort with
the aim of keeping a quiet atmosphere and admiration for nature and culture
may in fact preserve some of the original cultural landscape, centuries old.
Of course, ideally a resort should be placed outside the boundaries of the
valley and then allow for excursions. This is what Dokmai Garden has done
since the past few years in order to keep the magic intact. The current
evolution was foreseen and inevitable, and maybe even the best for wildlife
and wild orchids?
If you wish to see the last glimpse of
authentic landscape before the tourist adaptations, go there this weekend.
Do not waste time trying to buy land. What could be bought has already been
bought. A real estate dealer could not believe his ears when he learnt that
Ketsanee at one point offered her 4 rai land near the temple for 2.6 million
Baht. At present he suggested not a Baht below 5 million, but Ketsanee has
decided not to sell at all. www.dokmaigarden.co.th .
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