How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
The ‘Miracle Berry’, Synsepalum
dulcificum (Sapotaceae), may save your wallet and party! Buy the cheapest,
sharpest and most awful wine you can get, eat a miracle berry and enjoy an
exquisite and smooth vine!
Berry makes everything taste sweeter.
The compound miraculin attaches to the
sweet receptors of your tongue. At low pH (when it is sour) the miraculin
will trigger the sweet receptor and electrical signals goes to your brain
which erroneously declares a sweet sensation. In a small proportion of the
population the miraculin attaches to the salt receptors, not so good if you
like wine. We have even had the rare occasion of a visitor to Dokmai Garden
declaring a mixed salty and sweet sensation, i.e. the miraculin attached to
The plant is native to West Africa
where it enabled local people to enjoy foods that were normally too sour to
enjoy. A lemon, a bilimbi and even carbonated water will taste sweet.
Its fantastic properties have made it a
common plant in tropical gardens and you will find it without problems at
the Chiang Mai Khamtieng flower market if you ask for ‘miracle’. We grow it
as a small bush in full sun and water moderately. It does not like water
logging. You can grow it in a pot too. The fruits come in flushes many times
a year, and should be eaten when fully red. Beware of the stone, and do not
swallow to quickly, but let the tongue soak itself in the pulp. The effect
lasts for about 45 minutes so do not eat this fruit before lunch or dinner.
Flowers for Songkran
The Thai New Year (Songkran) marks the
beginning of the rainy season, the beginning of the Thai farmer’s year and
the end of the drought. This year 2555 (543 years ahead of 2012) marks the
number of years since the death of Lord Buddha. Since his death is
considered the time of reaching enlightenment and breaking the cycle of
rebirth, this is more important than his birthday, which according to legend
happened many times. The administrative year 2555 actually began on January
1st, to synchronize with the rest of the world, but since 1940 April 13 is
the fixed Thai New Year. Before 1888 the Thai New Year had different dates
based on when the sun moved into the Aries Zodiac (mesha sankranti in
During Songkran many Thai families perform a ceremony called ‘rot nam dam
hoa’, where children and grandchildren ask their parents and grandparents
for forgiveness and they exchange blessings about long and healthy lives. In
today’s ceremony at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, Nived and Densak
Seehamongkol held flowers of orange jessamine (Murraya paniculata, Rutaceae)
between their hands, making a wai. An inferior Thai wais a superior Thai,
and the superior may wai back, or just nod. A ‘wai’ is not similar to a
handshake or greeting, it is a sign of submission. Being older means being
superior to the children, and so the elders sat on a teak bench while the
children held their heads lower sitting on cushions on the floor, feet
pointed away. During the exchange of blessings, the children and
grandchildren poured scented water with orange jessamine flowers over the
hands of the elderly. This native flower was selected because it is white,
the colour of purity, innocence and religion, and because it is scented.
While many western ceremonies are stiff and everyone terrified of doing
something wrong, the Thai farmer’s ceremonies are ‘sabai sabai’ (easy going)
full of giggles, jokes and chattering. It is perfectly OK to use an
exclusive mai dhaeng (Xylia xylocarpa) mother of pearl bowl next to a
turquoise plastic bucket. In the eyes of many Thais, a uniform perfected
style is not important, while the core of the activity, the actual blessing,
is. This view pervades garden design and architecture. Function is more
important than a coherent uniform theme. Although a farang (a westerner)
feels like Mr Bean during such a ceremony, his presence is appreciated and
his mistakes forgiven. www.dokmaigarden.co.th. [email protected]
A Palace Garden
Chiang Mai is a good destination for
garden lovers due to the many different gardens and the national parks. One
garden which is often overlooked by the many foreigners who go to the Doi
Suthep temple is the Puphing palace (Bhuping, Bhubing, Puping, Pu-ping or
Phuping are other spellings). It is situated just a few kilometers beyond
the famous temple, uphill on the mountain.
There are several reasons to go there.
One is to escape the heat of the valley. Another is to see a contemporary
royal palace. For Thai tourists, this is a rare chance to see many exotic
temperate species, such as Browallia, Fuchsia, Antirrhinum and roses. Any
settler with a sudden rose abstinence may want to go here in April. In
addition there are native high elevation species such as Mahonia nepalensis
and orchids. This is also a place to understand the contemporary Thai garden
taste. There will be loudspeakers outdoors with spa music, the sound of
waves and bird calls (European nightingale and tree sparrows). Do not expect
an abundance of signs or English-speaking staff, this is a garden for the
Thai royalties to enjoy, and they share with you when they are absent.
Visitors should be aware it is a royal
garden and so it might be closed when the royal family is there. Enquire
ahead at your hotel. Also, be aware that the lunch break is between 11.30
and 13.00. Recently there is a regulation that men and women must have long
trousers or long skirts (tights are not accepted), so either you rent such
clothes at the spot or you dress up in advance.
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