Plant lovers still have today and tomorrow to check out the annual plant fair being held at Suan Luang Rama IX Park. The much awaited event draws not just Thais but also plant enthusiasts from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Last year, a friend who lives in Cagayan de Oro, in the southern Philippines, bought a plane ticket three months in advance in anticipation of the event, which is held every year from Dec 1 to 10. Imagine his disappointment when the fair was cancelled due to the floods that put much of Bangkok under one metre of water for several weeks.
It was just as well he did not come, for flash floods triggered by a tropical storm swamped Cagayan de Oro just days later and among the victims was my friend, who lost most of his plant collection in the deluge. Many of his plants came from Chatuchak as well as from the Suan Luang Rama IX fairs held in previous years, and he is now in town specially to see the fair and replenish his collection.
Judging from the plant contest held at the start of the fair, interest in the old familiar names _ adenium, aglaonema, bonsai, caladium, cordyline, crown of thorns, dracaena, foliage anthurium and sanseviera _ is still very much alive and well. But although these have been the mainstays of horticultural contests for the past several years, they are not the same old species: most are new hybrids with hardly any semblance to their forebears. The original aglaonema, for example, is an evergreen plant whose Thai name, keo muen pi, means ''green for 10,000 years'' to describe its dark green colour with silvery white patterns. The new hybrids, however, are compact, with broad and shiny leaves that come in bright colours and colour combinations, and they even sport a new Thai name, kaew kanchana, meaning ''beautiful, bright and brilliant as gold''.
The turning point began in 1999 when a Thai breeder succeeded in creating the first ever aglaonema with red leaves. The following year, a Chinese Malaysian reportedly bought the plant for 500,000 baht, the highest ever paid for an aglaonema. The sale sparked off a frenzy among breeders to create plants with new colours, and they succeeded in creating dozens of hybrids with colourful leaves. You are likely to find some of these new hybrids at stalls selling plants at the fair.
THE ORIGINAL: Aglaonema non-hybrids have dark green and silvery white leaves.
The real beauty of aglaonema is that it can be grown as an indoor plant and requires minimal care. However, it does not like soggy soil so do not drown it with excessive watering and make sure it is planted in soil with good drainage. A popular planting medium is two parts loamy soil mixed with one part chopped coconut husk.
Some people were wondering why the plant contest at the Suan Luang Rama IX did not include orchids. In previous years, orchid growers and enthusiasts gathered at the horticulture fair held annually at the Rose Garden in Sam Phran, Nakhon Pathom province, in the first week of December, or at the same time as the Suan Luang Rama IX fair. It was there where contests of orchids in many different categories were held. The event was cancelled this year as many orchid growers are still recovering from the floods that devastated their nurseries.
Organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, the fair at the Rose Garden is yet another much awaited event and its cancellation came as a big disappointment to foreign orchid lovers who wanted to come and see the latest hybrids.
In addition to local growers, participants in the past included orchid societies and growers from Brazil, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan, but not surprisingly Thai participants had more variety and more beautiful orchids on display.
Aerides, Calanthe, Cattleya, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Renanthera, Rhynchostatis, Rhyncovanda, Vanda, Vascostylis _ you name it and you were likely to find it at the Rose Garden fair. The wide variety of orchids _ most of them hybrids _ was testimony to Thailand's supremacy as an orchid producing country and proof of the ingenuity and diligence of Thai orchid growers and breeders. Unfortunately, many of them had their hard work wiped out by last year's floods.
However, Thai plant growers and breeders are a diligent and sturdy lot, and I am sure that before long Thailand's orchid scene will become lively and colourful once again.
About the author
- Writer: Normita Thongtham