Possibilities bloom for gardeners at annual flora fair

The Chon Buri expo offered a bounty of plants and paid homage to the writer's husband for his contributions to horticulture

Since I really have no more space for them, buying plants was the farthest thing from my mind when I attended the opening of the eight-day Eastern Flora Exhibition and Contest in Chon Buri, which ended last Sunday. But my resolve vanished when I saw adenium, or chuan chom in Thai, hybrids I had never seen before. Many had double petals and looked like roses, and came in different colour combinations, like dark red bordered by black, or light green splashed with pink. In my mind, I suddenly found space for them on the small balcony in my bedroom, and my husband, ML Charuphant, and I went home loaded with plants.

NOT TO BE MISSED: The Eastern Flora Exhibition and Contest is an annual horticultural highlight.

Actually, I was there to accompany my husband, who was presented with an award of merit by the organisers of the event. Many members of the ornamental plant growers association in the eastern region were former students at Kasetsart University, had attended the countless seminars in which he shared his knowledge about plants, read his books reading his columns in magazines and newspapers, or had benefited from his research work. The award was given to show appreciation for all these and other contributions to the state of horticulture in Thailand.

''It's the first time ever that we've given this award in the seven-year history of this annual affair. It's the Nobel Prize of our association,'' the group's president, Vicha Komolkitkaset, said. ''It's our way of saying thank you for all the knowledge that we have gained from him.''

Held from Jan 20 to 27 beside Chon Buri's municipal hall, the event was all that an agricultural fair should be. It provided a stage for hobbyists to show off their prized collections; it served as a place where gardeners and plant breeders could meet to exchange knowledge and compare experiences; it held activities aimed at arousing in youngsters an interest in agriculture; it provided technical knowledge for beginners; and it promoted markets for ornamental plants as well as tourism in the eastern region.

WELL-DESERVED HONOUR: Award winner ML Charuphant Thongtham, left, with Vicha Komolkitkaset.

Apart from exhibitions on cut orchids and creative gardens, the event saw daily contests on a wide range of other plants. The contests were extensive and further subdivided into different genus and cultivars. Orchid genera included Ascocentrum, Cattleya, Oncidium or dancing doll, Paphiopedilum or lady's slipper, Phalaenopsis, Renanthera, Rhynchostylis and Vanda, among others; while contests for bromeliads covered Aechmea in general, and Aechmea chantinii and its various cultivars, Billbergia, Dyckia, Tiilandsia, Vriesia and bromeliads not included in the above categories, and xeric, or drought tolerant, bromeliads.

The contests were open to growers throughout the country, but many of the contestants were from Chon Buri and the neighbouring provinces of Rayong, Chanthaburi and Prachin Buri. ''By holding contests every day, we keep the enthusiasm alive throughout the eight-day event,'' one of the organisers explained. ''People who are interested in a particular plant genus can come on the day the contest for that genus is held. Many of the entries are new hybrids not yet seen in the market, hence the contests are a big attraction for hobbyists on the lookout for new cultivars to grow as well as those in the business of selling plants.''

There was also a contest for professional flower arrangements, and to encourage youngsters to get involved in the floral festivities, there were contests on students' flower arrangements and tray gardens. Every day, a workshop was held to teach horticultural know-how to interested members of the public, including mushroom culture and how to grow vegetables and flowering plants in containers and propagate adenium, for example.

No plant fair is complete without plants for sale, and the event lived up to expectations with more than 200 booths selling ornamental plants and fruit trees. Probably because the rent was low and many of the stall holders were local growers, even plants new in the market were inexpensive. The friendly nursery owner, Ek Chuanchom, said he developed the hybrids himself in his Phanat Nikhom nursery in Chon Buri. He uses a mixture of chopped coconut husk and dried monkeypod leaves (kambhu or jamjuree in Thai) as a planting medium and recommends changing the pot to a bigger one every six months.

Held every January for the past seven years, Chon Buri's Eastern Flora Exhibition and Contest is young compared to the decades-old Kaset Fair at Kasetsart University and the annual plant fair at Suan Luang Rama IX Park, but it is by no means smaller. In fact there are more plants to offer, for although Chon Buri is known for seafood and delicacies that would make anyone who has a sweet tooth happy, the 200 booths occupying the 10-rai exhibition area sell nothing but plants and gardening equipment.

It is certainly an event to look forward to every year.

Meanwhile, the annual Kaset Fair opened last Friday and you have until Saturday, February 9, to see what it has to offer. Expect to find not just plants but also agricultural crops and fruit in season, as well as processed food, ready-made clothes and Thai woven fabrics, and consumer products.

Email nthongtham@gmail.com.


About the author

Writer: Normita Thongtham
Position: Writer