Growing Trees in Thailand

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There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

-- The Buddha


Bean Fence
Gardening in the Tropics

When we first moved here our yard resembled something halfway between a desert and a disaster area. Of course we viewed it as a proving ground that anything will grow in the tropics if you amuse and abuse it enough.

The first contribution we installed was what the tree lady at the "flower plant and if it exists and has to go outside your house it is here" market. Yes, she assured me, this is the exact same tree you have brought me a limp dying branch of. 4 feet tall, possessing 2 branches and, by the time we got it home, 6 leaves. After sticking it in the ground it made our yard look utterly hopeless. If this was going to be a future forest, we were in for a long wait. Yellow Flower Tree as we later named it, or YFT for short, shot up approximately 16 feet in a little less than a year while flowering continuously. At present it appears to want to become a one plant jungle.

To compliment YFT, a few yards housewards we added slim and svelte greenleafywhatsit. It had at least 40 leaves by the time we got it shoved in the ground. It spent the first 6 months trying to fit under the carport roof. Finally being dissuaded from that occupation it went into open rebellion. It went NYAAA! you won't catch me being a normal tree! It began growing these beautiful long sweeping branches, covered thickly in leaves. But it grew no trunk. Each new branch would get together with the ones before it and they would discuss which one would become the next major upward branch. Then that branch would branch and a new discussion would commence. It is now trying to shade the YFT and has yet to show any signs of becoming sensible with some 12 massive branches yet no sign of any of them thickening into a trunk..

Of course I needed some bamboo. Green stripe, ultra decorative bamboo. I purchased a tiny little clump of 6 shoots some 7 feet tall and stuck it behind the house on the west which is really the north due to a bend in the road one can't quite take into account when getting ones bearings but never mind. The bamboo immediately wilted. Only by watering it some 6 times a day could I keep it the slightest shade of green. I finally dug the whole thing up and moved it, explaining how much happier it will be a few feet farther from the house. This was fortunate. I began to count the new leaves. One every week or so. I calculated that it would only take about 75 years for it to begin resembling the green stripers at our temple. It flugged and limpified along for about 6 months before my darling informed me we had baby bamboo shoots. WHAM! 10 not so baby shoots went sailing skywards. I was just getting accustomed to counting shoots instead of leaves when my darling informed me we had new bamboo shoots. YIPES! To make a long story shortish, I'm lucky I moved the clump out from under the eaves. The newest contribution, a full 4 inches thich before it was 4 inches tall is now towering above the hip of the roof. While the clump appears dormant right now, I know better. I saw what happened this year and am fully expecting to spend a few hours shoving errant shoots out from under the eaves before they rip the roof clean off come next summer.

Meanwhile, planted to keep the bamboo company we have what is supposed to be a very fast growing shade tree called a ducks foot. Since this thing looks about as much like a duck as our jeep resembles our toaster oven, I can only assume it was named by someone who was smoking it at the time. True to form, Ducks Foot grew into a slightly larger version of what I first planted. The bamboo shot right up through it and apparently it decided to sulk. The trunk however, I noted recently with some alarm, is nearly 8 inches thick. If the upstairs some day in the future decides to resemble what is going on below the bamboo will be in serious trouble.

Out in the front yard we added another lovely wonderful shade type tree with neat little red flowers. It had feathery leaves and we were assured it would grow to be a monster. It promptly lost all it's flowers, grew three more stems and started producing yellow flowers. The yellow flowers in turn dropped off leaving these weird pod like things. The lovely feathery leaves haven't grown at all and the entire ensemble, resembling a Martian beanstalk, has achieved the great height of 4 and a half feet.

Seeing that our front yard still resembled a front yard, in a fit of enthusiasm I saw this beautiful if odd tree some 7 feet tall at a neighborhood nursery. It was very strange looking with no branches at all and these massive thick lustrous green leaves growing directly out of the trunk. The man at the nursery was really unwilling to impart much information about the tree except that it would get a bit bigger (as opposed to all the other nursery vendors who instantly responded to my inquiry of the tree I was looking at would become an overnight competitor for the giant Sequoia: "Yes! At least 30 meters a year!"). Delivered a couple of days later we plugged our newest wondertree in and watered. It promptly lay down. It's trunk was about as stiff as a vacuum cleaner hose. I propped it up. It lay down in another direction. Ultimately, with the assistance of our neighbor who fashioned a strong bamboo splint the entire length of the trunk and four very sturdy bamboo props later, the thing reeled somewhat uprightly like a very saturated wino. It still had no clue what it would turn into. One day a few weeks later we were walking through the yard of a temple when I saw a leaf on a branch that exactly resembled our limp tree's leaf. I traced the branch to a larger branch with my eyes, rather puzzled. Then my darling grabbed me and dragged me back several hundred yards where I could get a better idea of what the branch attached to the branch attached to the branch was in turn attached to. The trunk was actually a great mass of roots all fused together, some 60 or 70 feet around. The canopy above covered the entire parking lot that could easily accommodate 80 or so cars as well as shading an entire house and yard adjacent to the temple. I went out today to admire Old Limp, now some 15 feet tall and sporting 4 hefty branches. I noted with some consternation, the trunk has become 3 trunks. It still requires 3 bamboos and a rope to keep it upright. I'm wondering if it is planning on leaning on the house during it's formative years. If this thing ever gets close to resembling it's big brother at the temple, it is easy to see both ours and our neighbors house are going to be in the way.



Thai Tales
Thai Tales (Reload page for more pictures.)



Thai Tales
Thai Tales (Reload page for more pictures.)


Thai Tales
Thai Tales (Reload page for more pictures.)

 


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