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A lady and her garden

May 5, 2011

Khun Nantiya Vaddhanaphuti is well known to anyone interested in Thai orchids. Her book ‘A field guide to the wild orchids of Thailand’ (Silkworm Books) is a must for any local orchid lover, and has been reprinted and expanded at least four times. She is now working on a Thai edition which will contain even more orchid species. It took Khun Nantiya over 20 years to become acquainted with 800 of Thailand’s ca 1150 orchid species.

Khun Nantiya has a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Kasetsart University, and she acquired her MSc from the University of Guelph in Canada. Between 1972 and 1995 she was teaching at Chiang Mai University.

Her private garden in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is most interesting to any serious gardener. It is mature and moist, and contains interesting and rare trees in the Annonaceae family and also the South American ‘lamut sida’ (Manilkara kauki, Sapotaceae). When you walk around her house you find her private orchid collection, a result of more than 20 years of work – amazing! She does not keep any catalogue so she does not know how many species she has, but there are many! Like us, she is terribly concerned about the serious decline of wild orchids, and during our meeting on Tuesday she proposed many good ideas. To further help the Orchid Ark, she donated several species. The next step is to link the Orchid Ark with more private collections in Chiang Mai.

What makes the Orchid Ark different from a classical orchid collection is that we ultimately intend to plant the orchids within the Dokmai Garden woodland, enhancing natural pollination and reproduction. We do not want to use fungicides or pesticides, thereby selecting for individuals which will succumb in a natural forest. A back-up will always be kept in the controlled nursery.

Text and photo: Eric Danell

Khun Nantiya Vaddhanaphuti (left) and Ketsanee Seehamongkol (right). Nantiya waters her orchid nursery once a day, and sometimes she adds moisture via moisturisers situated on the floor. May 3, 2011.

This specimen of Phalaenopsis parishii (Orchidaceae) was generously given to the Orchid Ark by Khun Nantiya. It is native to northern and western Thailand and you can see it now at Dokmai Garden.

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