While writing this blog, we have some droplets of rain (2 mm so far this year) and the temperature was 20°C at 09.30. Within sight I can admire the pink cloud of the foaming Congea tomentosa (Lamiaceae), ‘Pride of Lanna’. This is a handsome and native liana which also blooms in the Chiang Mai jungles now, one of the few plants that does. Another very welcome sight is the splendid orange blossom of ‘ton kwaw’ Butea monosperma (Fabaceae), the Chiang Mai province tree. This is actually 2-3 weeks later than last year’s blossom. Maybe the heavy rains in September-October forced the blooming period forward a bit? Some plants regulate their activities based on changes in day length (photoperiod), some react to temperature, some react to moisture. This tree is not yet in blossom at Dokmai Garden, and yesterday I only saw one tree in bloom in Namprae south of Chiang Mai. Saraca indica (Fabaceae) is still in beautiful orange blossom. As to native orchid flowers I have already blogged about the tarantula leg (Dendrobium senile) and the lion tooth Bulbophyllum lobbii.
These examples are seasonal native monsoon plants. Some plants make flowers almost all year round, such as Ixora spp, Thunbergia laurifolia, Uvaria grandiflora, Tabernaemontana pachysiphon and the South American lilavadee (Plumeria spp).
As to less colourful blossom, there is a massive mango blossom (Mangifera spp. Anacardiaceae) right now. Some trees already produce fruit primordia and their crops should be safe, but later varieties may have a poor crop this year due to this rain. Such rains are not abnormal, we had them during the previous two years too. The mango relative cashew (Anacardium occidentale, Anacardiaceae) also began making their tiny pink flowers now, and to my experience mango rains are bad for the production of cashew apples too.
A really nice flower in blossom now is South American Gliricidia sepium (Fabaceae), ‘mother of coffee’ (there are many). They appear like cherry blossom, pink on naked or near-naked branches, but they are pea flowers. Being crispy and sweet, they are perfect ingredients when making an exotic tropical salad. Unfortunately they almost always sooner or later attract aphids, but in this early stage of blossom the trees are so sweet.
In addition to the flowers, a gardener may consider foliage and sculptural shape of trees. Yesterday we had visitors representing a gardening magazine in Canada, and they said that during their 3 months long trip in Asia, they had seen a beautiful tree in four countries, but nobody had been able to tell them what the tree was. At Dokmai Garden they saw it too:
What makes Dokmai Garden different from other gardens is our passion for plants (we live here and we love the plants, they are not just a 9-5 job), our personal approach (we like to chat with visitors) and we make efforts and investments in sharing knowledge. Beautiful gardens can be found everywhere in Asia, but if you wish to know more about these tropical plants, there are only a handful of educational gardens in South Asia.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell