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Hogwarts for real

August 31, 2014

Dear friends of Thai flora,

I am still in Swedish exile but preparing for the 16th Flora of Thailand meeting in London next week.  To show the love for flora in Sweden, I wish to share some impressions from the arboretum at the university campus in Alnarp (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences). To me, this is the main summer attraction in the Lund-Malmö region, yet virtually unknown to  foreign tourists.

Dokmai Garden benefactors Corien and Folbert Bronsema visited us and this adorable campus a few weeks ago. A striking feature is the castle, built of local yellow brick in 1862. It replaced a much older castle, used by the governors of the province Scania since the 17th century. However, this new castle was solely built to host students and teachers devoted at agricultural sciences, a ‘Hogwarts’ if you like. Today, the building hosts the Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management. I use the arboretum in my spare-time as a destination for family picnics, and I take my arborist classes there for their teaching.

Building a castle in honour of science, knowledge and flora is such a rare event. However, at times benefactors, royalties and governments do contribute generously. It is important to keep this in mind when you feel like the loneliest person in the world, trying to raise awareness of minute endangered orchid species in remote jungles. My quest in London is to find partners with whom Dokmai Garden can collaborate to prevent extinction of Southeast Asian orchids. I foresee a network of Orchid Arks. The facts that Kew Gardens generously covered my registration fee, my current employer Hvilan Utbildning AB encourages me to attend as a part of my teaching position and Khun Vince from Bangkok let me stay at his house in Richmond are already promising signs of international collaboration…


Alnarp castle.72

Bruce Bebe, one of the permaculture founders, asked me to announce his upcoming course: Permaculture Design Course in Thailand 7-21 December 2014.

Eric Danell

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2014 10:16 PM

    This reminds me of the former (Students) Union House at the University of Melbourne also built of yellow bricks and with similar roof lines. The building was renovated in the 1960’s with the plan to keep to old facade. However some problems arose and it was demolished. You are lucky to have such a fine castle to science where you live.

  2. November 29, 2014 10:29 AM

    Dear Dokmai lovers. Here is something I would ask you to consider and comment upon:

    “ChiangMai Urban Landscape Model.”

    Over the long history of the development of the Earth countless species of living things have evolved. As a result of this evolution, and given its fortunate geographical position, Thailand has some of the greatest diversity of plant life on Earth. For example there are more species of orchids and also of the ginger family in Thailand than in any other country. The orchids and the gingers, both with their fantastic beauty and variety, however, do not live in isolation. They are plants of the forest, one growing mostly on the branches of trees, the other in the shade beneath them.

    The trees of our country also show great variation in appearance, form and mode of living, with over 1000 species recorded in the north. Yet for those of us growing up the fertile plains of the valleys, and in the towns and cities, this may come as a surprise. When we look around we see mostly a few varieties of economic trees and of ornamental trees planted for shade and color. Most of the latter either come from distant continents, from Africa, Australia or America or if from Thailand from distant provinces.

    As a result, our society is so losing touch with the natural world, that we have come to regard living trees as if they were inanimate pieces of furniture, perhaps at times also beautiful, but never-the-less just objects of utility to be shuffled around at will or cut or destroyed. So it is little wonder that we tend to shrug off news that a swathe of trees has gone for a road widening, or that yet another damaging fire sweeps through the forest destroying natural regeneration.

    With this attitude we stand to lose much of our natural heritage and what makes the place where we live unique.

    To counter this we propose here in Chiang Mai we develop a program to reverse this trend and to bring our community, and especially the younger generation, back in touch with nature, and in particular the natural heritage of Chiang Mai.

    So here in the city, near our river the Mae Ping we are beginning to replant the trees which grew here in ancient times as an early step in the development of the ChiangMai Urban Landscape Model.

    Rather than planting trees in the tradition of feudal Europe, evenly spaced and one species, the model copied by the roads department, our model aims to be true to the natural heritage of the place we plant. This means selecting trees native to the location and its natural diversity, and attempting to restore this diversity in our parks and gardens. Similarly along the roads and lanes of the town we prefer a mix to reduce the problems of loss and disease which can result where only one species is planted.

    So for example near the river we are guided by remnants of the ancient forests and by a study of similar riverine environments. We find Hopea odorata growing at the Forest Office, Holoptelea integrifolia, Drypetes roxburghii at the McKean Rehabilitation Center, while Anogeissis accuminata grows both in a riverside cemetery, and with Aphanamixis polystachia and Dipterocarpus tubinatus on the banks of the Nan River and tributaries of the Ping.

    Further from the river and streams species such as Shorea roxburghii and Irvingia malayana and others become prominent until one reaches the Tectona grandis zone at the edge of Doi Suthep.

    Along with the issue of selecting the right trees for the right place comes that of their placing and management. As almost all of our local trees have an erect habit growing them near, power lines and large buildings need not pose a problem so long as any pruning is restricted to lateral branches and the tops of the trees are allowed to soar and the root zone is protected from undue disturbance. This means guidelines for tree planting and maintenance are an essential element of our ChiangMai Urban Landscape Model, along with training programs for utility and garden workers and managers.

    As originators of this concept BIG Tree in Town and Gum Hak Doi Suthep welcome community involvement in developing a working model uniquely suited to Chiang Mai.

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