clerodendrum's growth rate is similar to
that of a hormonal teenager. It can go
through periods when nothing much
happens, then without warning, an
unexpected growth spurt can occur.
My bleeding heart
What is a bleeding heart exactly? To be honest, I
didn’t really have a clue until I asked a few
Americans. It does seem to me to be a bit of a silly
expression; yet another phrase that our transatlantic
cousins have created for no particular reason, not
really knowing why. They do appear to refer to
“bleeding heart liberals” a lot, though.
To me, any kind of Liberal (with a capital “L”) is a
bloke in a tweed suit who is just unsure whether to go
with the Tories or Labour, pounding the streets of
sunny England doing his best to convince the populace
to vote for him in the upcoming election; a kind of
Monty Pythonesque character. Then again, I’m a Brit,
so what do I know.
My dictionary defines someone with a bleeding heart as
a “foolishly soft-hearted person, or somebody regarded
as naively kind or sympathetic towards those who claim
to be underprivileged or exploited”. I’m not sure what
that means, and I’m not even sure if it’s a good thing
A common theme is that bleeding heart liberals (BHLs)
are generally political left-wingers who tend to be a
bit subjective in their political views. These
individuals are seen by some as a bit of a pain in
American society, but on the other hand help balance
out “crazy rednecks” (farmers, presumably) or
They should be fairly easy to categorize and label,
but given the complete confusion that seems to
surround American politics, I’m really not sure that
they are. It would appear that you can have forms of
BHLs on both sides of the political fence, but being
called one by the other side isn’t exactly
I could have a rant here about “the nonsense that
these bleeding heart liberals espouse” but then things
get all intense, and people start accusing each other
of all sorts of wrongdoings just because of their
political view. Hang on a minute, I’m actually getting
In that case, it’s time for the inevitable,
gratuitous, unwarranted attack on Americans. Why on
earth do they all think that we Brits are best mates
with the queen, and why do they do their very best to
imitate an “English” accent, only to suffer the fate
of sounding exactly like Dick Van Dyke? Gratuitous
attack over – sorry about that. Back to the bleeding
This is a gardening column after all, supposedly. It’s
about gardening rather than political systems. How
about the bleeding heart vine then? You must have seen
this one coming from a long way off.
Its alternative names, the glorybower or clerodendrum,
aren’t quite as interesting, and make about as much
sense. Thais know this common vine as the
mangkon-khaap-kaew. Before anyone writes to me to say
that I’ve got the name completely wrong, which I
probably have, I think it applies to the type of
clerodendrum with small splashes of red that appear
from the center of bright white flowers. The one in
the picture is the red version of the same plant.
In both versions, the clerodendrum thomsoniae (the
white one) and clerodendrum splendens (red), the
flowers appear almost continuously in sprays, or
calyces, about the size of a tennis ball.
The plant’s growth rate is similar to that of a
hormonal teenager. It can go through periods when
nothing much happens, then without warning, an
unexpected growth spurt can occur. The rate of growth
can be mental at times, sending out tendrils in all
During periods when it seems that every day another
inch has been added to the ever-extending reach of the
shoots, like a teenager, they need a fair bit of
pointing in the right direction. The method of dealing
with them is to tie them to a trellis, nails in a
wall, or something similar to give them a little
assistance during that difficult time. Not the ideal
solution for a 15-year-old perhaps.
The bleeding heart vine is happiest in dry conditions,
and shouldn’t be over-watered. Ideally, the soil
should be well-drained and rich in organic material.
In Phuket, good drainage in the soil isn’t usually a
problem, but the organic material side will probably
need a little help. When planting it in the garden,
make sure it’s surrounded by some of that compost you
buy in those small white sacks from any garden center.
That’s all it needs.
It will tolerate full sun with adequate moisture, but
prefers partial shade. Like many plants in this part
of the world, it will tolerate conditions that aren’t
perfect, but will give you the plant equivalent of a
cheesy grin if it’s treated well. They need protection
from strong winds too.
Don’t worry if parts of the plant seem to give up the
ghost at times. After blooming, it’s perfectly normal
for that part of the plant to die back.
This is another one that can be propagated with
cuttings. A few years ago, I was doing a little
gardening after one or two polite beers. Well, perhaps
more than one or two. Anyway, I was pruning away at a
bleeding heart vine, cutting off those old tendrils
that had long since shed their flowers and leaves.
One that looked a little bare at the base also
deserved this treatment, until I pulled it away and
realized that everything was very much alive further
up the 6 foot stem. Normally a cutting of this size
would be far too long to take root, as all the action
was going on too far away from the cut end.
In my somewhat fuzzy state, I ignored this fact, and
stuck it into the soil anyway, almost pretending that
nobody would notice, and cracked open another beer.
Far from withering and doing what my foolish act
deserved, the cutting actually took root and
eventually flourished as a whole new plant. These
things are tough.
You can pick up a small bleeding heart vine at your
local garden center for as little as 50 baht – not
exactly the most expensive of garden purchases. Little
effort is required to keep them going, and the plant
can be kept in a pot or deposited in the garden.
It’s probably a bit on the cheap side for American
politicians though. They’d rather spend a few million
on flags, balloons and marching bands. Having said
that, why couldn’t it become a symbol for some
American politicians? If you think your political
opponent is a “foolishly soft-hearted person”, send
him a plant. That could work.