Hearts on a chain


Better than a card: Hearts on a chain can say you have the key to my heart. Yeuch.

Say it with flowers at any time

This isn’t Valentine’s Day. You’ve probably noticed. In fact it’s not anything day. But somewhere it probably is some kind of day that’s been invented to promote something or someone for the sake of it.

I’m not sure how many people celebrated, or even noticed International Talk Like a Pirate Day, on September 19 last year. Actually, a friend of mine did. Mind you he does have a propensity toward coming out with phrases like “Aarrgghh, matey, ’tis a moighty fine day” anyway. He’s from Indiana, if that helps in any way to explain his pirate fixation.

I’ve always been a bit cynical about these made-up kind of days, personally. Having said that, I’m cynical about most things. I do honestly try to be fair, and try not to show favoritism in this regard – I just treat everything with equal disdain.

Annual events nearly as daft as promoting pirate-speak are rife. Groundhog Day. What kind of nonsense is that? In the US, the “official” groundhog is kept in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 every year, amid a raucous celebration early in the morning, “Punxsutawney Phil” as the groundhog is known, is extricated from his den by his keepers, who are dressed in tuxedos.

Phil then “whispers” his weather prediction into the ear of his keeper, who then announces it to the anxiously-awaiting crowd. Hasn’t the novelty worn off by now? It sounds like a ceremony created out of sheer boredom by a couple of drunk college students.

Perhaps the best invented day of all came from South Park, a somewhat ludicrous and totally accurate adult cartoon series: Earth Day Brain Washing Festival. This just about sums these days up.

Even more recognized “days” seem to have a more commercial bent nowadays. Christmas is all about buying more stuff by spending money that you haven’t got in the first place, and Easter revolves around the wholesale consumption of oversized, overpriced chocolate eggs.

Even Valentine’s Day has changed significantly since the distant days of my youth. It used to be an excuse for you to send an anonymous token of affection to your secret heart’s desire. You wouldn’t sign the card – that would be much too crass. If you were feeling exceptionally lustful, flowers might be delivered, but again the accompanying card would be anonymous.

These days Valentine’s Day is virtually sponsored by Hallmark Cards – just another excuse to encourage us to buy and send more of them, and for companies such as Interflora to make millions out of expatriates. And I’m sure that Mother’s Day only exists now to make us feel guilty and go out and spend squillions on gifts for our dear old mums. We should be doing this all year, of course.

It’s time to get back to basics. Why not do something different for your beloved, when they least expect it? Forget what day greetings card companies and calendar manufacturers say it is. What’s even better is that you can do it with flowers, without it costing you a single baht.

There’s a plant that thrives in Phuket that would be perfect as a gift for anyone you care about – the main difference is that it’s a bit more subtle than a Hallmark card bearing the words “Roses are red, violets are blue” or some such insipid nonsense.

The hearts-on-a-chain vine is just plain cute. You probably wouldn’t even notice it from a distance, as all you can see from afar is pink patches among the leaves. It has a number of alternative names, such as the Mexican creeper, queen’s jewels, the coral vine, and even cadena de amor from the Spanish for chain of love in its original home of Mexico. Thais know this plant as phuang chomphuu.

These things grow wild all over the island, and appear suddenly without you even realizing it. An unexpected splash of pink on an insignificant bush in the corner of the garden? Probably a hearts-on-a-chain vine that’s suddenly materialized. I do enjoy a pink bush, especially when it’s unexpected.

The heart-shaped leaves are about 8 centimeters long, and are matt green – a bit like mint leaves apart from the shape. Hearts on a chain couldn’t be a more accurate name, really. The racemes of flowers are made from five diminutive petals each shaped like a petite little heart, there are thousands of them on a plant.

If you want to make a gift of it, don’t uproot it and wrap it in plastic – plant it. All you need to do is find a decent-sized example, and prune off a woody cutting. Put it in some moist potting compost, and wait. In the early days, it will generally look a bit miserable.

But after a few weeks, put it in the ground, in well-drained sandy soil, keep watering, and wait for the growth spurt that will inevitably follow. Allow it to spread out on the groiund and it will be content enough, but give it something to cling onto, such as a wire frame or a chain-link fence, and it will launch itself skywards like a New Year firework.

It does this with a curly tendril at the end of each chain of flowers. The tendril will coil itself around anything it can reach. It flowers year-round in the climate we have here.

The only thing you need to watch is the lower regions of the plant, once it’s got into the swing of things in the climbing department. If you don’t cut back the top outer parts on a regular basis, you’ll find that the lower sections will get a bit forgotten, and start to become a little naked. Prune regularly and the whole thing will stay a healthy-looking green.

If we’re allowed to invent days, then my suggestion would be National Send Bloomin’ Bert Lots of Money Day. Cash payments would be fine.

In reality, forget what day it is. If you want to show your affections to your loved one on any day, then “say it with flowers” indeed, but forget Interflora. For this plan to work, initially you’ll need to pinch them from your neighbor. Plant and wait, and you’ll be saying it with flowers for years to come. “Aarrgghh, matey, ’tis a moighty fine day”.



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