Brief History of Gardening 2:
The Beer strikes back
I’m not a fan of
sequels. They’re always a disappointment. You’ll
remember Jaws – that mid-1970s blockbuster that
scared us all half to death. Especially when that
head dropped into view behind the porthole in that
sunken boat… Anyway, the film was superb, and went
on to make millions.
Then somebody thought that Jaws 2 would be a good
idea. In the rush to try to cash in on an already
successful idea, however, the filmmakers failed to
remember that the film still had to be good.
Unfortunately, it was terrible.
The big rubber shark they made for the second film
by now looked a bit silly, and we’d probably become
bored with that plastic fin approaching unsuspecting
beach goers. We probably only looked forward to them
being eaten to liven things up a bit. Hardly the
response the producers had in mind.
Generally, all “part twos” fall into the same
category – and parts three, four and five, come to
that. How many times was Rocky going to have to
crawl out of the gutter and train himself up to
become world champion? He did it once, fine, but
once we knew the underdog was going to win at the
end, it all got a bit boring.
Sensing that the world cinema-going population is
becoming swamped with way too many over-hyped and
under-achieving movie sequels, over the past few
years Hollywood studios have been trying to
distinguish their numerous part twos, threes and
fours by giving them catchy subtitles.
It seems that the days of obligatory add-on digits
such as Rambo 1-15 are long gone. In recent years
we’ve seen Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, American
Pie 3: The Wedding and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White
and Blonde. My personal favorite (movie title that
is – the film was awful) is Scary Movie 3: Episode I
– Lord of the Brooms.
I will admit that the title Austin Powers: The Spy
Who Shagged Me is a lot more interesting than Austin
Powers 2, but what’s even more fascinating is how
the title got past the censors in the first place,
given its somewhat lascivious origins. In fact, I
wonder if this paragraph will even make it into the
pages of the Gazette. We shall see.
Book sequels somehow get away with it, and I really
don’t know why. There have been numerous
lawyer/detective/crime/thriller-type books recently
that almost defy logic with regard to how many times
the same characters appear in one book after the
next – they’re all very readable, somehow. Or maybe
I’m just easily entertained.
Those who got as far as this page in the Gazette
last week, nestled in just before the classifieds,
may have caught a glimpse of A Brief History of
Gardening. If Tom Clancy can get away with it, then
I see no reason why I shouldn’t continue where I
left off last week.
It’s now a week of beer later, but I vaguely
remember chuntering on about explorers in centuries
gone by moving plants from one part of the world to
another. Some of them even had plants named in their
honor; the vainer types probably named these plants
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the
French explorer, Louis Antoine de Bougainville was
one of the first to come across the incredibly
widespread creeper that we now see all over the
island and most, if not all tropical regions of the
world, the bougainvillea.
Then there’s Joel Roberts Poinsett, the 19th-century
physician, botanist and American statesman. He was
responsible for introducing the Christmas plant from
its native home of the Pacific coast of Mexico to
the rest of the world. Predictably, the official
name for this bright red and green plant is the
The 19th century was a busy time for
gardener-explorers. A nursery called Veitch, in the
UK, sent its chaps out all over the place. Most
famously, they were responsible for the
unimaginatively-named Victoria Amazonica, a giant
South American plant named after the British queen
at that time. It’s a decidedly weird pitcher plant
that traps its insect prey in a giant cup before
slowly dissolving and ingesting them.
This was when orchids appeared in the Western world.
They were expensive then, and haven’t reduced in
price much since. A single orchid bloom in the UK is
still well over a pound (nearly 70 baht); funny how
you’d be disappointed if there weren’t one or two
stuck in the top of your cocktail in Phuket.
Our forefathers didn’t seem content just to borrow
their tropical discoveries from their native homes –
they felt the urge to modify them too. The
cordyline, plumeria, and hibiscus they brought back
were soon hybridized into countless varieties that
were sometimes unrecognizable as being related to
This hybridization continues today. As an example,
it’s likely that as little as 20 years ago, Thai
gardeners had no more than about 10 varieties of
heliconia to choose from. Today there are hundreds;
the colorful bracts are nowhere near as predictable
as they once were.
Tropical plants are no longer reserved for the
tropics – they’re everywhere now. While gardeners in
the Western world do their best to keep them alive,
our problem here is more likely to be keeping them
in check. Gardening doesn’t get much easier than
As sequels go, A Brief History of Gardening 2
doesn’t have quite the same dramatic impact as
Rambo: First Blood Part II, but at least I’ve done
my bit to cash in. The fortunate part is that after
last week’s initial installment, it could hardly go
much further downhill. I wonder if I can get away
with saying shag again…?