I like a good
mystery. The old Loch Ness Monster theory is all
well and good, but you know that regardless of how
many years they spend looking and how many millions
of pounds they spend on the latest high-tech
monster-spotting gadgets, they’ll never find a
Some mysteries are solved, though. Going back a few
years, Britain was plagued with crop circles that
appeared in the middle of corn fields all over the
country seemingly overnight. Aliens were initially
blamed, as they were an easy target – no aliens
popped up to deny it.
It wasn’t until a bunch of university students
admitted to trampling cornfields with wooden boards
that people realized they’d been completely fooled.
Aliens from outer space coming down and sending
messages to us in our fields? Total bunkum.
What I find even more fascinating are the mysteries
that will never be solved. I’m talking about
situations such as that annoying noise coming deep
from within the bowels of the engine compartment of
your car that’s driving you completely up the wall.
Your tolerance for this interminable noise finally
reaches breaking point.
You drive into your local garage to let an expert
pinpoint the problem, fix it and put you out of your
misery once and for all. But what happens? The noise
mysteriously disappears as soon as you drive in, and
all that you can really say is something pathetic
like, “Well it normally makes this loud ‘eek eek
eek’ kind of sound.”
You then drive away feeling more than a little
ridiculous, with that infernal noise inevitably
returning soon afterwards.
There are more mysteries in the field (sorry) of
gardening than I’d care to consider, but there is
one, involving the omnipresent coconut tree, that
has only been solved for me in recent years. I could
never work out why the base of a coconut tree often
has the start of its roots above ground.
The answer to this question became apparent after I
conducted a small experiment in my front garden a
few years ago. I claimed a couple of coconuts that
had fallen from a nearby fully-grown tree, and dug a
hole for one and put the other on top of the ground.
With nothing more than water, both grew, but the
difference was that the roots of the tree that
appeared from the buried coconut were below ground
and a lot neater; the one that started off above
ground had six inches to go down first, which is
where those weird, bicycle spoke roots appear from.
That’s the way they grow in the wild, of course –
mystery solved. Obvious when you think about it.
This plant probably best symbolizes tropical spots
such as Phuket. Picture a beach anywhere in the
world, and what’s drooping majestically over it? A
In the race to develop the island, build bigger and
more palatial hotels and to construct more holiday
homes for our visitors, what’s the first thing to
go? The trees that have happily sat there for years
making the island look like a tropical paradise –
precisely why we came here in the first place.
It’s a serious shame, but everyone here can help
redress the balance by planting a coconut palm in
their own yards. It can be anywhere to be honest, in
your own garden, the unattended garden next door, or
even in the corner of your landlord’s garden – I’m
sure he won’t mind.
It’s not exactly a complicated process – here are
1. Go outside.
2. Find the nearest coconut that has fallen from the
3. Shake it and make sure it makes a swishing sound.
4. Take it home.
5. Put it on a wall or in a corner on the floor – it
doesn’t really matter.
6. Do absolutely nothing.
7. Wait for a shoot to appear, which will rise
8. Wait a bit longer, and another shoot will start
to grow downwards.
9. Put it in a hole in the soil. If you can’t be
bothered with the exertion of digging a hole, then
don’t. Just leave it on the ground. It’ll grow
10. Have a beer. You’ve earned it.
11. Water it (the coconut, not the beer).
12. Keep watering it (if you can summon the energy).
14. You’ve got a coconut tree.
There isn’t anything more to it. The
hardest thing you’ll need to do is walk out of your
front gate, bend over (watch your back – you don’t
want to over-exert yourself) and pick up a coconut.
Those with heart conditions should obviously consult
their doctors before undertaking strenuous activity,
so perhaps this part of the process should be
Long-term, your biggest consideration won’t be the
maintenance of the coconut palm, as it pretty much
looks after itself. The main problem will be where
the coconuts will fall if they’re not regularly
harvested. How many cars, buildings and Phuket
residents have sustained serious damage from falling
coconuts over the years? Countless.
Full sun? No problem. Sandy soil, or soil lacking
the nutrients for most normal plants to grow? No
problem. High winds? These will survive a hurricane,
and still come out smiling.
Plant a coconut tree for yourself. Sorry if I sound
like one of those really bad DIY TV programs, but
Phuket will look all the better for it.
You’ll probably have to stock up your fridge with
beer though, as you’ll have plenty of spare time. No