Pink says a lot where I come from. We have the pink
pound, the pink market and pink pride. We adorn our
female daughters in pink dresses and wrap our baby
girls in pink blankets. Even their disposable
nappies come in pink wrappers. What is it with pink,
then? Why does such a simple, unassuming color have
so many associations and connotations? We in the
west have a lot to answer for.
For some reason, the vast majority of the western
population consider the color to be perfect to
represent anything vaguely feminine. Iím not even
sure that itís the females that have made this
decision Ė perhaps itís the red-blooded macho blokes
from my side of the globe that have made this
seemingly strange decision.
Itís probably the fault of all parents in the west,
to be honest. They bear a child who happens to be of
the female gender. Whatís the first thing that Dad
does well before the little darling arrives home?
Paint the bedroom walls pink. Fairly standard
Then there are the stories of parents who have had
another one of those scan things done (does anyone
really recognize babies in those black fuzzy
splodges?), and it transpires that the first doctor
missed the image of the rather important part of the
anatomy that identifies a son. Panic ensues; the
bedroom was painted months ago.
The father canít possibly put his future son and
heir in a pink room Ė he might be scarred for life,
perish the thought. A quick visit to the western
equivalent of HomePro later, and heís armed with a
few gallons of blue to chuck on the walls, to keep
his son on the straight and narrow. Iím surprised
the more radical types havenít accused these parents
of being discriminatory.
So why on earth is it blue for boys and pink for
girls? Who decided that pink was a bit on the
limp-wristed side in the first place? What about
orange? Or purple? Thais have got it absolutely
right in this regard Ė they simply donít care. You
see strapping lads the size of brick outhouses
wearing the brightest gayest pinkest shirts you
could ever imagine in this neck of the woods Ė try
going up to one of them and telling him his shirtís
a bit dodgy. I dare you.
I went past a school the other day whose students
had a particularly distinctive uniform Ė purple
nylon sports trousers with bright pink shirts. And
why not. I used to think I was hugely daring when I
bucked societyís rules in deepest darkest Yorkshire
by occasionally wearing pink Dayglo socks in my
youth, as we all did. After all, we were hip and
cool. Oh dear.
Nowadays I have a pink T-shirt here in Phuket which
sits at the bottom of my clothes pile, occasionally
working its way to the top. By the way, do all
blokes wear whatís at the top of the pile that day,
rather than going through the girly process of
actually choosing? Anyway, every time I go out
wearing it, merciless jibes are the inevitable
result. I should be a little more willing to wear
pink, I suppose, but then again blue is my favorite
Ė itís a boyís color. Some things just never change.
Back to the pink thing then, and something topic of
something gardeningesque. I wanted to call this one
the pink spider lily, but itís actually the crinum
amabile, also known as giant spider lily, or swamp
lily. This particular epithet is perhaps a little
unfair, given its particularly un-swampdwelling
looks; it would be more at home in Kew Gardens, or
in the grounds of a royal palace somewhere. In Thai
itís known as the phlap phleung.
The giant spider lily is what the scientific types
with dodgy facial hair and bow ties refer to as Ďa
herbaceous perennialí. All that means in more normal
language is that doesnít have any woody parts to it
(itís mainly water) and it lasts for more than two
Those so called Ďexpertsí in the botanical field are
thrown into disarray when it comes to this plant.
The crinum amabile has a confusing and
hard-to-categorise history. Itís likely to have been
confused in the past with other similar plants. As
far as most of them are concerned now, itís a
distinct species, but is considered by many to be a
hybrid between a couple of other crinum species that
are way too tedious to list.
The linear, sword-like leathery leaves grow in a
kind of rosette shape. These glossy leaves are a
deep, greenish-red and reach a length of around a
meter. Now this is where the pink connection comes
in Ė you knew there had to be one somewhere. Pink,
fragrant flowers with small, red stripes sit on top
of a succulent, cylindrical flower stalk which is up
to about a meter tall.
A 15 cm-long floral tube bears six petals and
sepals, and rosy stamens appear from the throat of
the tube. These dramatically striking, fragrant
flowers appear during most seasons of the year. The
fruits of the swamp lily (or whatever you want to
call it) are lobed seed capsules that are 3 or 4 cm
thick. The mechanics of growing are fairly unusual,
too Ė it appears from large bulbs that protrude
above the soil line.
They may well need a little attention once in a
while. The flowering stalks can grow a bit too
enthusiastically for their own good and become top
heavy, so they might need a little form of extra
support in the form of stakes or something similar.
Also, as the blossoms fade, the stalks should be
removed back to the bulb. The only other thing
youíll need to do is remove yellowing leaves
throughout the growing season. They like it like
I know this is a bit of a familiar refrain with me,
but propagation of the crinum amabile is dead easy:
All you need to start new plants is to divide older
clumps. Literally grab bunches of the things, with
their bulbs, and move them to their new home.
Theyíll start producing clones of themselves in no
This lily is happiest in soils that are moderately
moist., so irrigation during the dry season is a
good idea. If you plant it in full sun to partial
shade, it will give you maximum growth and flowers.
The giant spider lily is fairly tolerant of salt
spray and grows well in coastal areas (Phuket being
no exception), but youíll need to make sure itís
kept away from direct salt spray. Not a beach-lover.
Apart from planting these things, itís good to see
that Phuket is doing its bit to change the image of
the color pink, anyway. Besides the odd crinum
amabile dotted around, some businesses are trying
hard too. It would seem that the Pink Lady, a
gentlemenís entertainment establishment in the
centre of Phuket town, is hardly the sort of place
thatís associated with anything even remotely Ďlight
in the loafersí as they say. Perhaps Iíll pop in for
a pink gin later. Cheers.