Crinum amabile

Nothing limp-wristed about the Crinum amabile, which grows enthusiastically. A bit like a bloke.


Pink Pampers, Pride and Lady

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 practice.

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 growing seasons.

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 that.

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 time.

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.



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