Questions and some answers
I used to annoy
the hell out of my parents. I’m still adept at
annoying people today, you may say, but my most
irritating habit when I was little was asking
questions. Lots of them.
“Mum, why’s that man so fat?” “Dad, why did you
just drive through that red traffic light?” “Why
is the sky blue” “Why…?”
There was never really an answer to any of my
inane inquiries, but I didn’t see that back
then, so my next move was inevitably to ask yet
another question. Later on in life I discovered
that there are thousands more questions that
really don’t have answers:
When French people swear do they say “pardon my
Why don’t envelope makers make the sticky stuff
on envelopes taste like chocolate?
Why is it that when things get wet they get
darker, even though water is clear?
How come you play at a recital, but recite at a
Why is toilet bowl cleaning liquid always blue?
If something “goes without saying”, why do
people still say it?
Why is it that it’s good to score under par in
golf but it’s bad to be “under par” in any thing
How come car keys are the only keys with teeth
on both sides?
How do snow plow drivers get to work?
How important must a person be before being
considered “assassinated” instead of just plain
How come Americans choose from just two people
for president but 50 for Miss America?
If shampoo comes in so many colors, why is the
lather on your head always white?
Is there anything easier done than said?
What are those little things on the end of your
Why is it considered necessary to nail down the
lid of a coffin?
There are readers of the Phuket Gazette who, for
some reason, are under the impression that I
have enough knowledge in the gardening
department to be able to offer some sage words
of advice on anything green and growing (or not)
in their garden.
A few people have written to me via email,
asking for my thoughts – here are some of their
questions, along with my limited responses.
Q: I saw your
article in the Gazette about the passion flower
[Passiflora]. Is this a flower that can grow
easily in Thailand, and can we buy this flower
in Phuket? Where can we buy it? In Belgium I had
this flower, and I loved it.
A: The passion flower grows
very easily here in Phuket. I’ve never actually
seen it for sale to be honest, but it’s common
as a wild flower, especially during the rainy
season. Just look in a shaded, damp, overgrown
area – it will probably be there. Pluck a few
plants from the soil and take them home. It
stinks a bit though – mainly why it’s known as
the stinking passion flower.
Q: My once-beautiful frangipani
[Plumeria] trees have been infested by the rust
fungus and now look dreadful. I would be forever
grateful if you can advise me on how to get rid
of this fungus, or at least control it.
A: As presumably the fungus is
only on certain areas, the best advice I can
offer is simply to cut off the affected parts –
that’s what I usually do with this kind of
thing. The missing parts should grow back
quickly enough, unless the trees are
particularly unhappy. I’m not a big fan of
store-bought chemicals for the garden, as you
are never quite sure what else may be affected,
Horticulturists who know far more about this
kind of thing than I do have mixed thoughts
about how frangipani rust can be controlled, or
even if it can be controlled at all. Rust is
fairly common to frangipanis. It is actually a
fungus called coleosporium plumeriae. One bright
spot is that the rust is species-specific, so
you shouldn’t worry about it spreading to other
types of plants.
Control of the rust is tough. Some experts
believe there is simply nothing you can do about
it except to immediately remove infected leaves
and dispose of them away from your landscape.
Q: I’ve moved
to Phuket recently and I want to grow some fruit
and vegetables from seeds: chili peppers,
melons, papaya, rambutan, etc. I’ve never grown
anything before in my life but would like to
start now I’m living in a respectable climate.
I tried to grow some chili peppers from seeds
that I took from peppers and from a packet I
bought, but the seeds didn’t grow, maybe because
I couldn’t understand the instructions, as they
were in Thai. I know you have to get the seeds
to germinate first before planting them but I
don’t know how to do that. Could you please give
me some basic instructions?
A: The best way I’ve found to
grow seeds from scratch is to lay them out on a
sheet of damp cotton wool, making sure they’re
well spaced apart. Moisten the cotton wool every
day and wait until they germinate.
Once you have an inch or two of growth, transfer
them over to some potting compost.
Don’t try this with seeds you’ve brought back
from Europe, as it’s unlikely that they’ll cope
with the heat here.
Use only seeds bought locally, or seeds you’ve
saved from fruit that you’ve eaten here.
Actually, the latter is where the vast majority
of my fruit trees originated. I’m a bit too
miserly to go out and buy them for myself.
Some questions do have answers then, I suppose,
though I really would like to know how snow plow
drivers get to work and what those little things
on the end of your shoelaces are called. Answers
to the email address below, please.