Questions and answers

Q: What’s the relevance to the article of this picture of a papaya tree?
A: There isn’t any, really.


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 English”?

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 play?

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 else?

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 “murdered”?

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 shoelaces called?

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, and how.

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.



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