Blame It on Thailand

I’m generally not a big-leaved tropicals person. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s more that I like to see them rather than grow them.

As a city dweller, I’ve never had much garden space available to me. And, well, big-leaved plants are terribly GIGANTIC. They are also tropical, which means they need a warm and humid place to overwinter indoors. My living spaces are small and dry. As a result, I’ve simply opted out of growing these plants. I oooh and awe at them while visiting greenhouses or tropical locals, but I’ve always managed to keep a mental distance from them. These are plants for looking and looking only.

And then I went to Thailand.

A lush balcony garden in Bangkok.

From the glittery, tiled temples to the lush, statuesque plants, everything in Thailand is BIG and FABULOUS. Even in a congested metropolis like Bangkok, the Thai people still manage to find the space to go big. Now there is no excuse left and I want to go big, too.

Giant Alocasia

Derek of Plantgasm was also in Thailand with us, and I can’t deny that his enthusiasm for big-leaved tropicals also played a role. I find it impossible not to be infected by another gardener’s plant love.

Another balcony garden in Bangkok.

I came back from Thailand to a new garden space. It’s still in the urban centre and therefore not BIG, but compared to what I’ve had to work with in the past, it’s practically a Versailles. A new garden means there are lots of choices to make, especially in the plant material department. Thailand’s influence is certainly rubbing off. Just the other day I impulse-bought a black-leaved Elephant Ear (Alocasia plumbea ‘Nigra’). Between the enthusiastic enabling of a friend, and a 25% off late season discount, I couldn’t refuse. And just like that I have committed myself to a plant with the largest height to girth ratio I have ever grown. The plan is to set it in a pot somewhere in the yard. Exciting!

Both pictures were taken at a Pharmacy College in Bangkok that we happened upon. They have a great garden.

I haven’t even got it into soil and I’m already considering another large leaved tropical. Don’t you think the coppery red leaves of this spectacular, ornamental banana (‘Siam Ruby’) would pair nicely with the black-leaved Alocasia?

What have I become?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “Blame It on Thailand

  1. Embrace it! I’m downtown Toronto too, no back yard, but what the heck!
    I bought a bird of paradise, and I’ve got taro/eddoe (alocasia ESCULENTA, I think) corms I bought at a grocery store that I’m growing (they’re beginning to sprout!)

  2. One of us! One of us! :-)

    If you’re looking for a friend for the Pumbea, I highly recommend Alocasia Calidora. They’re huge, vigorous, and impossible to over-water. If you plant it in the yard, a little mulch will keep the corm alive over winter. If you plant it in a pot, you can bring it inside (if it will fit). The Calidora in my office is as tall as me already within a year of planting it as a 4″ pot.

  3. Love that the big leaved tropical bug has bitten you! They make a great contrast to all the veggies, and bring a fun, far away aspect to the garden…and there’s so, so many more plant combos to create……

  4. I love your enthusiasm! And I understand why you gave into your impulse — Alocasia Plumbea Nigra is gorgeous. Posts like these make me excited to see what your garden will be like in a month or so. Perhaps we should all try to add a touch of the tropics to our gardens — it may lift the spirits just as light therapy does.

  5. Derek: One is enough for now! And I did end up ordering the banana to accompany it.

    Elaine: In a month it will probably still look like an excavation site… but I hope not.

  6. Donald: I’ve been waiting for someone to notice that!! I had other shots of that balcony but used that one because it showed the Miss Puke sign.

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