Thailand: The Pharmacy Garden
I visited Thailand in April with a group of garden writers. The trip was sponsored by the Tourism Authority, but as they say on NPR, the opinions expressed are those of the author, not the underwriter.
Thailand is a place that’s built for plants, not people. It’s hot (it never falls below 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and wet (high humidity and frequent rain). Every plant you’ve ever seen in an office is three times as big and growing wild. Every crack has a tropical plant growing out of it, every pot of water has a aquatic plant thriving. Words like “lush” and “tropical” don’t nearly cover it.
Our first day there, still jetlagged and stunned by the heat and humidity, we walked around the area by our hotel (the completely over-the-top Centara Grand in Bangkok) with our mouths agape. This was a “free day” before all the planned tours, so it was just myself, Gayla and Davin, and David Hobson.
We noticed some interesting plants in a yard behind a wall, so we just wandered in. It turns out, the building was the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, where they grow plants to test for medicinal uses. All I knew at the time was that some of my favorite plants were there (Alocasia, orchids, ginger, even a Nepenthes) as well as an interesting garden critter or two.
During the Thailand trip, we’d see a lot of really incredible, giant, ornate gardens, but this one remains a favorite because it was just a humble working garden created for gardeners who clearly loved it, not for tourists. And it was a great first example of plants that can be difficult to grow at home, thriving in the Thailand tropical climate.