Wonderful Wi’s passion for fashion, albeit blatantly missing in the above photograph is only really surpassed by her love of flowers and at long last my village girl has decided to turn her hobby into a small fledgling business which she hopes one day will bloom into a nice little earner.
In Thailand marigold (dao ruang) flowers represent success and good fortune, hence their popularity and use as good luck garlands and decorative floral arrangements for Buddhist festivals, weddings and even politics. Thailand’s Loy Krathong Festival and both local and nationwide elections are very big business for marigold flower growers.
Wilai’s own contribution to Thailand’s money-making flower market is for the time being a small one, but nonetheless, one which like the marigolds she nurses from seeds to full bloom is growing each and everyday. However those days each consume a lot of time, patience, effort and tender care. And now after months of meticulous graft Wilai has about 3,000 marigold flowers in various stages of growth dancing to the rhythm of the wind on a small plot of land at the rear of our village house.
The first stage of Wilai’s flower production line starts by planting tiny marigold seeds into small nursery beds. After 7-10 days the seeds start to sprout into small plants and from there they are taken and replanted into the main flower nursery with each plant spaced about 10-12 inches apart. A marigold flower takes about 40-50 days to grow from seed to full bloom and will re-bloom many times over. Marigolds are very durable flowers and once fully grown need very little care.
So when do the rewards come in and how much?
Wilai’s nursery plot has the capacity to cultivate about 5,000 flowers but at present she is still working at reaching that limit. At the moment she has to content herself with having around 500 marigolds in full bloom at any given time. That means for the time being there is very little reward.
The marigold floral arrangements shown above, along with cut flower heads, are Wilai’s sole source of income from her business at present. The marigold bouquets are fashioned and then passed on to a shop in a nearby town where they are sold on Thailand’s numerous Buddhist days for seven baht each. Wilai’s share is three baht (10 US cents) for one. That’s not enough money to rouse a westerner from his sleep but to an Isaan villager 200-250 baht three or four times a month is very helpful indeed.
The bigger bucks, or in truth baht, will materialise when Wilai is ready and able to cut 1,000 or more flowers at one time. Already a flower seller has eyed the quality of her growing crop and is waiting to buy marigolds from Wilai in bulk. Those days are not too far away but the rewards in western terms do not add up to much. Below is the proposed price for each 1,000 marigolds sold in their various sizes.
- Large – 600 baht ($20 US)
- Medium – 500 baht
- Small – 400 baht
Wilai’s target of 5,000 plants could reap a harvest of 8,000-10,000 flowers each month. Those figures will gross a level of earnings which would convince most westerners to turn over and sleep, but it’s a very helpful slice of the pie in rural Thailand. And Wi’s eventual goal is to rent a small plot of land adjacent to her current one to allow her marigold venture to bloom even more.
Wilai’s passion for flowers is now beginning to draw some small reward and I will keep you updated on my Isaan girl’s progress in trying to nurture a one-time hobby into a big booming blooming flower business.
Village Flowers is another addition to my Thailand at Work series which you can further explore by clicking on the link provided.
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