Botanical Beijing, a Story of Two Botanic Gardens

A busy 43 hours in Beijing – it started at 48 hours but I lost eight due to delayed flights and so on… I’ll leave the ‘Forum for Royal Garden and City Development’ for some other time, perhaps, but some of the first 24 hours are illustrated here.

On Wednesday morning the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Royal Garden Cultural Festival and 5th Parks Festival was held at the Summer Palace, in grand style. The event included a trip across the lake in a Dragon Boat and lunch in a palace built by one of the later Emperors to celebrate the birthday(s) of the mother of one of his wives.

The Ceremony included, of course, a large number of speeches, followed by dance and music, including a very impressive (mini) Beijing Opera.

And a fashion show...

It was interesting to hear about ‘Cultural Beijing, Green Beijing and Scientific Beijing’, or as the member of the Standing Committee of Beijing expessed it a little less snappily, ‘Culture-enriched Beijing, Environment-friendly Beijing and Technology-empowered Beijing’.

Later in the day I visited the two botanic gardens in Beijing, separated by a road and separate administrative arrangements since 1956. The ‘North Garden’ (if I have my directions right and understood my instructions) is run by the Chinese Academy of Science, the ‘South Garden’ by the Beijing municipality. Both Gardens have an entry fee, of the same value, and no discounts for visiting both gardens. They have talked about merging, ever since they were established I think.

I was a guest of the south garden (again if I have my directions correct...) and in the afternoon we had a Letter of Intent signing between Botanic Gardens Trust Sydney and the Municipal Beijing Botanical Garden, as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh (represented by Steve Blackmore) and the same Beijing Botanical Garden. The signing with two ‘royal’ botanic gardens fitted the theme of the festival. This is Steve Blackmore, me and the immediate boss of the Botanic Gardens Director, on a Dragon Boat (see later).

My first impressions of the Academy side of the road was of a garden in need of attention, but I realized I had been brought in through the ‘back entrance’. The horticultural quality does vary across the garden but there are some beautiful landscapes, such as the new looking wetland area around a lake with a wonderful collection of water lilies.

There are some interesting landscape ideas. A very fine mist was being sprayed out under redwood forest of some kind, with spray jets in the trees as well – very like the effect in the glasshouse at South China Botanical Garden.

The Municipal Garden is better cared for generally and attracts 4 million visitors each year, compared to the 100,000 to the Academy Garden. From my whirl wind tour in a buggy, it seems to be mostly tree collections and lawn, but with good rose gardens and other specialist collections. A large lake dominates the garden and there is a large, new, glasshouse with impressive plantings. The view across the lake, through the Crepe Myrle collection was memorable, but not really captured well in this image.

And then to a banquet... This one is the one at the mother-in-law's p(a)lace (see above).

After which I reduced my scheduled talk for the next day from 30 minutes to 10 minutes, to fit with the program I hadn't seen yet. But that's another story. As is the extra few hours I'm gaining in the Beijing airport due to another flight delay...