"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. " ~Lindley Karstens

Sunday, July 25, 2010

China Trip Part 1: Lake TaiHu and Turtle Head Islet Park

I have been back from China for five days, and I finally got sometime this weekend to go through some  pictures I have taken in China, and show you here as promised :)

We majorly visited two cities in China: WuXi in Jiangsu province (Province is equivalent to the State in US) on the east coast, and ChengDu in Sichuan province.  To give you an idea what are their relative locations in China, I included a China map with different provinces' boundaries marked, I marked WuXi and ChengDu on the map in red circles with the text above them.

This Map is the Courtesy of http://www.asiaonline.com/
We flied to Shanghai from Detroit, US, and then we had a car pick us up to Wuxi, which is only one and half hour drive from Shanghai. 

Wuxi is the hometown for both my husband and myself.  We both grew up there and had the schools from kindergarten to high school before we went to colleges.  Our first jobs were also in Wuxi before we moved to US.  After my parents retired, they moved to their own hometown which is another small city close to Shanghai.  My in-laws have houses in both Wuxi and Chengdu.  Since the summer in ChengDu is milder, my in-laws usually spend the Summer and Fall in Chengdu, and Winter and Spring in Wuxi.  So, since my in-laws were in Chengdu this time, they let us stay in their house in Wuxi, and my parents came to meet us by staying in my relative's house in Wuxi.  It turned out this arrangement is very convinient since we also got to meet our friends in Wuxi without traveling.

While in China, I made a post about the garden in my in-laws community.  If you are interested in what a resident area could look like in China, you can read more in that post.  Here is just one picture from that post.

Today, I am going to show you the Lake TaiHu and Turtle Head Islet Park we visited when we were in Wuxi.

Lake Taihu is the third largest freshwater lake in China with a surface area of about 2,338 square kilometers (about 902 square miles).  The formation of Lake Taihu is due to Yangtze River and Qiantang River's accumulated mud which blocked the ancient bay.

The lake crosses Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, where 48 islets of different sizes and 72 peaks and peninsulas along the lake combine to form a panorama of great natural beauty.

The best place to view the beautiful Lake Taihu  is on the Turtle Head Islet (Yuantouzhu, 鼋头渚) Park located in Wuxi. Turtle Head Islet is an islet stretching into the lake, whose shape is really like the head of a turtle protruding from the water.

I remember the numerous times that I visited it together with my family and as school trips when I was a kid.  This was the first time we took kids to see this beautiful park, and was also the first time both my husband and I visited it since we left China 16 years ago.

Turtle Head Islet Park is mainly made of the natural landscape of Lake Taihu, augmented by man-made additions.  Various typical Chinese garden architecture, such as bridges and pavilions, are strategically placed among the trees, shrubs and flowers. All combines to make the park beautiful and elegant.

Compare to the old time, I was even more impressed by the beauty this park can offer this time, or maybe just because now I am into the gardening and know how to appreciate it more?

This old fisherman statue is situated in the middle of the water.  Are you able to see the fishing rod in his  hand?  His expression on his face looks so relaxing, and enjoying the peaceful time.

The inner lotus pond, weeping willow trees are blended with the lake view so seamlessly...

Familiar daylilies graced the path along the lake ...

I always love the waving effect of reed plants (Chinese name: 芦苇) in the water when wind is blowing.

There are lots of Cherry trees planted along the two sides of the road.  In the spring, the beautiful cherry blossoms attract so many tourists from the different places all over China and even other countries.

The following scene is a famous spot of Turtle Head Islet Park.  The Chinese phrase carved on the cliff is "包孕吴越", coming from a Calligrapher in Qing Dynasty, about 120 years ago.  This phrase praises the  magnificent Lake Taihu has been nurturing the people in both Jiangsu and ZheJiang provinces.

As I mentioned earlier that in addition to the natural scene of Lake TaiHu, this park also has lots of trees, shrubs and flowers.

Bamboos can be seen everywhere.  Now you know why I love the bamboos so much.  Even I can not grow bamboos in my small Florida Garden, I always dream someday that I can have a big enough garden that I can include Bamboos into the landscape.

There is a small garden in the park that has indoor space for tropical plants and orchids, and outdoor space to showcase more Chinese garden design. 

This trumpet creeper vine is thriving in its environment...  Looks like it has been there for a while.

Campsis radicans
Common name: Trumpet Creeper, Trumpet Vine
Follow this path we went into the orchid room...

"Charmed Wine Oxalis" is used for ground cover among the bamboos along the path.  I also have this beautiful ground cover in my garden.

Even there were not much orchids in display at that time, I was glad that I saw many familiar tropical plants here...

This Medinilla magnifica is new to me.  The  pendulous flowers look very attractive.  I looked it up and saw people also grow this in Florida.  I think this one will be on my watch list.

Medinilla magnifica
Family: Melastomataceae
Don't you love the ways these familiar plants are being planted?

Outside the orchid room, clustered bamboos , the stone steps and the arch door opening (also called moon gate) led to another small area of the garden.  The Chinese characters above the moon gate means "Tranquil and Fragrant" (幽芳. Traditional Chinese reads from right to left). 

In Chinese private garden, you will almost be certain to see some poetic inscriptions on such doorways.  This is also one of the five elements of traditional Chinese garden design.  The other four elements are: Rocks, Water, Plants and Architecture (pavilions, covered corridors , bridges, often in zig-zag design).  I have shown you some of those elements in my previous post about Chinese resident area garden, and I will show you more in the future posts that how these five elements are used in the Chinese garden design.

Many of you must find the following plants are so familiar!  Just love those bleeding heart vines!

This is the hosta that unfortunately we can not grow in Florida...
Hosta plantaginea ascherson
Chinese Common name: 白玉簪 (White Jade Hairpin)

Indian blanket flowers, corn flowers, and ...  What are the names of the flowers in the back?

Here are tow close-up views of those flowers.  Are they Justicia carnea , or by common names Brazilian plume, or flamingo flowers??

That was a very pleasant visit for my family, especially I got to enjoy the beauty of the Lake Taihu and Turtle Head Islet Park once again with my parents like when I was a little girl.  Only this time, I also have my husband and two boys joining me!

I have to admit that writing this post is not very easy.  Not only that I have to choose from so many pictures I have taken, but also I want to give you more accurate information about Chinese garden design, which I have taken for granted for so many years and really didn't know what is the best way to describe it. 

Hope you are not bored with many pictures in this post,  since there are more coming about my China trip!


  1. Enjoyed your pictures of garden very much.

    Cannot imagine seeing the mother in law tongue doing so well in the jar of water.
    Normally they will rot and die in that kind of condition.

  2. Lovely pictures Ami of your beautiful home country. I think you are doing very well in describing plants and the history of the area. I enjoyed the tour, it was restful, with lots of interesting ways of growing lovely plants, some of which you and I can grow here in our FL gardens. I love the moon gate with the beautiful inscription above it. Thank you for translating it for us.

    I look forward to more of your posts about your lovely visit back home.


  3. It looks like the zone there is pretty similar to North Florida! I loved seeing the photos of bamboo lined paths and the architecture was stunning. This post made my day!

  4. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your home country with us. I just saw that Medinilla at a local garden I toured a few weeks ago. It is an impressive plant. The plants growing in bowls of water is a creative way to display those plants. I have some Mother-in-law tongues I just might have to try that with. The elements of the Chinese gardens that you describe all come together to give such a peaceful feeling. Your shots showing all these elements really are beautiful.

    I love the bamboo too. I have a variety growing against my neighbor's chainlink fence that will only get to 10-12 feet tall. It is a clumping type that should be easy to keep in control. I love it's weepy wispy form. I'm hoping for it to provide a privacy screen along that fence by next year. There are some dwarf varieties you could probably fit into your garden and for the same type of look there is Bamboo Muhly Grass.

    So many of the plants are similar to what we grow here, it is quite interesting. Thanks for linking to your previous post as I had missed that one somehow. Can't wait to see more.

  5. How neat to see many familiar plants. Your photos are lovely. It's amazing how beautiful a garden can be when the only color used is green. I like that they place poetic inscriptions on the walls. I look forwarding to seeing more photos and learning more about Chinese landscape elements. It sounds like you had a wonderful visit with family. How wonderful for your children to be able to go back and experience a different culture from where they live. Keep those photos coming.

  6. What a beautiful park! The bamboo, the weeping willows, all so perfect for China. I love that beckoning pathway. I would definitely have been drawn to walk down that walk regardless of what was at the end. But an orchid room! How wonderful! The tropicals are beautiful, of course, with the bromeliads being stars. Love that medinilla also...quite splendid. And the tropicals being grown hydroponically is pretty cool. I've seen peace lilies done that way before, but no so many other specimens. Thanks for sharing your trip! Can't wait to see the other region you visited. Sounds like you have snowbirds in China too.

  7. Hi Ami,

    Your beautiful pictures make me yearn to return back to China to visit. We have been three times and two of those trips were to Hangzhou, Zhejiang.

  8. aloha ami,

    wow, what a fantastic tour of this lake district, beautiful and i enjoyed that garden tour also...in hawaii that medinilla can grow into a small tree...scary but amazing to see in full blooms

  9. James: Thanks. I am not sure if those jar contains the plain water, or there is something in it to make the magic :)

    Flowerlady: Traslating part is difficult, especially for a poetic phrase :) I felt lack of the proper words when translating it, only can give u an idea of the meaning.

  10. RFG: I just looked it up, Wuxi indeed is in hardness Zone 8, or edge of Zone 9, similar to the North Florida. It has more distinct 4 seasons, and even had snow some years when I was little. Glad this post made your day! :)

  11. NanaK: HAve you ever seen Medinilla for sale somewhere too? I want to buy one! It is beautiful! Before you try to put your "Mother-in-law tongues" into the water, make sure you do some research to it since I never tried t before this way, and I am not sure if they put anything into the water to make it thriving.

    I know some types of Bamboo is not invasive (roots won't be extended underground too much), but my narrow stripe of land just hardly can fit even a clump one. Maybe someday we will move again to a bigger land, but smaller house (right now it is the opposite) :)

    I think your idea to use bamboo as private barrier is great, show us more pictures when they mature more.

  12. Susan: Yes, Chinese Garden often use the rock, water and the poetic inscription on the wall to make the garden more elegant and artistic, even sometimes not with many colors. Glad that you liked the tour!

    FG: Those type of pathway is often seen in Chinese garden too! Lucky me that day there were not too many tourists in the park, otherwise, I won't be able to take a shot of that tranquit path. I was always behind my family group because I wanted to take photos! :)

  13. Noelle: Glad that my photos made you wanted to go back to China to visit again! HangZhou is a very beautiful city. Even ZheJiang province is just south of Jiangsu province, I can not believe I never visited there when I lived in China! Lake XiHu in HangZhou is also very sceneric. I need to visit there when I go back to China in future.

  14. Noel: Glad that you liked the garden tour. It is amazing to see the same plant is grown all over the world. medinilla is a tropical plant, no wonder it can grow the fullest in Hawaii!

  15. I covet a moon gate, but this garden is not big enough to frame borrowed scenery, nor courtyard enough to frame enclosed scenery.

  16. One of my favorite posts in any blog I have ever seen. Great photos. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Ami, those pictures from China are so beautiful! How faxinating it must be for you to visit your old country again!
    -Thanks for your comment: it takes around 2-3 years befor the seeds of the daylilies are blooming.
    Take care!

  18. I think the last photos are monarda or bee balm??

    I loved these photos. Did this trip bring back so many memories for you??!!!

    It's enlightening and touching to see these photos because I've never been to China. My father and I had a very strained relationship, and though we are now close, brought together in great part by gardening, there are things I will never know about him. When I see photos of the cleome, or the lotuses, or the landscaping in general in your photos, my father's own garden begins to make sense to me. He has really worked to re-create some of the scenes he once knew in China.

    Anyway, they are amazing.

  19. Ami, I have been enjoying your pictures about China's scenery so much. I can sense your happiness and nostalgia when you visit this familiar place once again with your love ones as an mom now and recall back your childhood memories.

  20. Awesome Post !!
    Shine a light on endangered species from all over the globe. 
     Florida L.E.D. Turtle Light


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