Last Friday I took myself off on another little day trip. This time, me and taxi driver Jack went to the South China Botanic Garden, on the recommendation of one of my followers. It was quite a smooth ride, less than an hour to the city of Guangzhou. Even though I was being a bit of a diva, apparently it’s also easy by Metro! Anyway, we set off at 8:30 am, and I asked Jack to stop off at the 7 Eleven en route, as I needed a good stash of unidentified Chinese snacks for the journey!
The entrance to the South China Botanic Garden wasn’t as large or glossy as it had been to the Shenzhen Botanical Garden, but that didn’t have to be an indicator of what was behind the big gates! I paid the lowly entrance fee (Chinese gardens are much cheaper to visit than UK ones!) and set off!
It seemed this garden was altogether more compact in the Shenzhen one, so if you aren’t able to do oodles of walking, this might be the better choice for you. I decided to head to the conservatory is first, as I’d been dazzled by the photography included on the back of my entrance ticket.
It was indeed a beautiful rainforest paradise, there could’ve been more labels on the plants though, but nevertheless it was well put-together. An obligatory border of peonies was included in front of the waterfall, which was horticulturally out of place, but pretty nevertheless.￼
It took me about 20 minutes to have my first fan girl moment over a plant. And this was over the Lotus banana, Musella lasiocarpa! A super cool plant, which I gave far too much attention to!
I was also pleasantly dazzled by the Guzmania border, set out in rainbow colours. The rainforest domes were good, and the split level design was nice, but I do feel there could’ve been more education included.￼
I almost felt a little bit more dazzled by the density and variety of plants in the cactus house.￼￼ The outside and the inside were equally beautiful, from deliciously flowering euphorbias to terrifyingly beautiful golden barrel cactus.
The third dome was the Alpine house, but I think the criteria here was a little blurred to my sceptical western eye. They had common bedding plants such as Begonia and Geranium amongst more unique Primula species. Alas, the African Violets around the edge of the border had me fan-girling enough though!
One final dome, and one referred to as the rare and unique plant house. It was pleasant enough but didn’t quite quench the thirst of a plant geek! There was a pretty awesome variegated Monstera deliciosa in there though, and a quite handsome Passion Flower!
After my indoor exploration, I tried to navigate my way around the rest of the garden. I have to say, the map wasn’t as good as the one in Shenzhen the previous week. I took many wrong turns, and finally settled on an iced coffee in the central leisure complex. But, again, tourist attractions don’t have all the trimmings in China as they seem to have in Europe, so this leisure complex was a weird mix of business units and half-cafés.￼
My next stop was the Ginger Garden, and this is pretty incredible despite the lack of blooms. I must admit I don’t know much about the ginger family, but it was wonderful to see them all planted en masse, and sooo many different types. My visit was a little bit out of season for fingers though, so there weren’t that many flowers to see, sadly.
I took a magical/creepy* walk through the bamboo gardens too, and I couldn’t help wondering if they would be a good location for a horror movie…
*delete as appropriate
This time, I was losing reality with the map, so I was just wandering and stumbling across new gardens at will. The next one to showcase was the Cycad Garden, which all looked deliciously prehistoric, and came complete with a dinosaur model!
The orchid garden was next, again not necessarily in season, but laid out very nicely.￼ There was also the biggest collection of people in here, and some people painting too. I’d never seen Chinese people so calm.
We’ve almost 15,000 steps under my belt, it was almost time to go back to the taxi. However, I realised I’d missed a lot of the gardens over to the east side, mostly thanks to the below par map. So I cantered back to the Azalea and Camellia Gardens for a quick peek. I passed the pretty awesome Prehistoric Garden too!
To summarise, I would recommend the South China botanical garden, but you may not learn tonnes about the plants. There are a few information boards, but they could do with even more!
Something that smacked me with the two Chinese botanical Gardens I’ve been to is the expense involved in them. They are very large areas and always very intensely planted en masse, in a way that I don’t often see any European gardens. 500 Cycads for example…! Perhaps they have more handsome budgets for the green stuff, who knows!￼
I imagine it would be very busy on the weekend, I visited on a Friday and was there was a lot of school children (all shouting ‘lah wai’ (foreigner) at me), but it was generally easy to navigate.