June 11, 2016

The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China: Re-discovered!

Framed views, grotesque rockery and some "Chinglish" in one of Suzhou's classical Chinese gardens



"Re-discovered" in the sense that I never knew these pictures from our family's China trip in 2012 existed until I was trying to retrieve some files from my camera' built-in memory and these popped out. Going to Suzhou's Lingering Garden was one of my favourite memories during our three week vacation/pilgrimage to China nearly four years ago. I got to see an authentic example of classic Chinese garden design which is characterized by a miniaturization of natural landscapes (mountains and oceans) and a sympathetic relationship between people and nature around them.

I profiled the Lingering Garden a few years ago with a post titled The Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China: Classical Chinese garden design at Liu Yuan which shows many examples of the use of strange-looking or grotesque (maybe to Western eyes) limestone rockery commonly found in Chinese garden design. I also showed examples of how water is used to contrast with such "hard" elements when seen from various "stages" or viewing "platforms."

In your garden, you might want to consider where the main "viewing stage" is (your patio, deck, favourite bench?) and compose a scene that maximizes the view's beauty or significance. A technique that could help with composing this scene is framing, as some pictures below show:



Framed view at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Framed view at the
Lingering Garden Suzhou China 


You may find the above a little lazy or maddening but there's very little symmetrical about Asian gardens because, well, there's little in nature that's perfectly centred along an X-Y axis. I found this appealing as the drab concrete interior wall contrasts with the bright green Philodendron (?) leaves. Even the octagon frame of the window isn't symmetrical.



Framed view of rockery at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Framed view of rockery at the
Lingering Garden Suzhou China


These are windows (but could be doors) that fold out to create an amazing triptych. I wish I could approximate this overlooking my backyard but those pesky raccoons and mosquitoes would get in the way!


Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China
grasses and shrubs


Yes, there's a whole lot of green going on but that's what I expected in the dead of summer. I'd imagine the views would be more colourful in the spring and fall with the blossoms and autumn foliage. I found the monochromatic greens very calming and restful, especially with the cicadas whirring away on that hot summer day.

In the picture above, I adore how the grasses (maybe sedges) spill over the rocks. A way you could closely capture this is by using the mostly-green version of Japanese Forest Grass  (Hakonechloa macra ‘Albostriata’ Japanese Forest Grass) or Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica)



Lingering Garden Suzhou China framed view of rockery by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China
framed view of rockery

Another framed view above, this time forcing the viewer to contemplate the odd-looking rocks.



Lingering Garden Suzhou China rockery by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China rockery 




Lingering Garden Suzhou China window screen by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China window screen 

I just like the lattice work above in front of a translucent panel which diffuses the appearance of the branch hitting against it.



Rock garden at Lingering Garden in Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden at Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

The white-wash wall starkly outlines the rocks and plants.



rock garden at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rock garden at Lingering Garden
Suzhou, China 

The same area from another view. There were many of these little "pockets" scattered throughout, offering the visitor (me) a short respite from our tour guide screaming in her megaphone to get ready to leave.



Rockery at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Rockery at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

Just like mountains have many outcroppings and caves, this version has the same but miniaturized to human scale.




Screen at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Screen at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

Another screen but this time much more ornate. I don't know about you but I kind of see some sort of hibiscus or Rose of Sharon flower if I stare long enough.



Sitting area at Lingering Garden Suzhou China by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Sitting area at the Lingering Garden
in Suzhou, China 

We never saw anyone actually sitting in these chairs but you can imagine the owners and their visitors enjoying refreshments while looking at the garden. You'll note the symmetry inside which is largely absent outside.



Lingering Garden Suzhou China signage by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Lingering Garden Suzhou China signage 

A Suzhou garden visit cannot end without showing one of many signs posted throughout for the benefit of native and tourists. The more direct and stern instruction "don't litter!" doesn't have the same wonderful lilting melody as this "Chinglish" phrase carries.

Want to see more poetic examples like the one above? I've bookmarked this great blog post titled The Signage of the Lingering Garden. You may smile or scratch your head but the sentiments are all noble.