January 16, 2013

The Summer Palace gardens in China

Tranquility at the Summer Palace

We will be getting some very low temperatures soon (windchills of minus 15 degrees Celsius or about 5 F) but what do you expect being firmly entrenched in winter in Toronto? Not much gardening to do (I'm not into houseplants) but to read, do some business planning for spring and moan about how cold and dreary it is. (Funny how I always complain how hot and muggy it is in July and August!) If you're reading this from chilly climes in the northern hemisphere and want to get warm vicariously, pretend you're being blasted with upper 30 degree Celsius (90 degree F) and about 100% humidity and read along.

Such beautiful water lily (lotus?) blooms coming from an incredibly dirty pond 

My immediate and extended family went to China and Hong Kong last July (!) on a whirlwind visit. (I blogged about our visit to the Ming Tombs area previously in a post called "The Sacred Way at the Ming Tombs" ) I use the exclamation point because anyone who lives and travels in this part of Asia knows damn well how incredibly hot and sticky one gets from merely standing still in one spot.

We spent a lovely, leisurely stroll all by ourselves one afternoon at the Summer Palace located outside of Beijing. 


Anyone who's been on a tour knows the game: follow that flag that's hoisted by our guide. Problem is that said flag/rag looks after a while like the other dozen flags hoisted by the other dozen guides shrieking in their mega-phones. Add the "balmy" weather conditions, several thousand tourists and locals and our lovely guide who is very keen on getting us to the next jade/tea/silk factory and one can imagine what a forced march feels like.

At the very real risk of being left behind, I said to myself "#@$% this! I'm going spend some time taking pictures of "gardeny" things."

I wish I could get closer but dared not fall in as the water was quite dirty 

Green on green on green. Love the willows in the back. 

Weeping Scholar (syn. Japanese Pagoda) tree

Sophora japonica leaves and flowers

I noticed this tree named the Chinese Scholar tree or Japanese Pagoda tree mainly because of the flowers which reminded me of those on a Japanese Tree lilac. The latin name is Sophora or Styphnolobium japonica (um). Apparently it's hardy to zone 4 or 5. Anyone seen it in Toronto? In your location?

You can make out a face if you stare long enough

What do you see?

The Chinese love rocks in their gardens and the more "holey", deformed and grotesque-looking they are, the better! The type of rockery used in the Japanese garden style is different. I don't normally see such rough and hollowed-out examples in the Japanese style. Maybe limestone or other sedimentary rocks are not native to Japan's geography?

I think I'm actually panting!

My wife took this shot of me in a very common and natural pose throughout our trip: me being dazed, overheated, dehydrated and screaming inside "get me back on that freaking air-conditioned bus!"

More warm thoughts and pictures of our China vacation will follow to get us through a Toronto winter....

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