"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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

China Trip Part 2: Chengdu Panda Research Base

I have not been able to write my China Trip posts as quickly as I have hoped for even I have back from China for 10 days now.  Summer heats in Florida might have put me in a dormant stage :)  Meanwhile, there are so many things need to be done in the garden, and my daytime job is also resuming the speedy pace now...

In my last post, I wrote about my visit to Lake Taihu and The Turtle Head Islet Park located in Wuxi, Jiangsu province.  Although we also went to several other attractions in Wuxi, I decided that I will start writing about another city I visited, ChengDu in Sichuan province.  I always could write more about Wuxi in the future if I could find more time.

ChengDu is the Capital City of Sichuan province, located in Southwest of China.  I have included a map of China to show the locations of Wuxi and Chengdu in my previous post.  Chengdu has a humid subtropical climate, and is largely mild and humid.  For the interest of my gardener readers, its hardness zone is 9, and Wuxi is in Hardness zone 8.

During our stay in China, we visited Chengdu Panda Base, a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas and other rare animals such as Red pandas, and golden monkeys. Chengdu Panda Base was founded in 1987. It started with 6 giant pandas that were rescued from the wild. By 2008, it has had 124 panda births, and the captive panda population has grown to 83 (Source: http://www.panda.org.cn/).

While this base is majorly a research institute, it is also open to the public.  It covers about 600 acres, and the environment is exquisitely designed to create a natural habitat for Giant Pandas and other endangered animals.  It is covered with big trees such as ginkgos, chinars, yulans, willows and embedded with high dense bamboo and grasses.  The human-made structures have been designed to blend well with the natural scenery.

The statue of Mother Panda holding a cub is situated in the entrance of the Base.  Beautiful Cleome flowers in abundance are surrounding the statue. 

I have to admit that I could not stop taking pictures of this beautiful flower when other members in my family had moved on eagerly seeing the pandas!  Love the shape of this flower, and its soft pink, lavender/violet, white colors!

Cleome hassleriana
Common names: Spider Flower, Spider Legs, Grandfather's Whiskers
Allow me to show you some more of the garden pictures before I show you the pandas!  After all, this is a gardening blog, right? 

Now we were off the main road...  Do you think we would spot the pandas soon?

What is that?  Oh, a red panda is in distant!

 Another one on the tree! But, where are those cute Giant Pandas?

Follow me on this path...

Wait, what is this bush that has red flowers on it?

The Close-up of the flower...  I think I have seen this flower in some blog friend's post, but don't remember what is the name.

This unknown vine distracted me once more with its pretty flowers dangling from the tree along the path... 

"Pandas! Mom!"  My boys were calling me.  They did not understand why their mom always walks so slow, and took pictures of anything, or "nothing"! 

Anyway, come back to the Pandas!  Aren't they super cute?!!!

This one was practicing his (or her) balancing skill on the tree...

These two were having relaxing time on their own, not minding all of us taking pictures of them like crazy!

Now we were off to visit the breeding center of the base.  We were so lucky to see a new born baby panda that was only 1 day old!  The baby was still in its incubator.  We were only allowed to watch him through the glass window, and no pictures were allowed to take since the flash light could damage baby's eyes.

Just give you an idea what a newborn giant panda looks like, I borrowed a picture from the Internet.
New born baby pandas (Credit: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/)
A newborn giant panda typically weighs 100 to 200 grams (3 1⁄2 to 7 oz) and measures 15 to 17 centimeters (6 to 7 in) long at birth, and it lacks the familiar black-and-white markings for its first month or so of life.

With only 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild, and nearly 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China, you can imagine how precious a birth of the panda is!  Especially for the scientists working in this breeding center!

We were on the way to the exit of the research base now. Of course, I have to show you more pictures of the beautiful scenery on the road. 

Sometimes, a scene with only green color also could look so gorgeous! 
A rest area in the "forest".   Tables and chairs are built with artificial material mimicking tree stubs.

Another surprise for us to see, a Swan lake!

Swans and the gold fish live in harmony...

This concluded our visit to this Panda Research Base.  Next time, I will show you a restored historical resident area in Chengdu city.

** On May 12, 2008, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck causing damage to the area, killing lots of people. Though only 75 kilometers (48 miles) from the epicenter, Chengdu itself was built to earthquake specification, and most buildings there remained intact. **

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!
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