Monday, May 28, 2012


I'm trying to find areas of the world that would be climate twins for Houston and finding gardens that have the same feel as my own. We have a lot of plants in our gardens from China & Japan. And yet, it is VERY difficult to find a garden blog from these major countries. More on that later.
So what plants would we miss in our gardens if we were to take away the plants from China and Japan? For pure native gardeners, nothing. But for the rest of us here's a small list. See if you would miss these.

Would you miss daylilies?

I'd miss them a lot.

Would you miss hollyhocks?

And Buddleia davidii? It's from Sichuan Province in central China.



miss....ROSES?  At least four species of roses are from China and these gave hybridizers new powers to perfect our modern varieties.

There are so many beautiful flowers from this sister region of the climate world. And I would miss them all except the Tallow tree.

Even though there are a few thugs amongst them that want to take over, most, like this Wisteria, just want to grow and fit in.

And the honeybees don't seem to mind at all where these flowers came from.
They're enjoying a Pittosporum tobira, a Japanese introduction from long ago.

Right now thousands of  crape myrtles are putting on their extravagant show all over Houston.
They've been in Texas and the South for hundreds of years. People can no longer remember a time when we DIDN'T have them in our gardens.

And yet, they came from China and India. Around 1790, they were brought to Charleston, South Carolina by a French botanist, Andre' Michaux. I would definitely miss these beauties!

But even more important than the plants are the gardening methods and ideologies we have embraced from China and Japan.
Any type of hedge or trimming scheme probably originated from China or Japan. Bonsai takes it to the extreme.

It's hard to imagine who developed stones for landscaping gardens, but I would think that the Chinese would be a contender. Some say Chinese gardens are mentioned as far back as the Han Dynasty around 200 BC.
That's over 2,200 years ago. By contrast, the oldest formal garden in the United States according to their website is Middleton Place near Charleston, South Carolina (by the way, their website is FABULOUS). Middleton Place started in 1741,  a mere 19 centuries later!

We do love our stones, don't we? This is from the Japanese gardens here in Houston.
The Chinese and the Japanese borrowed from each other for a thousand years, so the two are intertwined in the ancient mists of gardening history. It's difficult to say which country started the stone pathway tradition first.

Do you have bamboo in your garden? Most species are from China.
The Chinese botanical symbol for teacher is the bamboo plant. They are strong yet they also bend. Some say they never snap no matter how much they go through! Just like teachers! LOL
(One of my Chinese students gave me a sweater with this symbol on it...and  told me the story behind it)

My favorite plant from China is this Chinese fan palm from the southern island of Hainan. It is my signature plant for the tropical garden.

On of my favorite discoveries about gardening in China is the wonderful place names they have.
I'm thinking I need to get a lot more creative in naming parts of my garden.
This photo above in American thinking would be 'The Ginger Corner'.
But to a Chinese gardener it would be transformed into something like:
'The Nook of Dancing Greenery'.
My chicken coop would take a LOT of imagination to rename.
Perhaps the 'Village of Eternal Garden Manure'.

I will leave you with a photo from a Chinese garden borrowed from Wikipedia.
I've just started the long journey of finding personal garden blogs, travel blogs, and artist blogs from China. Personal blogs are a tricky business in China and I'm sure everything is monitored by the government.
But I have found 5 so far that give us a taste of true Chinese culture.
They are on my left sidebar. Go take a look if you get the chance.
Or, if you're like me, an easier visit to China would be to take a few steps into your garden!

Our garden pond...'The Twinkling Waters of Gliding Duckweed'

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. I love this post. Thanks. Our lives (and gardens) would be very bland, indeed, without daylilies and roses, just to choose two that you mentioned. I wonder if the china berry tree comes from China? I could certainly do without those, but more plant pluses than minuses, certainly. I laughed aloud at your 'Village of Eternal Garden Manure' and decided to name the barn floor where I get my composted goat manure/hay the 'Palace of Perpetual Poop'.

  2. I am always amazed how many plants come from China. And it seems a lot of their plants do love our climate. I loved the story your student told you. Very nice. And I love the name "The Nook of Dancing Greenery". I think I'll try to come up with some names like that for my garden, too!

  3. China and Vietnam are opening even more for plant collectors and botanists, so expect more treasures coming out from these beautiful part of the world in the years to come! So many of the plants that we've been enjoying in our gardens have come from China and Japan and wouldn't be without them :)

  4. Fun and informative post. Love the garden names, that is pretty much how they would turn out.

    Japan is even more humid than Houston so you've got that part down. I do wish I had been more of a gardener back when we traveled there. I would have understood what I was seeing.

  5. I love the gardens of Japan. I follow a blog by the name of Stardust. She has some really lovely shots. I try to do the same with our Tucson gardens but I've had a little bit more luck. Hope you find more. It's fun sharing stories. Tucson matches up with areas in Australia....and it's fun to compare:) Good luck!

  6. Yes, I would miss all of those lovely plants, especially the daylilies and roses and crapes. What on earth would our southern gardens be like without crape myrtles?!! (Maybe not the pittosporum so much...mine is always blotchy from disease.)

  7. Excellent post. Fun to read and you had me laughing at your names. I enjoy the symbolism of the Chinese. There is always so much history in the hidden meanings. I think though that the Japanese design their gardens specifically to symbolize or portray something. The Chinese gardens that I saw on tour, while just as beautiful, were not really focused on, explanations and stories were usually for other things. Correct me if I'm wrong but after seeing both countries, it seems that way to me.

  8. The crape myrtles are attention grabbers. Mine has just started to bloom. The lilac one is less common her compared to the pink. There is also a white variety.


I always appreciate your comments & questions! Happy Gardening from David/ Tropical Texana

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