Gardening in Hong Kong
An island bursting
with skyscrapers, a world centre of commerce: would
horticulture have a place in such an environment? Phil
McCann visited Hong Kong to find out.
As a first time visitor
to Hong Kong, I was full of expectation and wonderment.
The hustle, bustle, skyscrapers, Star ferries and trip
up the Peak were all on my tourist agenda, but what
about plants? Not known for being a centre of horticultural
excellence, concentrating on banking and big cars instead,
I wanted to find out whether Hong Kong had sold its
soul to capitalism and commerce.
are a great starting point to check out the health of
a city, and Hong Kong is desperately hanging on to a
small piece of green space, albeit lumped together with
a zoo, but it is alive and thriving all the same. Dwarfed
and very much in the shadow of massive tower blocks,
the 19th-century wrought iron bandstand is a testament
to the determination of the Hong Kong Chinese to keep
tradition and history alive. Over the road from the
Governor's former residence, the gardens, founded in
1881 are sheltered from the worst of the weather, and
semi-tropical plants thrive.
When Hong Kong was
returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the Hong Kong
Orchid Tree (Bauhinia blakeana) was chosen as the emblem
of the territory, and this small tree flowers in the
gardens and around the city. The blooms can range from
pale pink to deep cerise depending on local conditions.
Ideally it requires a sunny position in warm, semi-tropical
conditions in well-drained soil. Worth a go in conservatories
in cooler locations. Not only do they look terrific,
the trees filter pollution and reduce noise levels that,
if left unchecked, will one day choke Hong Kong.
The innovative central
water feature of giant stainless steel alliums
spouting water into a surrounding pool is impressive,
but the sight of a pergola
dripping with blooms of a Rangoon
Creeper beats it into a bamboo basket. It has woody
vines that are vigorous, smothering supports within
weeks in semi-tropical conditions. Healthy plants, growing
in full sun and in moist, well-drained soil, flower
continuously throughout the year. The hanging clusters
of flowers are white in bud, opening to pink, red or
Palms are always
exciting, tropical bedding
can be reproduced in most summers of a lot of countries,
but a display of Turk's Cap, wax mallow, Firecracker
Hibiscus takes some beating. The rolled petals are
bright red with hairy-toothed leaves forming shrubs
up to 4m high. The flowers are attractive to hummingbirds
and butterflies with the hairy, toothed leaves often
being nibbled by violently coloured caterpillars. Another
specimen for full sun and well-drained but moist soil.
Hong Kong is no doubt
a super hub of trading supremacy, but thankfully the
importance and value of a botanical garden is not being
overlooked, and long may that continue.
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with premission from Greenfingers.com