Homeward Bound


Before I left England for my trip to India and China I took the bold decision not to attempt blogging whilst I was away. It’s been the longest gap between two posts in six years, but it was the right decision for me and my sanity. Blogging whilst on buying trips is tough, not only due to the shortage of time, but also my lack of enthusiasm for the task. Restricted Internet access, particularly in China, also makes blogging enormously time-consuming and frustrating. In spite of my best intentions, by the end of each working day I find I’m just not in the mood to do battle with my laptop. So, sincere apologies to those of you who have missed me: I am back now, with a vengeance.

Raj Ghat

As usual there were precious few opportunities on this trip to visit gardens or enjoy nature, but I find them where I can. In India I made a point of revisiting Ghandi’s cremation site, Raj Ghat, and also Humayun’s tomb with its exemplary Mughal gardens. Partially restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture between 2000 and 2003, the 30 acre site is criss-crossed by three kilometres of water channels creating a series of four-quartered Chahar Bagh paradise gardens. Despite warnings of thieves and hawkers I have only ever found this place to be peaceful and revitalising.

Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi

A new discovery for me on this visit was Isa Khan Niyazi’s tomb, which in many ways I like better than Humayun’s final resting place. The elaborate, round structure is surrounded by India’s oldest sunken garden, now simply planted with shading trees and bounded by a crenellated sandstone wall.

Isa Khan Niyazi’s Tomb, New Delhi

Arriving in Hong Kong on a Sunday I stole half a day to walk around Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak. Here, and throughout Guangdong province in mainland China, evidence of the recent typhoon was all too clear. Hong Kong alone is estimated to have lost five million trees in one of the most brutal storms in living memory. Surveying the city’s skyscrapers from high above it was clear where typhoon Mangkhut had cut swathes through the vegetation and damaged buildings.

The roots of an Indian rubber tree growing on The Peak

Whilst sad to witness the demise of so many trees, not to mention the plants crushed beneath them, Hong Kong’s subtropical climate will facilitate rapid regrowth. For the first time I spied several native camellias, including the oil-tea camellia (Camellia oleifera), Hong Kong camellia (Camellia hongkongensis) and, my favourite, Crapnell’s camellia (Camellia crapnelliana) which has the most gorgeous, smooth, cinnamon-brown bark and stunning white flowers.

Camellia crapnelliana

It wasn’t then until my last hotel, in the Longgang district of Shenzhen, that I had the opportunity to experience my next garden. The Castle Hotel is a golf resort, and a very smart one at that. The Zhengzhong course is an oasis in the otherwise monotonous and depressing urban sprawl that is Shenzhen. (One can drive for hours and yet still be in Shenzhen, I cannot fathom it and I don’t especially enjoy it either!).

A view of Zhengzhong golf course from my hotel room

Again the course had been ravaged by the same typhoon that savaged Hong Kong, many trees wrenched from the ground or snapped off mid-trunk. The groundsmen had felled the most badly damaged trees and stacked the logs neatly in the undergrowth, I assume for the benefit of wildlife. The Chinese water garden, pictured below, seemed to have survived relatively intact, bounded by swathes of Alpina zerumbet ‘Variegata’, assorted philodendrons, codiaeums, hibiscus and golden shrimp plants (Pachystachys lutea).

The hotel grounds with Loropetalum chinense in the foreground
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (aka lacy tree philodendron or horsehead philodendron)
Spot the typhoon damage inflicted on this grove of Albizia julibrissin (pink silk tree), middle left
A pleasing combination of water, hard landscaping and foliage
A brick path leads through banks of tropical foliage
Pachystachys lutea

Returning home from Hong Kong this morning at 7.30am I experienced a chill that I’ve not encountered since The Beast from the East. Yet the garden remains, in the most part, unblemished. Tomorrow I shall start bringing plants in from the cold, but not until I’ve had some much needed beauty sleep. It’s good to back. TFG.

This scene amused me no end ….