As the horticultural student on this trip, I have found it fascinating to behold the garden designs within the city. I think it's safe to say that all of us are impressed with the amount of greenery that has been crammed into this city. Every single roadway is lines with trees, flowers, and shrubs, and the medians are filled with plant life, not concrete.
Highlights of gardens we have seen thus far:
*Hangzhou Flower Nursery: It wasn't what you would envision as a US nursery; it was similar to an arboretum or botanical garden. The sign did say Hangzhou Flower Nursery though. Towards the entrance were HUGE annual plantings in swirling patterns and there was a fountain in front of a flower petal shaped garden filled with color. Today was the second day that we saw tons of couples taking wedding photos and videos. (21 and 22 are lucky days to get married and they fell on the weekend, so many many people were getting married.) We walked through an area that was more boggy and had ponds. The lily pads were starting to be in full bloom. There are so many water features and bridges in Chinese garden design. They also make use of rocks or stepping stones through water; something we should do more in the US. Jill, our guide, took us to see the orchid nursery; there were many tables filled with pots of orchids and they had a shade structure in place. Unfortunately, they weren't blooming; I'm unsure of species but the leaves were very long and thin- almost grassy. I saw a lot of bamboo today and walked through some small "bamboo forests." I've had a few people tell me that it's invasive and spreads a lot; I didn't know that before hand. Another random fact- you can eat bamboo- its fairly tough and kind of bland; good fiber source! Jill gave us some free time to look through the bonsai garden; these were fairly large bonsai and all of them were up on high pedestals. My favorites were the ones that looked really windswept, and one was hanging all the way down to the ground out of the pot. I definitely saw some new plants today!
*HuXueYan's Former Residence: HuXueYan was a rich, rich man back in the day and he lived in a house with his mom, wife, and concubines. The residence was surrounded by walls that were about 20 feet tall (my guess), and it was actually in the heart of what is now a busy street area. Inside the walls and exploring the villa was really peaceful though; we couldn't hear much street noise and there weren't many other tourists (which was refreshing). The carvings, painting and all of the detail in the house was amazing! But my favorite part were the gardens; there were gardens tucked in all sorts of little courtyards, and the last thing we visited was the immense garden area. It actually wasn't that big, but the detail that was crammed into the space was incredible. We took a lot of pictures! There was a central pond with bridges and a pavilion to sit in; there were balconies overlooking everything, and the funnest part was an area of little caves formed from rocks; I almost got lost in there! All of the garden elements that are central to China could be found in this garden, and it was a delight for me to finally see a private garden! I think we all enjoyed this visit very much.