Made in China?

 In Gardens Visited, Seasonal Gardening, Travel, Winter colour

Whatever you buy nowadays, it seems to be made in China doesn’t it? You would think that would be limited to manufactured goods wouldn’t you? And that the Chinese influence hadn’t yet reached our gardens?


Lan Su Garden, Port;land, Oregon

Lan Su Gardens surrounded by city buildings

Think again for over a century most of the ornamental plants we grow have been introduced from that vast and rich country!

Okay, so they aren’t actually produced there and shipped over to your local garden centre [yet]. But many of the shrubs, perennials, trees and climbers that we love are Chinese native plants!

Now the closest that I have got to China is the tiny Kingdom of Sikkim. This is now part of India and in the northern parts you can peep into China [Tibet], Bhutan and of course Nepal.



Visit a Chinese Garden

I guess the next best thing to an actual visit is to see a really good Chinese garden and that I certainly did in USA!

Portland, out there on the west coast in the fascinating state of Oregon, has arguably the very best Chinese garden outside of China!

Yin Yang pebble paving

Yin Yang pebble paving

Perhaps that isn’t surprising when you learn that this garden was actually built by Chinese craftsmen. They used mostly materials imported from China.

I say mostly, for the import regulations for plant material are so stringent that you virtually have to kill a plant before it can enter the USA!

So the plants at least were sourced locally but no less than 500 tons of rock was brought in and masses of wood too!





How does it look in winter?

Diospyrus, persimmon, sharon fruit

Diospyros kaki [Persimmon fruits]

But to visit a Chinese garden in mid winter?

Well yes actually, I would recommend it. And I’d recommend a visit at any other time of the year too!

This is a delightful garden full of thought provoking hard and soft landscaping. True, there is a lot of hard stuff packed into this downtown garden. But the planting is good too with much to see even in mid-winter!

The garden occupies a block among towering modern buildings and is a total contrast to its surroundings.


Which plants caught my eye in winter?

Mahonia, Lan Su Garden, Portland, Oregon

Mahonia lomariifolia

Highlights when I visited in early January were Mahonia lomariifolia in full bloom and winter sweet [Chimonanthus praecox] subtly filling the air with deliciously sweet scent. This Mahonia species is a parent of those popular Mahonia x media hybrids that include Charity.

Persimmon fruits [Diospyros kaki] glistening like orange baubles from a strategically placed tree.

There are over 300 varieties and species in this garden [ more than 30,000 native plants in China to choose from!] and so whatever time you visit there is bound to be plenty to see.

I would love to visit in spring when many cherries, magnolias, Camellia and Rhododendron will be at their best.

I’d imagine that the leaf colour from the many maples there would ensure that an autumn visit is good too.

There are so many interesting plants to see that a visit in any month of the year will be worthwhile.

Lan Su tea house, Portland

Authentic Chinese buildings

The authentic buildings, water features and other Chinese artifacts make you believe you have just stepped back 600 years. Perhaps even into a wealthy aristocrat’s garden in the Ming Dynasty.

For more details visit


There are many compelling reasons to visit the Pacific North West of the USA. The climate is similar to the UK. Combine this with the enthusiasm for gardening that home owners from the Pacific Northwest have it’s little wonder that this area is full of good gardens to see.

When in Portland be sure to see the city’s fabulous world famous rose garden and a few minutes away probably the best Japanese garden outside of Japan too!

Winter Sweet, Chimonanthus

Sweet scented winter sweet shrub

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