Gardens….Nature’s Hallways

Post in response to – Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #147: Gardens

In the words of Rudyard Kipling “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” 

Gardens require planning, execution, labour and nurture. The best examples of this interplay of Sense and Sensibility are Chinese gardens in China or anywhere with Chinese diaspora. Enclosed by walls, they open like a ‘scroll of landscape paintings’ with flowers, trees, rocks, ponds dabbed between rockeries, pavilions, tea rooms, interconnecting loopy paths, miniature bridges (painted red), intricate tiling, galleries and sit-outs.

My perennial favourites ( I have shared earlier) for esoteric the MASTER OF THE NETS GARDEN, SUZHOU, CHINA, and the second for its literary ambiance…. the Shakespeare Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York … two extremes of nature presentation.

Life begins the day you start a garden. – Chinese proverb

The Master of the Nets Garden, Suzhou (2014): Chinese landscaping is a blend of art and nature and in 13th-century Suzhou landscaping art reached its zenith. There are more than 200 gardens, private as well as public, representing the garden styles of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The reason for the profusion of gardens was that the region south of the Yangtze River had produced some of China’s most refined scholars, painters and poets and the  gardens were their personal property and their refuge  from life’s disillusions and also a place to create art, poetry and music.

The Master of the Nets Garden or the ‘Ten Thousand Volume Hall’, was constructed in 1140 by Shi Zhengzhi the Deputy Civil Service Minister of the Southern Song Dynasty government. The story is that the owner of Garden was grateful to a fisherman for saving his daughter from drowning and named the Garden after him.  A more prosaic version is that the owner, a bureaucrat, got disillusioned with his government job and proclaimed that he would rather be a fisherman than a government official.Whatever the reason, nature lovers are grateful for this ‘miniaturization of the larger universe’ with rock formations, placement of trees, ponds, pavilions and resting areas and the immaculate zigzag tile patterns, intuitively one does not stomp, that gives an impression that one has traversed great distances. The rockeries, waterfalls, paths and corridors are perfectly placed amidst shrubs, trees and flowers, including the Longevity Bridge, a miniature arched bridge in the Central Garden. Our Guide made us step up and down to increase the years in our lives.

One can sit for hours in the quietness of the pagoda, lulled by the peaceful ambience of the Garden. I look around at groups and solitary artists engrossed in capturing the scenes in their note books and wonder what they must be thinking. Or like me imagining the jeans/skirts/sneakers transform into silken robes with feet encased in silken embroidered shoes, flitting between trees, pavilions and rockeries.

The 5,400 meter garden is divided into three main sections: the Residential Garden, the Central Garden and the Inner Garden. The buildings, such as the Hall for Staying Spring, the Ming Scholar’s Studio, the Peony Study, the Watching Pines Studio and the Appreciating Painting Studio are easily accessible from the garden. The high point of the Central section is a lotus-filled pond, the Rosy Cloud Pool set amidst a limestone “mountain” and the poetically sounding ‘Washing My Ribbon Pavilion’. The name resonates with a fisherman’s song… “If the water of the Canglang River is clean, I wash the ribbon of my hat. If the water of the Canglang River is dirty, I wash my feet.” This is another China, of history, memory, and even nostalgia.

Shakespeare Garden…. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York (2011)

Another attention seeker The Shakespeare Garden, part of The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York, is a literary tribute to the Bard.The other Shakespeare Garden is in Central Park, New York. I was impressed as most of the 80 kinds of plants mentioned in his works are grown in this English ‘Cottage’ style garden. I could find only a few images from my 2011 visit.

The plants, herbs and flowers are tagged with their botanical names, Shakespearean names along with relevant quotation from poem or play. 

The Shakespeare Garden was established in 1925 as a learning concept for children, to familiarise them with Shakespeare.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden includes in its fold,,, a Japanese Garden, profusion of Cherry Blossom trees, conservatories and Greenhouses flaunting bonsais, rare orchids, tulips, roses and desert plants.

Japanese Garden at BBG, New York

14 thoughts on “Gardens….Nature’s Hallways

  1. The fascination of the Chinese for bizarrely shaped rocks is a recurring theme of their gardens. Cornell Plantations has similarly themed gardens with links to of plants to history.

  2. Beautiful photos of these special gardens. Suzhou landscaping art has a long history. We a visited a garden several years ago, wish we had spent more days there.

  3. Growing up a garden was always a lawn with flower beds. Chinese gardens changed the concept & now small or big gardens are manicured planned out entities

  4. Thank you for sharing these different gardens. Here in England we have all different styles of gardens. We love most those gardens that radiate a middle eval feeling, like the gardens of the monastries in those times. Chinese gardens we love as well. The different ideas of a garden in the 12th c. in China and Europe are so different.
    We like how you documented the Chinese gardens.
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. I completely get the point that gardening is not a leisure activity! It takes a lot of efforts to bring in the desired results and the ambience created by even a small garden is enough to rejuvenate your whole self. Amazed to witness ‘Ten Thousand Volume Hall’. It looks fascinating! ‘The Brooklyn Botanic’ is another wonder! Thanks for sharing the astonishing pictures of these captivating gardens and the beautiful stories! Loved it!

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