Random thoughts and snippets as I sort the photos from our recent trip to southern China. .
Ping ducks! Not the Yangtze River, but as soon as I saw these ducks, I recalled The Story About Ping. It dates back to 1933 so I am guessing it was part of my childhood. We certainly read it to our children and it must be in the bookcase somewhere to this day. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that none of the others around me at the time had ever heard of Ping. They must have had deprived childhoods is all I can say. Ping ducks in China were a delight. I bought a little Chinese bird whistle – the sort where you blow through water and get bird warble rather than a piercing squeak – to gift with the book to our grandson in due course. (The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese.)
Modern China is a country of huge contrast. We started in Foshan, a satellite city of Guangzhou. Our guide told us that it had pretty much been rebuilt in the last five years and there was little of the original remaining. It was full of contemporary buildings, some very sculptural. So when we visited a nursery, and I came across their potting team at work in the rain, it was like a glimpse back in time. Low tech does not really describe it. There does not appear to be a strong workers’ rights movement in play here. Obviously we pampered our staff far too much when we were still running the nursery here.
Sometimes Mark can surprise me with his knowledge. “It’s a tabebuia,” he said when he looked at this photo, though he had never seen one in real life. He then had second thoughts and wondered if it is Tecoma stans. A search on Wikipedia has us leaning to the tabebuia because it was more tree than shrub. Both tecoma and tabebuia are in the bignoniaceae family so there is a familial connection between them though they are not close relatives. The big yellow trumpets were a delight in the sub tropical climate of Jinghong, at a temple beside the Mekong River in Southern China.
Ha! Under planting can be as crass, random and ill thought out in China as in New Zealand. When I visited a group of open gardens at home, I noticed that the under planting was a major weakness but I did not feel able to use the photos I took because the owners might well recognise their place and feel hurt and betrayed – even if I did not name the location. But honestly, planting bedding plants in alternating colours or random arrangements rarely cuts the mustard. In some of our local gardens, I have seen alternating blue and yellow pansies as a border edging beneath well kept pink roses. Neither is alternating white alyssum with yellow pansies creative or classy and alternating two colours of petunias is no better. If you don’t want your garden to look like an amateur version of a traffic island, then be very circumspect with punnets of annuals from the garden centre.
There were no panda bears to be seen on our trip, but what can’t you do with bamboo? Here we saw it used as a walkway in what is described as a primitive forest in Xishuangbanna. It was also used in much wider expanses as decking over rough ground at the Jinhuo tourist village. It is a bit shaky to walk on and I have no idea about its longevity but the use of a traditional material that is fully biodegradable has some appeal in a modern world of concrete and plastic.