Green surprises in Beijing: gardening in China’s capital

by Tamara Treichel

Spring is upon us again, with thoughts of flowers and gardens shooting up.

Love of houseplants is universal, except if you have a nomadic lifestyle, I suppose.

Most residences and offices have some kinds of plants, at least some plain-Jane pothos or bashful peace lilies.

“Oh yes! It’s necessary for me to have plants,” a fellow expat called Diane told me. I, too, couldn’t imagine my life here without them; else I would feel I would just be slumming it in a hotel-like setting instead of my home, which is in a hutong house. My friends and coworkers also enjoy having plants with some occasionally posting photos of their vegetable gardens or cacti on Wechat; a Chinese coworker told me he had two plants, and when he was away on vacation, he said he “hope[d] they live well in Beijing.”

Plants not only beautify the environment  – they also offer wonderful entertainment (Lillian Gish films aside, the best silent movies ever if you watch them unfurl their leaves or poke their green little noses out of the soil!) . Plants are morale boosters, works of art, scientific experiments, a practice in patience, and have a meditative quality. They can nourish the soul, but cause headache or heartache if you forget to water or take care of them, if they have pests or rot – or if they downright die on you.

Hyacinth in bloom

Hyacinth in bloom

Planting hyacinths

Planting hyacinths

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