November 8, 2007


A Page from a Korean Garden Calendar titled NOVEMBER

A Korean friend gave me a calendar with a different garden illustrated each month. The one for November was particularly striking and brought back many wonderful memories of my visit to one of Korea's most beloved gardens in Seoul.

Surrounded by a canyon of high rises is the beautiful national treasure, Changdeok Palace, constructed in 1405. In the back of the palace is the Huwon, or Rear Garden, home to 13 of Korea's kings . My visit to this beloved garden really opened my eyes to the amazing simplicity and at the same time, sophistication of Korean garden design.

Unlike Japanese , Korean gardens are natural and unforced. Such features as ponds, rockeries, pine, bamboo, pear, apple , and other fruit trees are popular. You won't see a lot of flowers in bloom yet the textures and colors of the trees and shrubs create interest. And while Huwon is a more refined style of the royal family it has a decidedly natural beauty with its lotus ponds, pavillions and rockeries.

Huwon Garden

A fascinating feature of Huwon is the Ongnyucheon Stream ( Jade Stream ) created by King Injo in 1636. The story goes that the King and his cohorts would float their wine cups to each other and before it reached its destination a poem or song had to be completed. A poem carved in stone and with the King's inscription still exists there.

Ongnyucheon Stream

Animal motifs as well as natives can be found throughout the garden . There are over 40 species of birds, and ancient trees, some a thousand years old, still exist .

The fact that the palace and rear garden exists at all is a miracle considering what it has gone through in the turbulent history of Korea. After being destroyed several times it has gone through many restorations. It is now listed on UNESCO's World Heritage sites and is one of the most beloved and frequently visited gardens in Korea.

The hectic lifestyle in Seoul , which by the way is the 5th most populated city in the world,
( Tokyo is now 11th ) , brings many of its citizens there to seek refuge and tranquility.


  1. Thank you for introducing yourself, Carolyn, and also for the kind invitation.(Hope I can remember on the 1st)!

    You have quite an interesting blog yourself ... enjoyed this lesson on Korean Gardens ... I had no idea! I love Mackinac Island also. Visited in June during the lilac festival and toured the gardens (we share the same landscape designers). Trust me, I'll be back for another visit!

  2. Beautiful light in that first photo! Seoul is one of those places I don't anticipate ever visiting, but now, through the marvels of web-travel...I don't have to! :-)

  3. hi carolyn - maybe this is the style i should have gone for? lord knows i need refuge and tranquility!

    got a question for you, doctor! i saw this really nice looking wine & roses weigela at HD for 7 bucks! i love the purple foliage but I'm concerned that it's too late to plant it since the temps are getting below freezing more and more. what do you think?

  4. Love the 'Wine and Roses ", too and for 7 bucks grab it, bury it and next Summer it'll resume it's growth. It may take one season before it blooms but it's a great shrub . It has attractive deep pink flowers too.

    As long as the ground isn't frozen you can plant, Gina so snatch up all the bargains you can.

  5. Beautiful garden photos especially of the stream with the single floating blossom.

  6. Thanks, Ki. It reminds me of a painting I once saw of a scene looking out of the window. There was an ashtray with a lit cigarette on the sill and you could feel that someone had just left the room.

    The wine cup and the blossom in the photo symbolize a presence as well.

  7. My husband used to travel to Korea - he was there for the lantern festival but it was a different garden/park. I wanted to see the gardens, but I'd never make it through the long flight... like Jodi I appreciate your taking us here, Carolyn!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. By all means, you're welcome, Annie. That is a long flight to Korea isn't it but the one to Australia has got to be the longest .

    I think you must be speaking of the celebration of Buddha's birthday sometime in April often referred to as the " lantern " festival.

    When I was in Korea I wanted to visit the legendary Cheju Island where the women work as divers and the men stay home and take care of the kids ! They had an outbreak of Cholera at that time and so I couldn't go.


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