Chinese Gardens in the Bay Area

In the evening of April 20th I gave a talk to the California Horticultural Society about Classical Chinese Gardens in Suzhou, China. I thought it would be nice to show a local garden at the end of my talk. Unfortunately we do not have a public Suzhou style garden in the Bay Area, even though we have one of the largest oversea Chinese population in the world. Portland and Pasadena are the nearest cities with authentic Suzhou-style Chinese Gardens.

Golden Gate Pavilion at Stow Lake in San Francisco

In the end, I showed a photo of the Golden Gate Pavilion at the Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. Stow lake is a great scenic spot mostly known just to the locals, proven by the ever-available parking space even with its proximity to the De Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. This is now my secret parking spot when I visit California Academy of Sciences on busy weekends.

This Chinese Royal Garden style pavilion was a gift from Taipei in 1981. I lucked out with a seagull gliding over when I took this picture on 3/25. This scene represents the ideal of Chinese gardens to ensure human comfort with architecture, and in the mean time to harmonize with nature using curves and decorations. If there were a row of weeping willows around the lake, this could have passed as a scene from Beijing.

There is another even more obscure Chinese Cultural Garden in the Overfelt Gardens in San Jose. Here there are several Royal style buildings commemorating Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Confucius. This garden is also a gift from Taiwan and it is on a great site with several interconnecting lakes and small mounds, which are just what is needed for an ideal garden from traditional Chinese design theory. The planting design, however, is very rudimentary but there is a lot of room to play with. My mind is already buzzing with ideas for more hardscapes and plant collections. I think this might be the best site for a Classical Chinese Garden in the Bay Area with the potential of becoming the first Royal Style Garden outside China. To me the strong orange and red colors of the Royal style is actually better suited for our brilliant California sunshine over the soft colors of Suzhou style gardens.

Overfelt Gardens in San Jose