Gardening With What You Have

Lost In The Tropics: Gardening On The Other Side Of The World

Christine Froehlichstine 02/25/2020 Comments

 

After spending most of February with my son and his famiy in Saigon, (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam, I'm re-adjusting to the barren winter world of upstate New York. 

 

saigon botanic garden

 

Last winter, I wrote about some of the private and public gardens I visited in Vietnam. This year, I spent more time in the city at the playgrounds and parks trying to keep pace with my 3 lively grand kids. The parks are a godsend. No one seems to write much about them, but I think they're one of the highlights of the city.

 

Saigon is intense - kind of like New York City on steroids. There aren't as many cars, but at every turn, you have to dodge swarms of motorbikes,pushcarts,taxis and pedestrians. Narrow uneven sidewalks packed with small tables,chairs and local street vendors make navigating hazardous and even crossing the street is a hair raising experience.

 

 

saigon street

 

The tree-lined parks that run throughout the city offer respite from all this hubbub. The French influence on horticulture is apparant everywhere you look. You'll find clipped evergreen hedges, topiaries and vine-covered arbors in just about every park you visit. 

 

One of my favorite retreats is the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden.  It's a perfect spot to escape the insanity of the city. I've been there with the kids - they could care less about the gardens, but they like the animals and amusement park rides. I'm not fond of the zoo, the hot dusty looking animals look kind of tired and sad. I prefer the sculpted topiary animals that parade around the gardens.

 

topiaries

 

A quick bit of history -  the Zoo was commissioned in 1864 by Admiral Pierre-Paul de La Grandière, commander of French forces in Cochinchina. The gardens came later (completed in 1990) and it's now the largest botanical garden in Vietnam. The plant collection contains species of orchids, cacti,ferns,bonsai, native and non-native trees and tropical specimens.

 

saigon zoo

 

I went on a day when the garden was practically empty and the kids weren't with me. Both being a rare occurence, I saw a lot I had missed on other visits.

 

saigon

 

One thing I really appreciated were the thick vine covered arbors that run through the center of the garden. They offered dappled shade that made walking in the tropical heat much more bearable. I recognized both Bouganvillea and Caracella vines, but there were plenty of others I couldn't identify. All of the trellises and arbors had several varieties climbing on them.

 

botanic garden

 

At the entrance you can see how hot colors, topiary and bonsai dominate the scene. This is a prime spot for selfies.

 

entrance saigon zoo

 

 

topiaries

 

Each path in this garden takes you into a different area that showcases specific types of plants. For the most part, they're tropical but this one was bedded out with red salvia, cleome, zinnias and sunflowers. It seemed so American, but was a common theme I saw in many of the public gardens in Vietnam.

 

saigon botanic garden
 

 

As I meandered into the next area, I found an impressive display of flowering tropical plants. 

 

Costus woodsonii - commonly known as dwarf cone ginger

 

 

 

The garden's only downfall was a lack of signage to identify the plants. The above photo made me think of some type of bottlebrush, but that's just a guess.

 

Adenium, also known as desert rose

 

 

 

Orchids are very common in Vietnam, kind of like marigolds are here in the states. This is part of the enormous orchid house and growing area. It was odd (but enjoyable) to meander around in a world of plants I normally experience as house plants. 

 

orchid house

 

I was intrigued with the bamboo staking in the bed below. Meticulous care is given to staking and pruning plants here. 

 

saigon botanic garden

 

In the desert room there are 32 varieties of cactus. Interesting to walk through but it made me feel even hotter!

 

desert garden

 

In a cooler area, ferns and palms dominate. The theme revolves around prehistoric animals, both topiary and plastic. Note the number of mature trees that provide shade - a welcome relief from the tropical sun!

 

path

 

saigon botanic garden

 

I've visited many public gardens, the abundance and variety of unusual plants and trees here rival any of them. Even when this park is crowded, the garden is a very peaceful spot. Most visitors flock to the zoo and amusement park rides.

 

water garden

  

The wonderful thing about public gardens is that they're available to everyone. I'm a big fan no matter where I am but felt doubly grateful for the inspiration and peace I found in this one.

 

Do you have a favorite public garden? Please share! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Newsletter Signup

 

 


Copyright © 2020 Gardening With What You Have. All Rights Reserved.
Web Development by SiteSteward, Inc.