Merry, Merry: That's How This Garden Grows and GrowsA rather cutesy flower mythology says that dandelions are the metamorphosis of stars that have fallen to earth, and the white magnolia is the soul of a princess who died of a broken heart. Even if you're not convinced, you can still enjoy the natural beauties of the Korea Botanic Garden, which include dandelions, considered more of a curse than a blessing elsewhere; irises; violets and poppies.
The garden, located on the fringe of Mount Odae in Kangwon province, is rather like a real-life Garden of Eden. Wildflowers of various shapes bloom and butterflies flutter around. Firs standing high and straight toward the sky add freshness to the almost perfect scenery of the garden.
The garden covers about 100,000 square meters, and has a variety of wild plants and flowers. According to experts, some of the grasses, flowers and trees are native to Korea, but some were introduced. Wild plants can look rather simple and unsophisticated, but blend in well with their natural surroundings compared to plants that are artificially bred, imported or suited to another climate. The garden has the biggest collection of wild plants in the nation, boasting 900 species of flowers and 200 species of trees of the 4,300 wild plants that grow in Korea.
The garden also has 23 of the 45 kinds of Cypripedium, gaebulal-kkot, found on the planet. This is a spectacular orchid also known as "lady's slipper."
Kim Chang-ryul, head of the Korea Botanic Garden, says he intends to breed edible wild plants including the cham-nari, a kind of lily native to Korea. "Wild plants have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient days. The medical effects of some plants have been proved scientifically. We plan to boost our cultivation of medicinal and edible wild flowers to cover 1,800 plant species, which will erase the need for imports," he said.
The garden is a popular attraction for visitors to Mount Odae and students on school excursions. Last year, over 45,000 visitors strolled the garden appreciating the Korean beauties.
The garden is divided roughly into five different sections, covering plants named after human figures, plants named after animals, poisonous plants, especially fragrant plants and rare plants. Plants with human names include the pasqueflower, in Korean called halmi-kkot, grandma flower, and the lychnis, in Korean called dongja-kkot, or little boy flower. Plants with animal names include gwaeng-i-nun, cat's eye, and jebi-kkot, swallow flower.
The Korea Botanic Garden opens between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m from April to October. Admission costs 3,000 won. For more information, call 033-332-7069 (Korean service only).
by Kim Sae-joon