Yongin’s horticultural mecca awaitsMay is the time to get out and smell the roses (and the azaleas and hydrangeas), and one of the best places on the peninsula to enjoy the spring blossoms is at a botanical garden. Korea’s largest, Hantaek Botanical Garden, in Yongin, Gyeonggi province, has finally completed a major expansion and renovation that has been ongoing since 2001.
The garden is divided into Dongwon, or east garden, where visitors can see more than 6,000 types of plants, and Seowon or west garden, a smaller area where Hantaek’s scientists breed plants and conduct research. The research done at the Seowon is what sets Hantaek apart from the 30 or so other botanical gardens in Korea, most of which are just for display and do not carry out organized research. Seowon is not open to the public.
Dongwon is divided into specialized areas such as a rock garden, shrubbery garden, garden for medicinal plants and areas for grasses and bulbs. It’s like walking into a horticultural paradise. Passing through the iris garden, where irises (of course) and bunchflowers greet the visitor, one reaches the neatly trimmed lily garden. Most of the lilies and day lilies are imported from Europe and the United States.
After climbing a small hill, the highlight of Hantaek, the Eco-garden spreads out before one’s eyes. The Eco-garden takes up three-quarters of Hantaek’s 626,000 square meters (150 acres) and features plants native to Korea such as dandelions, yulan magnolias, various endemic Korean plants and examples of the genus Lychnis. Surrounded by pine and oak trees, the area is designed to allow in optimum levels of light, humidity and ventilation for the plants to thrive.
The rock garden has plants that grow at 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 meters) above sea level. Most of the plants grow on cliffs and steep, rocky hillsides. A hexagonal greenhouse sits in the center of the Dongwon and houses exotic flowers, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, that require warmer year-round temperatures.
Hantaek staff take great pride in their peony collection, which includes 350 varieties of peony, which were donated by the Beijing Botanical Garden seven years ago. In its promotional literature, Hantaek calls this area the most beautiful section of Dongwon.
A tour of the botanical garden takes around two hours to complete. Lee Taek-ju, the founder and director of the botanical garden, says, “If you visit the garden every season, there will always be a new feel to it.”
The entrance fee is 7,000 won ($5.75) on weekdays and 8,500 won on weekends for adults, and there are discounts for children and the elderly. The garden is open all year from 9 a.m. to sunset.
by Kim Sae-joon
For more information, call (031) 671-5666, 6438 or visit www.hantaek.com