Wonders abloom await at arboretums
How about heading over to one of the country’s botanical gardens that offer peace and quiet to supplement your oxygen intake this month?
May is considered the ideal month to visit botanical gardens as it offers the most beautiful scenery and scents following fully blooming flowers. The JoongAng Ilbo selected four arboretums that are not only close enough to Seoul to visit within a day but also beautifully groomed.
Chuncheon in Gangwon
The Jade Garden, which was established in 2011 by Hanhwa Group, is themed around the concept of a “small Europe.”
This botanical garden greets visitors with its exotic guest center that looks like a small house in Italy’s Tuscany, with an English border garden. The 160-square-kilometer (99-square-mile) garden has been a popular shooting location for television dramas and films.
The visitors’ center appeared in a recent hit drama, “That Winter, the Wind Blows,” as the home of the main female character played by actress Song Hye-gyo, while the cafeteria, “Sunberry,” in the garden, was used as the home of a main female character in the drama “Love Rain.” Sunberry, which offers a great view of the garden, is especially popular among tourists from China and Southeast Asia.
During May, two gardens including the “Flower Wave Garden,” which will bloom with tulips, and the “Tree Play House” are said to be most beautiful. The “Rhododendron Garden” and the “Moss Garden” are said to be popular during the hot summer season as it is surrounded by tall trees, offering cool breezes and shade.
The Jade Garden opens at 9 a.m. and closes around sunset. Entrance fee is 8,000 won ($7.10) for adults; 6,000 won for students and 5,000 won for children. For more information, call (033) 260-8300 or visit www.jadegarden.kr.
Asan in South Chungcheong
After surviving a heart attack at age 39, Park Geon-sang, 54, decided to move to the Asan countryside, South Chungcheong. He began planting different trees on a stone mountain and as the trees grew taller, he felt like he was healing.
After working on this stone mountain for 10 years, he finally opened Pinnacle Land in July 2007. Park thought it was “too bombastic” to call it an arboretum so he used the word “land” instead.
As a model, Park used the Botania in Geoje’s island, Oedo in South Gyeongsang, to establish his botanical garden. The person who cultivated the Botania is, in fact, Park’s mother-in-law. Although Park established Pinnacle Land after learning from his mother-in-law, Park’s garden offers a very different atmosphere than Botania - if Botania is a garden that can be enjoyed more by adults, Pinnacle Land is for children.
Small and large trees including metasequoia, zelkova and nut pines are planted in the well-groomed 80-square-kilometer garden, while squirrels, rabbits and peacocks roam underneath the trees. Pinnacle Land offers numerous programs for children, such as pony rides on weekends.
An artwork, “Greet of the Sun,” which is in the center of Pinnacle Land, is the landmark of the garden. This pinwheel-shaped artwork, which is 8.6 meters (28 feet) tall, is a work by the world-renowned artist, Shingu Susumu. Park said he had sent letters of requests for three years to the Japanese artist and eventually persuaded him to create the piece.
The location of Pinnacle Land used to be a stone quarry and the traces of its past can be witnessed from the top of the garden. Park turned a pond called “Jinkyungsansu,” which was left abandoned after quarrying and used to build the Asanman breakwater in 1970, into a beautiful Oriental-looking pond by adding an artificial waterfall.
In May, lilacs and pear blossoms go into full bloom. Pinnacle Land is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. everyday except Tuesdays. The entrance fee is 7,000 won for adults and 4,000 won for children. For more information, call (041) 534-2590 or visit www.pinnacleland.net.
Osan in Gyeonggi
This provincial park operated in Gyeonggi opened its doors to the public in 2005. Located amidst high-rise apartment buildings in the city center, this vast flat garden is often visited by nearby residents and used more like a playground for children than an arboretum. Visitors can take food such as a packed lunch into the arboretum, making it an ideal place for a picnic with friends and family. However, there are no cafeterias or restaurants inside the arboretum.
The Mulhyanggi Arboretum, which translates into water fragrance arboretum in English, is about 33 square kilometers and offers 19 themed gardens with more than 1,600 species of plants. As the ground is quite flat, it is a great place for a leisurely walk, even with strollers. To casually look around the arboretum, it takes about three hours.
The “Maze Garden” is popular among children as a place to play hide-and-seek, while “Topiary Garden,” which displays various woodworks, attracts adults.
Other gardens include the Maple Tree Garden, the Fruit Tree Garden, the Dwarf Tree Garden, Insect Ecology Garden and many more. There’s also an observatory made from a tree. Tadpoles can be seen swimming in the wetland while Korean squirrels can be spotted scurrying up and down the trees.
The Mulhyanggi Arboretum, which is about an hour away from Seoul, opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. everyday except Mondays. Entrance fee is 1,000 won for adults and 500 won for children. For more information, call (031) 378-1261 or visit mulhyanggi.gg.go.kr.
Hwanghak Mountain Arboretum
Yeoju in Gyeonggi
Yeoju County opened this 270-square-kilometer arboretum last year by planting 1,300 species of plants. It’s composed of 14 kinds of gardens categorized according to ecology and function of plants, such as Seupjiwon (wetland), Seokjeongwon (Stone Garden) and Sanyeolmaewon (Mountain and Fruit Garden).
The Hangariwon (Ceramic Garden) is especially popular as ceramic is one of the county’s symbols. Chewon, which has numerous vegetables Koreans often eat, is one of parents’ favorite gardens while it’s the least favorite for children.
The Hwanghak Mountain Arboretum offers easy walking, in-laid stone paths and a large wooded area. As it is a public arboretum, there are many spots that offer learning opportunities for both adults and children, such as the Forest Museum within the arboretum.
If you’re lucky, animals such as elks, squirrels, weasels and even woodpeckers can be seen. They are not taken care of by the arboretum but are wild animals that have settled there.
The Hwanghak Mountain Arboretum, which is open to the public for free, opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. everyday except Monday. For more information, call (031) 887-2741 or visit cafe.naver.com/hhsan2012.