Plants in Chinese gardens

If rocks provide a Chinese garden’s structure, and water its life blood, then plants give it meaning and mystery. Plants play multiple roles in Chinese gardens:

  • Plants symbolize human emotions and aspirations. Bamboo bends beneath rain and wind with the pliant grace that characterizes a person facing adversity. Flowering plum trees show hope blooming in the cold gray of winter, and peonies symbolize opulence and riches.
  • Planting arrangements convey the ornamental qualities of natural landscapes. In Sichuan-style gardens, conifers, oaks and magnolias tumble across misty hillsides, tropical groundcovers plunge down the banks of streams, and bamboo forests edge ponds and lakes.
  • Plants celebrate the cycle of life. All phases of the year are represented in the garden planting design from the buds of spring to the brilliant leaves of autumn.

The Seattle Chinese Garden plant palette includes:

  • Traditional garden favorites plants with time-honored meanings lying deep in Chinese culture.
  • Exotic plants with ornamental qualities collected from Sichuan’s hills and valleys.
  • Unusual varieties of Chinese plants already familiar to Western gardeners, including new roses, wisterias, dogwoods and viburnums.

Plants for Knowing the Spring Courtyard by Riz Reyes

Riz Reyes is a horticulturist and plantsman
who owns RHR Horticulture and Landwave Gardens in Shoreline, Wash. He has explored Sichuan Province in search of garden plants and is an enthusiastic advocate for the Seattle Chinese Garden. Riz holds a BS in environmental horticulture and urban forestry from the University of Washington.
For more information: