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Something old, something new

By Zhang Yue | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-11 10:40

Something old, something new

Chenshan Botanical Garden draws a big crowd with its beautiful flowers and stunning scenery. Provided to China Daily

You might have thought fertile land and a favorable location would be a prerequisite to establishing a botanical garden, but that was not the case at Chenshan Botanical Garden in Shanghai's suburbs.

The municipal government's urban planning department didn't have many options when it determined there was a need for a garden in 2003.

"It's not an ideal place to build a botanical garden," agrees veteran gardener Peng Guiping, who transferred from the downtown Shanghai Botanical Garden to Chenshan. "Yet the truth is we didn't have much choice."

Shanghai has nine hills, none of which are higher than 90 meters, while Chenshan is 71.4 meters.

"In choosing the site for a new garden, a large area and natural diversity are key factors," Peng says.

The combination of a hill and a 30-meter-deep quarry lake that could provide water during the dry season made the Chenshan site a viable candidate, even though it was barren after decades of quarrying.

"The water was so clean when I first saw it in 2004. It was like jade, you could hardly notice the floating leaves on the water's surface," Peng recalls, adding, "The deeper the water is the better it can purify itself."

Landscaping of the site began in 2005 by the urban planning department, and more than 500 households in Chenshan village were relocated.

Most of the park was littered with rocks and stones, so in order to grow plants a layer of topsoil was added, similar to how roof gardens are formed.

"Shanghai has very few natural resorts," says Li Tianhua, a 28-year-old who has lived in Shanghai for five years.

"We tend to drive for hours to nearby Zhejiang province for mountain climbing on weekends when the weather is good."

Now, they have a closer option.

Chen Xuan, a 29-year-old Shanghai newlywed, says that after visiting Chenshan Botanical Garden during the recent Tomb-Sweeping Festival she decided to have her wedding photos taken there in the summer because it's so beautiful.

"Not many of my friends know about the park yet," she says. "I noticed it while I was online researching where to go during the holiday. I had no idea there was a quarry garden nearby. It really is breathtaking."

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