by day…magic by night.
the simple description of "LanternAsia," an
exhibit of Chinese art you can see at Norfolk Botanical
Garden now through April 30.
simplicity stops there.
are more than 30 scenes in this one-mile walking
tour," says Kelly Welsh, marketing and
communications director at the botanical garden in
the day, witness the craftsmanship and detail of this
magnificent art. By night, the sculptures light up the
night. It’s really two different experiences."
exhibit also provides insight into the many Asian plant
collections at the botanical garden —
you think about the plant pallet that makes up the
typical southeastern Virginia garden, it is amazing just
how many of them come from East Asia," says Les
Parks, curator of herbaceous plants at the botanical
crape myrtles, hydrangeas, azaleas, liriope, Chinese
hollies, Japanese hollies and many other plants are so
common one might mistakenly consider them native."
are so many of these stalwarts of the local landscape
from the other side of the globe?
— they come from a climate so similar to Hampton Roads
Virginia — hot humid summers, adequate rain, and
relatively mild winters — that they thrive here.
because they thrive here doesn’t mean we should ignore
our own native plants. Both can be part of a diverse
are three Asian plants at Norfolk Botanical Garden that
relate to the LanternAsia exhibit, according to Les
Camellia, or Camellia sinensis
tea camellia is native to broadleaved evergreen forests
in China and in neighboring countries of Southeast Asia,
according to Parks. Tea is made from the vegetative buds
and young leaves of Camellia sinensis. The tea camellia
can be a worthy addition to Southern gardens. It is
usually the first camellia to bloom, sometime in
October, with small white flowers surrounding a yellow
boss of stamens. The small to medium height shrubs are
usually very cold hardy in Hampton Roads, and prefer
well drained soils in partly shaded gardens. Cold hardy
to Zone 6.
Maple, or Acer palmatum
Botanical Garden is a great place for "momiji-gari,"
or "maple tree viewing." Japanese culture
recognizes viewing the fall color of maples as a
significant spiritual experience … one with nature,
according to Parks. In the 8th century, maples began
appearing in Japanese poetry, and are synonymous with
some of the most famous Japanese works of art. Japanese
maples are the most commonly used tree for bonsai, and
Japan takes maple leaves one step further — eating
them! The harvested leaves are deep fried in a yummy
tempura batter. Acer palmatum may be native to Japan,
North and South Korea, eastern Mongolia and southeastern
Russia, but there is no doubt that Japan has the
strongest connection to this magnificent tree, says
Parks. Cold hardy to Zone 5.
Tree, or Ginkgo biloba
gingko tree is truly a living fossil — 250 million
years ago, well before the dinosaurs, ginkgo species
grew worldwide and were a bridge between primitive and
modern plant forms, according to Parks. Today there is
only one species left, which is native to China, though
there is some doubt that any remain in the wild.
However, the tree is widely planted around the world,
and is chiefly valued for its beautiful fall foliage and
resilient nature. Female trees produce a fruit whose
flesh has a very disagreeable odor, but the nut inside
can be roasted and eaten. In traditional and modern
medicine it is used to address a variety of cognitive
complaints. Though they are slow, ginkgoes are
adaptable, easy to grow and can live for centuries, says
Parks. Cold hardy to Zone 4.