Thursday, 9 February 2017

mr lee’s garden

It’s often claimed that you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it, and although I’m not completely convinced that this is always the case, Mr Lee’s garden does come close to proving the rule. When we moved into the village where we now live, in 2008, there were three things that we noticed straight away: the walled enclosure of Kun Lung Wai, the walls and gatehouse of which date back to 1744 and which are declared monuments; some noisy neighbours; and Mr Lee’s garden.

Mr Lee is a kindly Chinese gentleman who spent his entire working life in England but who returned to his home village in Hong Kong to retire. With little else to do, he took over what had been a patch of waste land alongside the only road through the village, and by hard, painstaking work transformed it into an artistic masterpiece. This is a photograph of the road that I took a few days after arriving in the village (Mr Lee’s garden is on the right):

…and these are four photos of the garden that I took at the same time, in sequence, as I walked towards the camera in the first photo:

The walls of Kun Lung Wai can be seen in the background in the first three photos. The three trees in the third photo are all banyans. I’ve no idea how old the two close together just right of centre were, but they were cut down a few years ago. The authorities in Hong Kong have been paranoid about sickly trees ever since a young woman was killed by a falling tree branch a few years ago, and it is true that these two weren’t producing much foliage, but I was still sad to see them go.

The fourth photo was taken from the entrance to the garden. It shows how the much younger tree in the third photo integrated with the rest of the garden. It was planted by Mr Lee himself around 1989/90, and it met a far more dramatic fate than its erstwhile neighbours in 2015:

Around this time, Mr Lee had been neglecting his garden for a couple of years because he had found himself with child-minding responsibilities. The weeds are obvious in the next photo, which is of the end of the garden furthest from the entrance. Compare it with the first photo of the garden above:

When I talked about losing something of value at the start of this report, I didn’t go into detail. However, I did mention that this garden is located on ‘waste land’. Well, last summer, we heard of plans to build a house here. We understand that this house will be located in the section shown in the previous photo, but we don’t know how long the rest of Mr Lee’s garden will survive.

Consequently, I’ve been taking a few photographs to remind us of former glories. First, I should point out that there are no garden gnomes in Mr Lee’s garden, but there are quite a few bizarre ornaments. Can you spot all the odd ornaments in the following photo?

You will be doing exceptionally well if you can identify all the unusual objects in this photo:

The strangers in this picture are pretty obvious:

The next four photos are merely random views of the garden:

In the next photo, the firecracker vine marks the entrance to the garden, while the brick structure that appears in a few photographs houses a brass plaque explaining the history of Kun Lung Wai:

Finally, here is a recent photo of the road that leads past the garden. You can compare it with the first photo in this report:

How things change!


  1. SPECIAL THANKS to Mr Lee's countless of hours in keeping such a lovely garden for anyone passing by. We are fortunate to live close by and can appreciate the beauty of his efforts across the years.

    1. ‘Anyone passing by’ is right. I often see strangers in the village looking around the garden.

  2. Did Japanese gardening evolve under Chinese influence? Or vice versa?

    1. I really couldn’t tell you Peter. There is certainly nothing here that I would recognize as Japanese (i.e. Zen-influenced). And Mr Lee certainly likes brightly coloured plants in his garden, which is not a Zen influence.

  3. Wow! That is more than a garden, it's a huge commitment. I wish I could muster up anything close to that kind of dedication. Sad to see the photo with it overgrown and weedy.

    1. I should point out that the ‘overgrown and weedy’ section is where the new house will go eventually Pat. The later photos in this post were taken quite recently, and the remainder of the garden is much tidier than it was a couple of years ago. We hope that Mr Lee can keep it up for many more years to come.


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