Pristine flora of Korean demilitarised zone inspires English garden

Eden Project landscape to reflect demilitarised zone and forests restored after war

A garden inspired by the restoration of forests devastated in the Korean war, and by the lush vegetation that has taken hold in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two countries, is being created in a corner of south-west England.

The garden at the Eden Project in Cornwall will feature wild lilacs, magnolias, lilies and oaks as well as the national plants of South and North Korea.

Landscaping work is under way and planting is due to begin in spring, with completion expected in 2020.

Hyeyoung Jin, from North Korea, and Eden Project lead horticulturalist, Julie Kendall, plant a Magnolia Seiboldii tree.
Hyeyoung Jin, from North Korea, and Eden Project lead horticulturalist, Julie Kendall, plant a Magnolia Seiboldii tree. Photograph: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/Eden Project

Dr Mike Maunder, the director of life sciences at Eden, said: “Our gardens tell stories. This is one of a new range of gardens that not only showcase beautiful plants from around the world but tell an important story about restoration of ecosystems and communities.

“South Korea, with its commitment to rebuilding its forests, is a perfect example of a place where a spectacular flora coincides with extraordinary restoration work.”

After the war, he said, South Korea’s forest cover had been “shredded and reduced to tiny fragments”. The government decided to rebuild the forest areas to protect the watershed, save mountains from erosion and engagepeople in rebuilding the country.

“They took a devastated landscape and re-established it as a largely forested place.”

Hikers walk along an autumn trail on Mount Seorak in South Korea.
Hikers walk along an autumn trail on Mount Seorak in South Korea. Photograph: Yonhap/EPA

Meanwhile, the DMZ remained largely untouched. At around 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, it is considered one of the most well-preserved areas of temperate habitat in the world. The area includes mountains, prairies, swamps, lakes and tidal marshes.

“But you don’t go there,” Maunder said. “As a result, wildlife and biodiversity has rebounded to a spectacular extent. It is now celebrated in South Korea as a national treasure, as a place of extreme beauty and symbolism.”

Eden is working with the Korea National Arboretum (KNA) to source plants and seeds for the garden, but is not talking directly with North Korea.

The garden will feature the national flowers of both North and South Korea: Magnolia sieboldii and Hibiscus syriacus respectively. A rare small apple species native to North Korea and China, Malus komarovii, which is endangered and not available commercially, is also being sourced and, when planted, could be the first example of the species in the UK.

The garden will also boast features quintessential to Korea, including an archway inspired by Korean temples and palaces, and a dry riverbed.

The garden will complement Eden’s existing wild Cornwall landscape, the North American prairie garden and a planned South African veldt. Each area has a specific message about ecological regeneration around the world.

Contributor

Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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