Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 12:45

The Eden Project has started to create the UK's first Korean garden, themed around the unique plants of the Korean peninsula and the extraordinary reforesting of South Korea over the last 50 years.

The garden will feature the national flowers of both North and South Korea - Magnolia sieboldii and Hibiscus syriacus respectively.

The new garden occupies a thousand square metre space on the top edge of the Eden outdoor gardens close to the Visitor Centre.

The garden carries important themes. Firstly the ability of nature to heal the wounds of war as demonstrated in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea and secondly how government policy in South Korea has established forests over a nation stripped of forest by war.

It will represent a piece of regenerating wild Korean woodland. Eden is creating this garden because the story of plants regenerating an area reflects its own heritage as a former mining site which was barren and sterile before the project was built.

South Korea is one of the few countries in the world to have rebuilt its natural capital. Above all the garden will showcase the spectacular natural flora of South Korea - already the source of many valued plants in UK gardens.

Eden is working with partners the Korea National Arboretum (KNA) to source plants and seeds and support the design of an authentic and beautiful exhibit. The KNA is located just outside Seoul.

It also operates the DMZ Botanic Garden, which is in the “punch bowl” area of the DMZ, so called because it is surrounded by hills and mountains. This region was ravaged by particularly fierce battles during the Korean War due to its strategically important position.

Eden’s Outdoor Horticultural Lead Julie Kendall is overseeing the development of the garden and recently returned from a trip to Korea, kindly funded by the Cornwall Garden Society and Royal Horticultural Society.

Working with her is Korea National Arboretum researcher HyeYoung Jin, who accompanied Julie on her Korean trip and has just finished a six-month placement in Cornwall, funded by the South Korean government, to develop plans for the garden at Eden.

HyeYoung was chosen because of her strong interest in programmes that promote coexistence between botanic gardens and local communities. Her experience includes involvement with the construction of national arboretums, as well as garden culture-related programmes.

HyeYoung returned to Korea at the beginning of January and will now help source plants and seeds for the Eden garden from the KNA.

It will feature lilacs, oaks and magnolias native to the DMZ area. The garden will also host Aristolochia manshuriensis and Aristolochia contorta, hardy relatives of the tropical Dutchman’s pipe, also known as birthwort or pipevine and found in Eden’s Rainforest Biome.

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.

As well as a selection of plants, the garden will 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 and a new outdoor South African veldt. Each of these has a specific message about ecological regeneration around the world. 

Landscaping work is underway and planting is due to begin in spring. The garden is due to be finished in 2020.

HyeYoung Jin said: “I have really enjoyed my time at Eden, it’s an exciting and interesting place with great events and educational programmes. Eden is always changing and it’s so impressive. Korean gardens and Eden can learn a lot from each other.”

Julie Kendall said: “We are very excited to be creating the UK’s first Korean garden, to show off the distinct and beautiful plants of this amazing region. The story of reforestation in Korea following the land being ravaged during the war is fascinating and chimes with Eden’s story of regeneration.

“It is very green and lush and you wouldn’t know it was an area of conflict but for the checkpoints, landmine signs and barbed wire. I was inspired by my trip to Korea and elements of things I saw there will make it into the Eden garden.”