Detente, Plant Style
“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Kipling a hundred years ago. Not so with respect to gardening. The Far East, spared the great sheets of ice that descended upon North America during the Ice Ages, has been a treasure trove of plants. Though distance, water, and culture kept the gardening worlds of the East and the West separate for millennia, the gap began to narrow just over two-hundred years ago.
The first plants to trickle out of China were those plants most accessible to foreigners — cultivated plants growing at and around seaport towns. It was not until the
middle of the nineteenth century that plant explorers pressed inland to open wide the treasure chest of wild and cultivated plants, many of which have found their way into my garden. These plant explorers are honored in plants that …