Thursday, April 18, 2024

VIEW FROM SHANGHAI: How does your garden grow?


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There’s an old English nursery rhyme that begins: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? Here in Shanghai, the answer would be: “Very well.”
In the city, and in the Expo Park and Expo Village, plants and parks and gardens abound. In the Park, more than 5 000 Expo staffers work the night shift after the last visitors have left, in order to refresh the site for the following day. Among them are the gardeners who mow the lawns and tend the plants in the wee hours so as not to disturb the thousands of visitors during the day.                  
There are masses of red poinsettias promising the Christmas cheer that I associate with them. Yellow chrysanthemums help to brighten up the day when the weather is rainy or overcast, as it was this past weekend.  
There are also African violets and bougainvillea and many other plants and flowers which I don’t know the names of. These all form popular backdrops for the picture taking that is very much in evidence at the Expo. It seems that everyone has a camera, and wants to record a souvenir of their attendance at the Expo, as well as that of their friends and family. One has to tread carefully in order not to spoil the shot.
Then there are the cleverly cultivated “statues” adorning the fringes of the highway that leads from the Village to the Park that create a certain bucolic charm.  
The pastoral scene of grazing sheep, prancing ponies and crouching shepherd stirred up memories of a fragment of a poem from my days in English Literature class at the Barbados Community College.  Alexander Pope’s Epistles To Several Persons: Epistle IV includes the lines: The suff’ring eye inverted Nature sees, Trees cut to statues, statues thick as trees.
I don’t know if Pope would have approved of the inversion of Nature which I can see from my hotel window – rooftop gardens. But I’m impressed.
On the roof above the ground floor, shops and restaurants that form part of the complex at the Expo Jin Jiang Apartment Hotel are intricately designed and landscaped gardens which are well tended. These coexist without any apparent negative consequences for the establishments below.
• Sharon Marshall is the Information Officer of the Caribbean Development Bank.


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