▲ The Wildflower Botanic Garden is better known among Jeju residents as Banglimwon, after its owners. Photos courtesy Wildflower Botanic Garden
Nestled in the cozy nook of the Hankeyngmeun Jeojiri colony in West Jeju lies the hidden treasure of Banglimwon, known as the Wildflower Botanic Garden in English. The angulated grey edifice of an indoor pavilion guides the eye of visitors to the front gate, where three wooden posts lean against their stone gate posts, in the traditional welcoming gesture of the island. Information pamphlets are available from a nearby kiosk. As one enters, the first thing that greets you is a caricature of the owner and her husband hung in the entranceway. The garden’s title refers to the couple as the owner is surnamed Bang and her husband’s family name is Lim, and won is the Chinese character for garden.
Within moments of entering Banglimwon, the scent of teak saturates one’s senses and a slew of vivid greenery entraps the mind. A trove of topiary artistry is cut so it seems to waft across the broad reaches of the initial space. Included is foliage trimmed in the shape of a bull -- complete with a nose ring -- a woman who reclines in a pit reading a book and a shy mouse who hunches forward to greet you. Up a spiral staircase, high quality photos of exotic fauna encircle from the vantage point of a trio of antique chairs. Return to the lower level and veer to the left and stroll along the aptly named A Walk as Spanish ballads play in the background.
Nearby Banglim gul, or Banglim cave, is a stunning rock formation of centuries-old blackened stone. Stone steps mark out the entry, with carvings of leaves embedded in their cores. The light grey stone suddenly darkens as one passes the overhang of the cave and is shadowed from the sun overhead. To the right are several stone statues similar to Jeju’s common Dolhareubang, or stone grandfathers, but they are of differing complexions -- their faces are more akin to the Dogon masks of tribal Africa and they hunker away on the side as passive monitors of your steps. Within the cave, a small pool of water, cloaked in a web of thick steam, is surrounded by a group of aged statuettes with benevolent warped faces that grin at the onlooker. The ground within the cave is clay-like and deep red, in contrast to the blackened Jeju-stone walls.
Upon meandering down the trail a little further, one reaches a promenade. Here a large frog topiary, drawing a metallic rickshaw, directs the visitor onward. A waterfall trickles water into a small, quiet stream; a small den of motley-colored rabbits crouches near discarded stone dolhareubang with faces that are tweaked and distorted; and a rock path of mosaic stone leads the viewer to a zone of quietude and peace. A dried-up pond garden, which a sign identifies as an homage to Hallasan’s fleeting rains, lies shackled with a trough of interesting plants around it. A section termed Fraternal Falls lingers close by, with deer statues lurking along its rigid path and vines emanating from turtle rocks. Koi are often present here and a natural rock bridge affords a pleasant view of the surroundings once one reaches the crest of the flower garden’s hill.
The Fern’s pavilion has a grand fountain again set with dolhareubang statuettes, plus a plethora of insectivorous plants that lend to a musty, murky aura. A short distance from the pavilion is an outdoor pavilion where several rock sculptures by artist Jinbu lie. There are many bonsai trees and more than 600 varieties of wildflower throughout the garden, creating a luminous display on a bright, sunny day.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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