Garden Photo of the Day

A Connecticut Yankee’s Tribute to Chinese Gardens

A taste of Asia in New England

Today’s Chinese-inspired garden comes from Bill Sullivan:

I live in Bethel, Connecticut, and have been working on the garden for 20 years. All of the plants in the garden either originate in China or are commonly found in Chinese gardens. The hardscape includes lattice based upon historic examples from the Ming Dynasty, fence panels based upon the Chinese character for longevity (shou), and, of course, rocks.

My work for a large international company gave me the opportunity to travel to China, and I always included a few personal days to explore. Consequently, over the years I visited many of the most famous gardens, especially those in Suzhou. I began to research the history and aesthetics of Chinese gardens. As I became even more intrigued, I started my own little tribute garden. That allows me to incorporate many of the elements on a much smaller scale. I do all the work (planting and hardscape) myself but rely upon my wife for advice. She’s the real gardener in the family.

By the way, I try to make it clear that this is not a re-creation of a Chinese garden, but a Yankee’s attempt to capture the aesthetic elements and concepts such as feng shui. There’s no room for a lake or a pavilion.

My favorite aspect of my garden is the stones; the Chinese call them “the bones of the earth.” I like them because they require no watering, weeding, or fertilizing, and the deer won’t eat them. My problem child is a Rodhea sinensis. The Chinese call this plant “green for one thousand years,” but no matter where I put it, mine fails to live up to its name.

The gate to the Chinese-themed garden “The Garden of Happy Forgetfulness.”

Detail of a gate leading into the garden.

Overview of the garden, designed on Chinese gardening principles.

The garden is filled with plants from China. View our plant guide to Chinese hardy orchids.

My favorite plants are the epimediums. This is E. wushanensis, a spiny variety discovered by Darrell Probst in China.

A chipmunk enjoys the design and sculpture as well. Read this for more garden ornament ideas.

View from outside the garden fence.

Detail of the garden fence.

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View Comments


  1. mjensen 06/12/2018

    wow,beautiful. love it

  2. user-7017435 06/12/2018

    Good morning, Your craftmanship & & design capabilities have made this one terrific garden. Thank you for posting your beautiful & inspiring garden this morning. Good luck, Joe

  3. pam_clemmons 06/12/2018

    Lovely garden, and nice colorful designs!

  4. Maggieat11 06/12/2018

    I thoroughly enjoyed your garden and photos! Thanks so much for sharing. It is wonderful ~ Love what you have done!

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/12/2018

    I really enjoyed reading your commentary as well as viewing your pictures, Bill. Your commitment to pursuing your vision of a Chinese inspired garden has had to be very satisfying through the years...although, grrr, on not finding the perfect spot for the rodhea sinensis to thrive. Love your ode to stones...I share your appreciation of them for many of the same reasons. Please encourage your wife to send in pictures of her garden areas so we can see how she expresses her green thumb.

  6. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/12/2018

    Amazing, gorgeous, beautiful are words that don't do justice to this wonderful place.

  7. Sunshine111 06/12/2018

    Gorgeous and quite impressive!

  8. VikkiVA 06/12/2018

    WOW, your garden is magnificent. Love all the impeccable detail in your gate and fencing! Your plant choices are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your garden.

  9. btucker9675 06/12/2018

    What a pretty garden - and the chipmunk makes the perfect topper for the lovely Chinese lady!

  10. cheryl_c 06/12/2018

    Thank you, Bill, for sharing your garden and your commentary. Your attention to detail have elevated the design to extraordinary. I love how you have incorporated the Chinese design elements staying true to specific styles rather than just having a conglomeration of things that look oriental. Good show! And I second Michaele's request for more photos!

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