The rise of the Urban Green spaces in Suzhou

Sep 8, 2016

I have lots of plants in my office. Not because I am good at looking after plants, quite the opposite, but because I will buy plants from street sellers or at the side of the road or flower shops. I have found that the cheaper the plants the longer their lives and that you should always ask the seller how often to water and whether to put the plant in the sunshine. Sadly it rarely helps me as I often forget to water my plants for long periods, but I do like a little greenery in my office.

Lack of green spaces and plant sellers

One problem that expats often complain about is the lack of green areas in SIP and I often point friends to the Hudong area (湖东 or east of the lake) where you can find Baitang Park (白塘公园), Jinjidun Park (金姬墩公园), Fangzhou Park (方洲公园), Dushu Lake parks etc. However there has also been a problem that for many years there were no plant shops in Suzhou, or at least you had to pay quite high amounts from flower shops to buy plants. This is now changing as most shopping centres have a large out-door plant shop (e.g. Sam’s has the underground shop by Starbucks and Times’ Square has at least two places). These stores tend to sell plants at a high price and can rarely tell you how the plant needs to be watered/ placed. Perhaps it is a lack of training for the staff or I’ve been unlucky with my trips to these stores.

Urban garden centres

Recently there have been one or two new ‘garden centre’ style areas opening up inside Suzhou. The one pictured is right next to Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and has opened on an unused plot. The place sells a wide range of good quality plants and they have the knowledge to explain how to look after the plants. In addition there are also classes for young people and they can host birthday parties where children can plant bulbs/seeds learning a little more about the world they live in. they also serve a mean cup of coffee!

The small areas are, hopefully, going to become more popular in the coming years as they also allow children to play with a few animals – the pictured ‘farm’ area has goats, rabbits, dogs, ducks and geese. Children do need to be watched around the small ponds that have been built, so do be vigilant. However these are quiet areas in the city that should be expanded and celebrated.

Other ‘green’ areas

Well, another type of green area are the astro-turf pitches that have ‘sprung-up’ on top of old factories around Suzhou. There are pitches in many districts of Suzhou and have managed to re-use the buildings vacated as companies move on. In ChangBei there are a set of 7 pitches all together that range in size from 5-a-side to almost 11-a-side size on the top of dis-used factories, while in Suzhou New District (SND) there is a set of 3 pitches in the very centre of the district. These pitches are privately owned but government encouraged as they re-use the brown field site and help children to get exercise. The pitches in the picture above (SND’s Yun Qiu Chang ‘运球场’) are used for football by three different children’s clubs, baseball and American football.

I think we can see that efforts are being made to make the City of Suzhou a little more green and we should all try our best to use these areas.

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