Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023 presents a future where people live in fields of blooms

With the theme 'We live in the garden,' the grand expo showcases the key role of gardens in order for cities to achieve a sustainable future

When we talk about the future of the world, it is hard not to imagine a barren land, where buildings crumble as humanity comes to its end. We can blame these visions on the apocalyptic movies and stories we consume. But what if there is a much better alternative, a place where humans thrive in paradise? It may sound like pure imagination, but that is what the 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo in South Korea offers—a future where people live in fields of blooms.

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Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023 (Photo from Suncheonman Garden Expo 2023)

Launched last April, the Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023 is a one-of-a-kind exhibition where visitors can see and experience more than 20 scenic gardens featuring over 2.5 million plants. Led by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), Korea Forest Service, and the South Korea Government, the garden expo is hosted by Suncheon City in Jeollanam-do Province, which is the center of garden culture in the country. First held in 2013, the 2023 edition of the international expo is grander, evolving from its 111-hectare area to 435 hectares with its 200-billion won ($157 million) funding, aiming to bring over eight million visitors, including 320,000 tourists from around the world.

With the theme “We live in the garden,” the grand expo showcases the key role of gardens in order for cities to achieve a sustainable future. With the help of the Korea Tourism Organization Manila, the Manila Bulletin got a chance to witness the different Edens and garden innovations featured at the expo.

Paradise in every corner

Exploring the expo is like going through the “The Garden of Live Flowers” chapter of the “Through the Looking-Glass” novel, only that the flowers don't speak. But they'll definitely lure anyone to bring out their phone and capture every moment.

One of the highlights of the expo is the World Garden. Visitors can discover outdoor gardens designed by 12 countries, which include Japan, Italy, and Thailand, among others, showcasing themes that celebrate their cultures. Some of the spots we visited are the French Garden, which mirrors the beauty of the gardens in Versailles Palace. Another is the Chinese Garden, Which plays with the theme “Butterfly Lovers,” the country’s version of the tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”

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The Dutch Garden (Photo from Suncheonman Garden Expo 2023)
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Secret Garden and the National Botanical Garden (Photo from Suncheonman Garden Expo 2023)

At the core of the 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo is the presentation of eco-friendly ideas cities can use in terms of urban planning. Its Downtown area is where visitors can see its floating exhibits on the Dongcheon Stream featuring the “Story of Five Gardens on the Water.” It presents new models for aquatic gardens such as the Community Garden, Sustainable Garden, Garden of Healing, Meta Garden, and Ecology Garden. While inside the Secret Garden, visitors can learn more about plant species that grow in extreme cold setups, modern gardens equipped with solar power, and plant growth and history through its media art exhibit. 

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'Story of Five Gardens on the Water' (Photo from Suncheonman Garden Expo 2023)

The expo also has areas dedicated to preserving native plant species like the ECOGEO Greenhouse. The conservatory consists of Water Garden, Event Garden, Special Garden, and Wildflower Nursery, among others, and features some plants donated by the Botanical Garden Yeomiji in Jeju Island. 

“The international expo aims to present a future city model via creative urban planning,” said Suncheon Mayor Roh Kwan-kyu in a report by Korea Times. “In this time of climate change, the expo will present the most realistic and effective solutions to achieve carbon neutrality.”

Suncheon’s raw beauty

Also part of the garden expo is the Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve. Declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage area, the Suncheonman Wetland is one of the 200 key wetland reserves in Korea that is home to over 252  migratory bird species, 48 internationally rare birds, and the Hooded Crane.

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Sky Cube (Photo from Suncheonman Garden Expo 2023)

To go there, we ride the Sky Cube, which can be found across the expo’s National Garden’s Dream Bridge. The unmanned cube-shaped car can accommodate up to six passengers and offers a bird’s-eye view of the garden expo. 

At the Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve, one can’t help but be in awe of the bay’s untouched beauty. Walking along the area’s wooden boardwalk is therapy on its own. It offers observation platforms for its mountain range and S-shaped stream. As its natural ecosystem is well-maintained, people can easily spot other creatures living in the mud flat and reed beds such as the Google-eyed Goby, Red-clawed Crabs, and Sand Crabs, apart from the many bird species.

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Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve boardwalk (Photo from Korea Tourism Organization)
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View of Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve (Photo from Korea Tourism Organization)

Idyllic, picturesque, and totally IG-worthy, the Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve is one of the best places to discover the natural beauty of South Korea’s countryside. 

The Jeollanam-do Province in South Korea is one of the places Filipinos can visit visa-free. The 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo runs until Oct. 31, 2023. Reservations for the expo can be purchased online via websites and apps Interpark and Yanolja. To know more about it, visit @2023gardenexpo on Instagram.

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