A Garden Lover's Gourmet Delight -A trip to Yangjae Flower Market

by Petra Walker, 07/09/2007

As a garden designer, when I first came to Korea I was disappointed at the choice of plants in the local shops. Seoul horticulturalists only appeared to cater for the orchid lover, and those whose idea of gardening is a pot of begonias on the patio. However, today I felt like a little child in a candy shop. Why? I finally visited Yangjae Flower Market.

 As we drove in to the car park, the entrance was flanked by rows of conifers and a mass of roses in bloom. There are two main indoor areas, labeled Na and Ga in Korean. Each doorway is numbered so it makes it hard to get lost.

Having seen the roses and feeling a little more confident that this wasn’t going to be one of those disaster trips, we entered door 4 of Ga. Within seconds the calls of “Mummy, Mummy, can we have one of these?” was echoing across the narrow aisles, much to the amusement of the stallholders, who needed no encouragement to assist my daughters’ efforts to extract money from my purse by showing them more and more exotic plants.

 The first stall I visited had a variety of potted herbs as well as more decorative plants such as Coleus and Cocks Combs; the next a huge variety of orchids; the next looked like a tropical jungle, with large Cycads, Strelitsias and Dragon Trees, all guaranteed to make any plant lover’s mouth water.

There were many examples of Korean Nature Art, with bonsai, orchids growing in sculptural pots and miniature landscapes. Some of the best examples I found at stall 112 in “Na” building, where one landscape was 4’ tall with mountains, fish, a dragon’s breath cloud maker and some miniature trees.
Near Gate 8 of “Ga” building we found stalls with cacti and succulents – perfect for those who are hopeless at watering regularly, while at others, softly coloured perennials sat waiting for a bit more tender care. The lady at #116 spoke excellent English and delighted my daughters by presenting them each with a plant. I have to admit that I did come away with armfuls of plants from her stall, as her plants were so delightful but my pocket wasn’t too much lighter at the end of my visit; prices are good here.

In the south-west corner there is a row of larger shops, with displays outside. They are more functional than the stalls indoors and have almost everything a small scale gardener in Seoul could want – we found planters and pots, bags of potting soil, tools, vegetable seeds and even a lawnmower!

Larger, more hardy perennials and shrubs could be found at the end of this row and I bought a rosemary bush for only 7000 won and some floating water lettuce to go in an outdoor container that I found earlier. These water plants are not hardy and I will have to drain the bowl and bring them indoors if I want them to over-winter, but at 1000 won each, I could treat them as annuals and buy some new ones for next year.
Would I go back? Definitely! Many plants were already in sculptural pots, making them perfect for a one-stop make-over of a bare apartment or garden, and the range of garden plants was much wider then I expected.

Would I recommend people take their kids? Absolutely, as long as you are prepared to give them a little money to buy a plant. 5,000 Won can go a long way, making it an inexpensive trip out.
We visited on a Monday afternoon, and the car park was quiet with plenty of space. An hour cost around 1,500 Won. With the market open every day from 7.30am to around 8pm there is plenty of opportunity to squeeze in a visit. Yangjae Flower market is only 20 minutes from Itaewon by car, or is a 35-40 minute bus journey. The 470, 471 and 140 all stop just before the market entrance.

Happy plant hunting!

Petra Walker is a Garden Designer and Tutor from the UK. She has exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show and BBC Gardeners World and was a judge two years running at the Blenheim Palace Flower Show.

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