The ground in the garden appears wet with last night’s dew. 40-year-old Hanoian Nguyen Kim Thu inspects the peach trees to find which one dropped the most flowers to avoid a faulty purchase.
During a cold spell, Thu urges her husband to wake up earlier and head to Nhat Tan Village in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District, famous for cultivating the best peach trees in northern Vietnam.
“It is getting colder. Typical of Tet,” Thu tells the owner of Van Minh Garden, who agrees: “Colder is better. Hot weather would make peach trees bloom too early.”
Nguyen Kim Thu visits Van Minh Garden in Nhat Tan Village, Hanoi to find a peach blossom tree for Tet. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Huong.
With over 40 years’ experience growing peach trees for the Lunar New Year festival, Tet, Minh knows peach trees need a cold breeze to look their best.
Like pine trees on Christmas for Europeans and yellow mai flowers for southern Vietnamese, pink peach flowers are a symbol of Tet among northern Vietnamese, with most people decorating their homes with the blossoms to celebrate Lunar New Year.
Peach trees represent luck and prosperity for a new year and brings the spirit of spring to households.
Watering his trees, Minh said the best looking tree must have a lot of thick, red-pink flowers, a few young green leaves and a big and well-shaped trunk.
Claiming his garden has the best peach trees in the village, Minh said, depending on their size, number of buds and the stage of bloom, a peach tree could cost from VND2 million to over VND10 million ($431) while a simple peach branch only costs some tens of thousands or less than a million dong.
Like Minh, growing peach flowers is the main source of income for Nhat Tan villagers who live their lives on the edge of West Lake. With over 70 ha, villagers often cultivate thousands of trees to serve the holiday demand.
Gardeners in Nhat Tan flower village are busier these days due to the blooming of a variety of trees, particularly peach flowers for the Tet holiday, which commences this weekend.
Nguyen Trong Man, 66, deputy head of Nhat Tan Cooperative, said that having a beautiful peach blossom tree means a lot of care during cultivation.
“It is not easy to tend peach trees. We start right after Tet and harvest the results just before Tet. If the weather is too cold, trees are protected with additional soil or by warming flower buds with electric lights. If it is hot, we treat them with cold water,” Man explained.
However, he noted peach trees grow the best in cold weather.
With peach tree cultivation empowering around 690 Nhat Tan households, neighboring villages like Nghi Tam, Tu Lien, and Phu Thuong are following suit.
In the last few years, visitors, particular young people, come to the area to take photos against the flowery backdrop.
Posing in a Nhat Tan Village garden, Thuy Nguyen, 20, dressed in a red ao dai, says: “I came to this beautiful spot to take the potentially best shot of my life. Usually, my mom chooses and takes care of the Tet flowers.”
There are a few other outstanding Tet flower markets in Hanoi.
Near Nhat Tan lies the city’s biggest and busiest flower market: Quang Ba. The market, in Quang An Commune, Tay Ho District usually operates from midnight to 3 or 4 am, but these days remains open all day to serve the increasing demand for fresh Tet flowers.
The nearly five km section from Buoi Market at the end of Thuy Khue Street to the intersection between Lac Long Quan and Hoang Quoc Viet streets is most often empty. But before Tet, its many flower shops come alive. Flowers here include foreign blossoms and local varieties from Hanoi, Da Lat and Sa Pa.
Near Lac Long Quan Street heading toward the inner city, the section from Hoang Hoa Tham Street to Doc Ngu Slope offers beautiful flowers and decorative items. As a continually busy flower and pet market, Tet draws even more customers here. With their shops filled with Tet items, owners arrange their plants along the pavement, turning the road into “a walking zone” strangling traffic flow. Those who travel on foot or via motorbike can view thousands of bonsai, ornamented trees, pictures, pets, vases and many more holiday items.
In the heart of the Old Quarter, Hang Luoc stretches from Gam Cau (Under the Bridge) Street to Cha Ca Street and is great for both foreign and local visitors purchasing Tet flowers or merely enjoying the traditional Lunar New Year atmosphere. A small path, surrounded by iron barriers, offers a display of peach blossoms, yellow mai blossoms, paper and silk flowers, all for purchase.
The flower markets remain open until the end of the last day of the lunar calendar, or Friday, January 24 this year.
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