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Place making through Huế Festival of Hoàng Mai

Hoàng Mai, yellow apricot flower, is the symbol of springtime and Tết, especially for the central and southern part of Vietnam. However, “Hoàng Mai” has a double meaning as yellow or royal apricot is an endemic species the imperial city. What is special about this tree and why local authorities and people are determined to make Huế the land of yellow apricots.

Festival of Hoàng Mai. Photo credit: Lê Đình Hoàng

Distinctive characteristics of Hue yellow apricot

The “ancient, unique, beautiful” are the three factors that define the values of an ornamental tree. Due to the harsh climate in the central region, the tree is rather small yet has a long life span. The criterion for beauty resides in the “first roots, second trunks, third branches, forth flowers”. Hue royal apricot has remarkably green buds, flowers with only 4 light yellow petals, mild fragrance, and harmonious branches with green leaves (not red like other variety from the South). Any trees that feature some random flowers of six petals are believed to bring luck.

Hoàng Mai yellow apricot flower. Photo credit: Lê Đình Hoàng

Yellow apricot is a precious tree that is chosen to plant Hue traditional garden house, royal court to rural temple, communal hall. In recent years, the city initiated the movement “Yellow flower in the front gate”, that encourages all the household, government buildings to plant this typical tree as a branded representation for Hue characters, culture, and lifestyle.

To celebrate the new year and Tet holiday 2023, for the first time, a festival showcasing the marvel of yellow apricot will take place from the 9th of January. The exhibition lasts for 10 days with many competitions and displays at Thuong Bac park, by the Perfume River.

Art of planting ornamental trees and the secrets of Hue healing gardens

Planting bonsai and flower trees are popular in Asian culture and family around Vietnam. For local people, the most relaxing pastime is to appreciate the natural beauty of the plants and flowers. This is an age-old entertainment and an art that can be learned during the visit to a healing garden, from royal courtyard to rural ancient temple. When wandering around the trees, you can get back in touch with your real self and renew your love of all forms of living in a deeper sense.

Hue is known as a garden city thanks to the sophisticated green spaces in the royal citadel, royal mausoleum, pagoda and prince residence as well as along the street and commoner neighborhood. Local mentality is not about controlling nature but living in harmony with nature. Therefore, most of the house has a large garden with a major dedication for flowers and plants. Yellow apricot is one of the favorite trees omnipresent in pagodas and royal monuments of the Nguyen dynasty.  You can also find this elegant tree in the local houses in Long Tho near Thuy Bieu village, Kim Long, Duong Xuan, Thanh Tien, etc. in full blossom when Tet arrived.

It is interesting to note that the owner often plants two trees, to avoid the bad luck of “Mai Một” which means separation, solitude.

Two parrelled Hoàng Mai in Huế Traditional Garden House. Photo credit: Nguyễn Phúc Bảo Minh

How to observe and absorb the spiritual beauty of Hue branded flowers?

Firstly, plan a visit to Hue around the Tết holidays. From 9th to 19th of January, the first festival of yellow apricot “Hoàng Mai ” takes place at Thuong Bac Park. You will learn from the artisans, the bonsai lovers and many specialists, biologist in conserving these precious genes.

Alternatively, take a wandering into Huế garden house, in Kim Long, Thủy Biều or similar. Embark on one of Slow tours during the daytime or an authentic dining in the garden house is a unique opportunity. There, you will not only feel the love of Hue people for the plants but also the secret, spiritual art of living in respect of nature. Let your experience answer why place making through branded flowers is a great initiative.

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