Da Lat's flowers beckon again

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A model of the Sphinx made from flowers to be displayed at the Flower Festival 2012 in Da Lat

The Central Highlands resort town of Da Lat will celebrate its annual flower festival later this month.

The five-day festival opens December 30 with a "flower hill" at the Da Lat Golf Course near the iconic Xuan Huong Lake, and many smaller floral decorations.

For the first time the Da Lat Flower Association will join hands with the golf course to create a flower garden that will spread over 3.3 hectares and have 360,000 plants.

Also for the first time in its two-decade existence the golf course will open to the public for sightseeing.

The association has consulted two Dutch flower exporters, Diamond Bulbs and Gerb De Jong, for the garden design.

An area of nearly 3,000 square meters at the golf course will be given over to create a "Netherlands corner." It will have 130,000 tulips and models of windmills to honor the Dutch who helped develop the floral industry in Da Lat.

Another space called "Colorful Integrated World" will have cultural icons from all over the world - like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sphinx, a pyramid, Hanoi's One-Pillar Pagoda, and Japan's Fuji Mountain - made completely from flowers. There will also be a pond of lotus flowers, Vietnam's national symbol.

The organizers said 36 countries and territories have promised to send representatives to festival for which the association and city flower farmers have been preparing for the last four months.

Flower lovers in Ho Chi Minh City can contact the following tour organizers:

Saigontourist
49 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1
Tel: (08) 3 829 8914 (08) 3 827 9279
Website: www.saigon-tourist.com

Fiditour
129 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, District 1
Tel: (08) 3 914 1414
Website: www.fiditour.com

Vietravel
190 Pasteur Street, Ward 6, District 3
Tel: (08) 3 822 8898
Website: www.travel.com.vn

TST Tourist
389A
Dien Bien Phu Street, District 3
Tel: (08) 3 832 8328
Website: www.tsttourist.com

One final section will be given over to farmers to display unusual produce like giant pumpkins and lemons and seedless oranges.

Le Thanh Van, vice chairman of the association, said all this cost private investors nearly VND9 billion (US$428,300).

Since it cost so much money, he said the Lam Dong Province government has allowed it to be kept open until the end of the Lunar New Year, the country's biggest holiday, in late January.

A show called "Flowers and light" on Le Dai Hanh Street will feature 3,000 flower baskets of various kinds.

The city's biggest garden, which is next to the lake, will decorate its gate with nearly 14,000 flower baskets. The garden is home to wild flowers like tomentose roses, dandelions, and eglantines.

Opposite the garden at Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Park, named for a famous 19th century poetess, hundreds of flowering trees like yellow ochna, purple flamboyants, eglantines, and white and yellow lilies have been planted for the event, while a 10,000-square-meter lawn with thousands of baskets of flowers has been created.

Major travel companies in Ho Chi Minh City, which is around 300 kilometers away, will take their clients to the festival. They will visit famous flower villages such as Ha Dong, Thai Phien, and Van Thanh and flower gardens in some of the city's valleys.

There will be an exhibition of Da Lat's handicrafts and famous photographs of the city.

The event will close with a festival of red wine on January 3, when famous local and world brands will be served.

Hotels said rooms are still available during the festival. Many travel agents are offering three-day tours to the festival by air, and four-day tours by bus.

PSYCHEDELIC ROSES


Nguyen Cong Hoa showcases his psychedelic flowers that will be exhibited at the Flower Festival 2012
Ever seen a rainbow rose? It refers to a rose that has its petals artificially colored though not by spraying colors on it.

A Da Lat farmer who grows them will display many of his psychedelic flowers at the festival.

Nguyen Cong Hoa, who was listed in 2009 in the Vietnam Guinness Book as being "the first Vietnamese to successfully freeze fresh flowers," has spent nearly a year studying ways to color roses without spraying them.

In October he managed to coat more than 30 roses in colorful textures, some blue with dark blue at the edges, others pink with white spots and yellow with green spots.

But the flowers retained their fragrance.

Hoa says he cut the best flowers from the 80,000 plants in his garden and put several colors and chemicals in their stems before putting them in low temperatures for 24 hours.

He naturally refuses to divulge details like what chemicals he used, the temperatures, and how he put the chemicals in the stems.

The flowers get their new colors within three days, he says.

Japanese flower farmers are exporting rainbow roses to Europe at US$7 each, he says. He hopes the new invention will again get him into the Vietnam Guinness Book.

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