Peach blossom bonsai grower shows the value of persistence

January 28, 2021 - 08:24
Over more than 30 years of growing peach blossom trees, Lê Hàm, living in Nhật Tân Flower Village, Tây Hồ District in Hà Nội, has faced many setbacks.


People come to Nhật Tân Flower Village to buy thất thốn peach blossoms bonsai grown by Lê Hàm. — Photos

HÀ NỘI — Over more than 30 years of growing peach blossom trees, Lê Hàm, living in Nhật Tân Flower Village, Tây Hồ District in Hà Nội, has faced many setbacks.

He's living proof that failure is the mother of success as now in his late 50s, he knows all there is to know about growing thất thốn bonsai, an ancient peach blossom genre with bright red flowers, which is widely considered the king of all peach blossoms.

Hàm loved tending to peach blossoms since he was small thanks to the tradition of his family. In 1989, after finishing his military service, he followed the family tradition and started to grow peach blossoms he brought from northern provinces like Bắc Giang and Lạng Sơn.

He learned planting techniques by visiting peach blossom growing areas and markets and realised that thất thốn was the most beautiful type.

The soft velvety petals blooming on the rough tree branches make thất thốn stand out among a forest of many types of peach blossoms, Hàm said.

No one knows exactly when this type of peach blossoms appeared in Nhật Tân Village. Old people aged in their 80s and 90s said they saw the flowers since they were small.

Thất thốn flowers often bloom after the middle of the first lunar new year so making the flowers to bloom for the lunar new year holiday is a tough task for local villagers.

Many have tried techniques used for other types of peach blossoms but failed.

“Growing thất thốn peach blossoms is not simple. Its blooming does not fall at the same time every year. Sometimes, it blooms very early but sometimes it’s too late, not in the new year holiday.”

After trying several methods like using electric ovens or surrounding the trees with plastic, Hàm was still struggling.

“Many advised me to give up,” he told Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper.

After 15 years trying, failing and learning from failures, in 2005, he used two-way air conditioners with adjusted temperatures depending on weather conditions to ensure the flowers blossom in the new year season.

Hàm said each thất thốn root is not that big so a room can accommodate up to 20 trees.

Thất Thốn peach blossoms trees are cared at the air-conditioned rooms to make sure they bloom on the lunar new year holiday. 

“If it is too cold, I will turn the temperature up, and if it is too hot, I will turn it down as long as it matches the tree’s pace of growth. Too hot or too cold conditions all make the blossoms die,” he said.

Now with this technique, he can choose the time of blooming to meet customers’ request.

Due to tricky planting techniques, his trees are for rent, not for sale.

About 100 thất thốn peach blossoms trees are now ready for the new year season. Many customers have made orders one or two months before the Lunar New Year.

In the past, thất thốn peach blossoms were found in the houses of nobles only. Now customers just need a little knowledge and love to hunt for beautiful peach blossoms trees at affordable prices. The rental price depends on the tree size, ranging from VNĐ5 to 30 million (US$217-1,302) per tree, Hàm said.

Explaining the meaning of the peach blossoms’ name, he said in Sino-Vietnamese language, thất means seven and thốn means a pinch on the branch which is as long as a knuckle.

Thất thốn means each pinch of the tree can have seven flowers blooming. The flowers bloom the most brightly for seven days. Double flowers with seven layers of petals each only appear once every seven years.

“The leaves are red from the roots to the tops. The bark, if peeled off, has ripe plum colour, not the colour of wood as normal types of peaches," he said. — VNS