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February 27, 2012

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Bold plum blossoms brave the wrath of winter

SINCE it blooms when there's still snow on the ground, the plum blossom is considered a symbol of strength and courage, as well as a harbinger of spring. Chen Ye advises on the best viewing spots.

Plum blossoms (meihua), a symbol of spring, have always been celebrated by Chinese poets and artists since they are not only beautiful but also strong. Braving the cold, they bloom in earliest spring and symbolize perseverance.

Admiring plum blossoms is an ancient Chinese tradition that started more than 2,000 years ago in the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC).

Although it still feels like winter and the city shivers through prolonged cold (daily average around 5 degrees Celsius), the abundant red, yellow and white plum blossoms are reminders that warmer weather is around the corners.

According to flower experts, Shanghai's alkaline soil is a good growing environment for plum trees which blossom from late February through mid-March.

There are many places to appreciate the vivid flowers in gray, drizzling weather.

Xinzhuang Park is a favored destination for Hu Xiaomin, a young woman from Hongkou District. "I heard this is an ideal place to appreciate plum flowers in full bloom," she says.

Because plum blossoms symbolize nobility and resilience, people appreciate the flowers and pray for a better life and good health.

Persistent low temperatures and overcast, rain days make the plum blossoms suddenly burst forth and the cold temperature makes the flowers more delicate and appealing, according to Du Yongqin, plum blossom expert at the Shanghai Waigang Plum Flower Garden.

The 1,000-hectare garden contains more than 88 kinds of plum blossoms; there are three main types, shuxin, which is yellow; qiaozhong which is white with a tiny tinge of red, and hongxin is red and fuchsia. One tree is around 270 years old.

Shanghai Waigang Plum Flower Garden lets flower lovers "adopt" a tree by making a donation, and then receiving a certificate of thanks from the Shanghai Forestry Bureau.

Every year the garden hosts a plum blossom photography competition. It also offers flower arranging classes.

The best time to view plum blossoms in this garden is through the end of February.

Here are some other plum blossom viewing spots in Shanghai.

Century Park

Almost 40 plum trees have been imported from Sichuan Province's Daba Mountains. The golden flowers are now in full bloom. The trees came from Sichuan residents and one is around 70 years old.

Address: 1001 Jinxiu Rd, Pudong

Getting there: Metro Line 2 Century Park Station

Best viewing: Through March 10

Tickets: 20 yuan (US$3.17)

Xinzhuang Park

This park, originally called Xinzhuang Plum Park, was once the private garden of a local dignitary surnamed Yang who completed the landscaping in 1920. Plum trees are the major attraction.

Address: 421 Xinbang Rd, Minhang District

Getting there: Bus 91 or Xinbei Line Bus

Best viewing: Though the end of February

Tickets: Free

Oriental Land

As one of the top attractions at Dianshan Lake, the Oriental Land provides many interactive games during the plum blossom season.

Address: 6888 Huqingping Highway

Getting there: Tour Bus Line 4; or take G50 and exit at Zhujiajiao, drive to Oriental Land.

Best viewing: Through mid-March

Tickets: 50 yuan

Haiwan National Forest Park

With thousands of trees, Haiwan National Forest Park is a favorite destination to view zhenmei, xingmei and yinglimei flowers.

Address: 1677 Suitanghe Rd, Haiwan Town, Fengxian District

Getting there: Haiwan No.3 Bus

Best viewing: Through mid-March

Tickets: 50 yuan

Waigang Plum Flower Garden

As a professional plum tree growing center, the garden provides various activities, such as adoption, flower arranging classes and a plum photo competition.

Address: 2700 Moyu Rd N.

Getting there: Metro Line 11 F1 Station

Best time to view: Through the end of February

Tickets: Free


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