A pleasure of the old time
Narcissus is regarded as a noble flower with a pure and elegant beauty and scent. Therefore, it is favoured to enjoy and display at Tet. In the old time, it was one of the indispensable parts of Tet to many people.
|It is believed if Narcissus blooms at this moment, it will bring a lot of good luck to the owner. Photo: Minh Tung.
Many local writers of the 20th century wrote about this hobby of Hanoi people for which they dedicated time and sweat. Writer Nguyen Tuan talked about the special way of Hanoi people to countdown the time to welcome the New Year by Narcissus.
Every year on New Year’s Eve, there was a narcissus contest at the Temple of Literature where the planters brought their flowers there and waited until midnight. The one bloomed exactly at the time of the transition between the old year and the new year will be the winner. It is believed if Narcissus blooms at this moment, it will bring a lot of good luck to the owner.
Meanwhile, writer Vu Bang also talked about the meticulous and painstaking process of tending the flower that sometimes it keeps the whole family sleepless for a few days just to prepare for the best flower for the contest. The pleasure requires a lot of knowledge and taking care of it so that only people in the middle class and intellectuals followed it.
The comeback of an elegant hobby
|Planting Narcissus for Tet is an elegant hobby of Hanoian. Photo: Minh Tung.
The hobby vanished for a long during the war. Until the 1990s, it was revived by several artisans. One of the leading ones is artisan Nguyen Phu Cuong.
Around the year 2000, Mr. Cuong met Mr. Pham Huu, an overseas Vietnamese living in the United States, who returned home and taught him the secret of tending narcissus. After suffering some failures, Mr. Cuong at that moment could really resurrect the hobby in the modern life.
The imported narcissus bulbs are just like onions at the beginning. So he had to soak them in water for a few days. Water is changed many times to help them “take off” the coat, or the first layer. Then the most important part began: the pruning.
The knives used for pruning must be very sharp and clean, according to Mr. Cuong. The first cut must be taken along the sprouting leaves. The leaves later rise up or fall down depending on the depth or shallowness of the cut. Therefore, the horticulturist must be experienced to trim narcissus the right way.
|Narcissus needs to have meticulous care for the best blossom, fragrance and shape. Photo: Minh Tung.
The next cut taken on the narcissus is like a sculpture work, according to Mr. Cuong. The sculptor needs to understand deeply about the growing process of the flower and imagine its adult shape and direction. The flower must face down when it blooms for the best posture. The way of cutting will also arrange the peel of the flower and leaves.
Furthermore, during the whole process, it requires changing water two times a day and trimming the leaves many times. The light and air condition which affects the growing process of the flower a lot is also necessary to pay much attention.
More interestingly, if the sculptor is skillful and experienced enough, he can control the blooming time of the flower, with the adjustment of water warmth, light and air. It takes about 20-25 days for the whole process.
Narcissus is admired by many people, however, few people dedicate themselves to this hobby as it requires a lot of patience and meticulous work, Mr. Cuong shared his experience.
Moreover, it requires thorough understanding about the old cultural values in order to be a perfect narcissus horticulturist. “Narcissus is like a young girl. She needs to be shaped for a beautiful figure but shaping should not be forcefully. It is necessary to respect the natural shape growing from the start of the pruning process,” he said.