DISCOVER TAIPEI -- Spring a perfect time to appreciate flowers - Focus Taiwan

PHOTO ESSAYS / DISCOVER TAIPEI -- Spring a perfect time to appreciate flowers

Taipei enjoys some fine weather in March and April. The warmth of spring embraces the land, flowers bloom, and the city transforms into what seems like a grand urban garden, its canvas painted with cherry blossoms, azaleas, calla lilies, roses and lilies.

Both mountain areas and lowlands come alive with color, and the city's wonderfully convenient public transport system means all the best viewing spots are close at hand, so whatever destination you've in mind, in the city or up in the mountains, embracing the romance of spring is easy.

●Yangmingshan Flower Festival & Calla Lily Festival -- The Most Popular Destination for Enjoying Spring Flowers

Fondly called "Taipei's backyard garden," Yangmingshan becomes a grand tapestry of floral colors each spring. Day-trippers come in great numbers in February and March to enjoy the kaleidoscopic beauty of the Yangmingshan Flower Festival.

In the sprawling 100-hectare Yangming Park (陽明公園), a lineup of unique landscapes awaits at each of its scenic attractions, notably the Flower Clock, Water Fountain, theme gardens, and cherry-blossom forest.

The Flower Clock (Discover Taipei)
The Flower Clock (Discover Taipei)
Enjoy the Yangming Park Cherry Blossom Forest, Hushan Green, Qianshan Park, and Yangmingshan Car Park No. 2. You'll find the island's own beautiful Taiwan cherry in delicate bloom around Qianshan Park's fountain and car park, where you can also enjoy the lovely pink-petaled Yoshino cherry.

The azaleas begin to pop up right after the festival, extending the spring's floral pageantry while changing its character.

The March to May period is calla-lily season in Yangmingshan's Zhuzihu. The formal opening and closing dates of this year's Calla Lily Festival are March 20 and April 26.

Calla lilies at Zhuzihu. (CNA file photo)
Calla lilies at Zhuzihu. (CNA file photo)
Zhuzihu is often veiled in mist, and to complement this ethereal beauty the Beitou Farmers' Association has designed a special series of activities with an "Adventures in Wonderland" theme.

You'll see characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, there will be a number of calla-lily landscape-design exhibits spread about the area's calla-lily farms, and also a special artistic landscaping installation at the car park located at Zhuzihu entrance area.

During the festival visitors can pick their own calla lilies in the fields of the many local tourist farms, and buy cut flowers, potted plants, and herbs. The city government has also established a number of streamside walking trails in the area, taking from 10 to 50 minutes, with calla-lily fields and terraced plots to enjoy along the way.

(Discover Taipei)
(Discover Taipei)
●A First Choice for Enjoying Blossoms in the Lowlands -- Donghu Cherry Blossom Forest

If looking for cherry blossoms right in the city, Lohas Park in Donghu is your destination. On the corner of Donghu Road and Kangle Street, by the Neigou Stream, a number of years ago local flower-loving residents began planting cherry trees along the park's protective embankment.

Now, as a result of their hard work and attentive care, the park has become a prime attraction for viewing cherry blossom. Each year during the season a grand mix of white and pink flowers sway in the breeze, bringing out a large and appreciative audience of sakura admirers.

If you missed the January winter blossoms in Lohas Park and the Yaezakura and Showa cherry blossoms on show in February along the Lekang Trail on the middle stretch of the Neigou Stream, fret not.

At the end of March, you'll find Yoshino cherry trees in bloom around the trail along the Neigou Stream in Wufenpi.

In April enjoy Shogetsu and Amagi Yoshino blossoms around the Donghu Sakura Forest, nearby Donghu Junior High School, and the second section of the Lekang Trail. Be sure to head out to these places for a taste of natural beauty.

Shilin Residence (CNA file photo)
Shilin Residence (CNA file photo)
●Shilin Official Residence Rose Festival -- Experience an Era's Aura of Elegance

Another fine spot for admiring flowers is in the grounds of the Shilin Official Residence.

This complex was originally set up by the Taiwan Governor-General's Office -- the Shilin Horticultural Experimental Station. It later became the official residence of President Chiang Kai-shek and Madane Chiang.

Because Madame Chiang loved roses, rose gardens measuring about 4,200 square meters in area were set up in the 1970s before and behind the main residence, featuring around 200 species and more than 5,000 varieties.

The wonderful scents and colors add even more to the enchantment of these European-style rose gardens.

Preserving the beauty of this unique floral oasis, the city's Public Works Department's Parks and Street Lights Office is continuing to plant 150 species and 3,000-plus rose varieties.

This year's Shilin Official Residence Rose Festival runs April 1st to 12th, with rose-themed painted leather bags and other items on display in the greenhouses, along with all sorts of cut-rose floral arrangements and potted roses. Many graceful varieties are being showcased in the rose gardens.

Shilin Residence (CNA file photo)
Shilin Residence (CNA file photo)
●Baishihu Tassel Flower and Lily Competition

Under the direction of the city's Geotechnical Engineering Office, Public Works Department, in recent years the Baishihu area in Neihu District has become a favorite outdoor leisure and recreation destination.

The government body has integrated the local tourist attractions, including the Baishihu Suspension Bridge and nearby Tongxin Pool ("One Heart" Pool), Guzhui Wall ("Ancient Stone" Wall), Fuqi Trees ("Husband and Wife" Trees), and Xuyuan Trail ("Wish" Trail).

April is the prime period for enjoying local floral blooms and the local strawberry farms, meaning an unbeatable day-trip combination of flower viewing and strawberry picking.

The tassel flowers are so named because of their long and fine petals, similar to the tassels on the garments of ladies of refinement in ancient times.

When in full bloom the trees and surrounding earth covered in bright, fallen petals are often called "April snow."

Tassel flowers (CNA file photo)
Tassel flowers (CNA file photo)
In May, lilies will burst into bloom around the Tongxin Pool. The flower reminds locals of the suona, a traditional double-reed musical instrument. When in full bloom it sways in the breeze, as if being played in a tune of welcome.

According to the head of the Geotechnical Engineering Office, Huang Li-yuan (黃立遠), two endemic Taiwan varietals have been cultivated around the pool: the Taiwan lily and Longflower lily.

At first glance the two look alike, but look closer. the petals of the Longflower are pure-white inside and outside, and the plant has short, broad leaves. The white petals of the Taiwan lily have burgundy stripes, and the leaves are significantly smaller.

Flower-appreciation outings are an intrinsic element of the Taipei experience. Note, however, that on weekends and holidays roads get very crowded, so public transportation, always more convenient, is highly recommended. Mountain weather conditions can vary, so dress warm and be sure to bring raingear and warm clothes too.

The Baishihu area. (Photo courtesy of the Taipei City Government)
The Baishihu area. (Photo courtesy of the Taipei City Government)
Information: 2015 Zhuzihu Calla Lily Festival 2015竹子湖海芋季 Time: 3/20~4/26 Transportation: At Taipei Metro's Shipai Station, take Leisure Bus 128 or Small No. 8 bus. At the Beitou Metro Station, take bus 129 or Small No. 9.

Donghu Lohas Park 東湖樂活公園Venue: Entrance of Ln. 61, Kangle St. (康樂街61巷巷口) Transportation: Take Taipei Metro Wenhu Line (Line 1, brown) to Donghu Station, walk about 9 minutes.

Shilin Official Residence 士林官邸Address: 60, Fulin Rd. (福林路60號) Transportation: Take Taipei Metro Tamsui Line (Line 2, red) to Shilin Station, walk about 10 minutes.

Baishihu 白石湖 Transportation:Take public bus to Bihu Elementary School stop (碧湖國小站), take Small No. 2; or take Taipei Metro Wenhu Line (Line 1, brown) to Neihu Station, transfer to Small No. 2.

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