Mini Gardens Make Beautiful Homes
There are now 24 horticulture centres across the capital. They popularise information related to horticulture and provide people with some green space. The Rendinghu Horticulture Promotion Centre, located in the Rendinghu Park centre in Xicheng District, is one of them.
Tucked away in Xicheng District, Beijing, the Rendinghu Horticulture Promotion Centre is set in beautiful surroundings with green vines, cherry tomatoes, fragrant peppermint and vibrant purslanes, providing a cool spot for people to escape the heat of summer.
Beijing has established horticulture promotion centres to popularise information about horticulture, introduce horticultural products, conduct related training and provide people with a green place for leisure. Rendinghu Horticulture Promotion Centre is just one centre that is introducing ecological concepts and horticulture to Beijingers. There are currently 24 of these types of centres across the city.
The Rendinghu Horticulture Promotion Centre is located in the Rendinghu Park centre and covers an area of over 200 square metres (sq.m). Connected to the lake, the centre features a beautiful, pleasant environment that complements the overall style of the park.
Walking inside the promotion centre, visitors are immersed in a green world with plants on the floor, hanging from the ceiling and placed on the windowsills. Inside, there are even two parrots that make the centre more vibrant. Moving along, visitors enter another area completely different from the outside, where dozens of tables and chairs have been neatly placed. Bookcases lining the wall are filled with books on gardening and a projector and screen are available for lectures.
This uniquely- designed promotion centre was built after the park cleared out its non- essential functions. At the end of 2015, the park's management office decided to build the centre on unused ground to help inform the public about concepts and skills useful in home gardening.
As the department responsible for
the horticulture promotion centre, the Rendinghu Park Management Office has been working hard to help the centre play a key role. Lv Yanshun, director of the park's management office, explained that the books, magazines and newspapers on horticulture in the bookcases are available for visitors to browse, a regular series of lectures and training courses are conducted to teach horticultural skills, and the management office also invites residents to participate in various activities so that they can enjoy the experience of cultivating plants themselves.
A wide range of activities have sparked residents' interest in gardening. Many local residents even take their own struggling plants to the promotion centre for special care from the staff, which they then take back home after getting professional guidance on how to care for them. Lv said: “The Rendinghu Horticulture Promotion Centre organises lectures and shows to ignite residents' interest in gardening, help them realise the benefits of home gardening and subtly arouse their desire to love and care plants. These measures will have a big effect on environmental protection and making the area greener.”
At present, Beijing's 24 horticulture promotion centres are distributed across three districts, with 21 in Xicheng District, two in Haidian District and one in Yanqing District. They endeavour to promote ecological concepts, teach horticultural skills and advocate the protection of vegetation. In 2018, the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau (Capital Greening Office) began to promote a pilot project for building horticulture promotion centres across the city. Chen Changwu, deputy director of the Liaison Office of the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau, explained that the core function of horticulture promotion centres is related to residents and home gardening. Through the use of Horticulture Reading Area, Ecological Work Viewing Area and Skills Training Area, the public can learn more about home gardening, master related skills and grasp various concepts by watching, listening and learning.
Despite their fixed function, the horticulture promotion centres come in varied forms and the current 24 can receive different numbers of visitors, ranging from 30 to over 100 people. The reason for these differences lies in the different areas of the sites. Currently, the sites are used for horticultural publicity, skill training and exchange activities. Each of the horticulture promotion centres has a distinct style. They were designed to integrate with the surrounding natural environment.
As a leader in the construction and promotion of horticulture promotion centres, Xicheng District boasts the largest number of centres and was the first to establish a promotion centre. Kang Xin, head of the Greening Department of the Xicheng District Gardening and Greening Bureau, said that the bureau has been organising family gardening activities since 2010 to popularise home gardening and spread the concept of gardening. For example, it has conducted horticulture lectures about home gardening; provided flowers for residents to grow and taught them how to keep flowers on balconies, courtyards and alleys; and promoted concepts and skills related to home gardening. These activities are bold attempts and innovative explorations by Xicheng District. They not only promote the concept of home gardening but also make better use of public spaces such as local parks, greenways and communities.
As it continues to develop home gardening activities, Xicheng District Gardening and Greening Bureau is seeking to further standardise and enrich them, seek additional public spaces to build fixed horticulture bases and provide the public with more professional education and display platforms for home gardening. In August 2015, the You'an Horticulture Promotion Centre— the first of its kind in Xicheng District— was built and came into operation. Later, promotion centres were built, including the Rendinghu, Yuetan, Wanshou, Xinjiekou, Shichahai and Taoran centres. As of 2018, Xicheng District, with policy and funding support from the district government, has achieved its goal of building at least one horticulture promotion centre in each sub- district and formed a horticulture promotion network covering the whole district.
Each promotion centre organises at least 24 regular public activities and 10 holiday and festival- oriented activities a year and also carries out the “Horticultural Culture Popularisation Week” in the final week of the year, guaranteeing the effective operation and popularisation of horticulture knowledge and skills.
Improvements have been made in the Xicheng District horticulture promotion centres. Each centre has established a group of teachers made up of from professional horticultural institutions to teach, guide and train residents interested in horticulture and nurture more talented gardeners. To better meet the needs of residents, each promotion centre continues to organise regular activities whilst also preparing a number of special activities, such as encouraging the staff and residents to beautify the nearby alleys; advocating the building of green homes, schools and communities; organising DIY horticultural activities; and providing technical guidance for home gardening. Horticulture teacher Jing Lichao stated: “Despite the fact that residents still have relatively little basic knowledge of horticulture, we've found during the teaching and guiding process that they are extremely enthusiastic.” For this reason, Jing strives to serve the residents as a patient and qualified teacher with five years of training experience, through courses including micro- landscape production, miniature potted gardens and plant landscaping.
As Xicheng District's “green messengers,” the horticulture promotion centres have made home gardening part of the local residents' lives and promoted ecological concepts across the whole district.
Give and Take
When the horticulture promotion centres first appeared, many people had never seen or heard of them, making promotion somewhat difficult. Although the Gardening and Greening Bureau, sub- districts and local communities all encouraged residents to take part in the activities, only a few people actually did so. The lack of enthusiasm for the horticulture promotion centre was a difficult problem to fix at the time.
One year later, the situation has changed greatly, as a result of positive word- of- mouth from the residents. As the horticulture promotion centre has become better known to the public, people have become more active in the various activities. Nowadays, articles posted by the official “Green Xicheng” Wechat account about horticulture events generate a large amount of interest, with the number of participants sometimes even exceeding 100. In the past, many people did not think much of the centre, but now they are proud of it, with residents often making a trip to the centre whenever they are in need of professional guidance on plant cultivation.
Zhong Qing, a trainee at the centre, has become a talented gardener after studying in the horticulture promotion centres. As she explains however, she came across the centre by chance: “In summer 2017, I went to the Xidan Joy City shopping mall where I spotted a little building next door. The sign outside read ‘Xicheng Horticulture Promotion Centre.' Since I've always been interested in gardening, I decided to go inside and saw a lot of small, beautiful green plants. A staff member explained what the promotion centre was doing and recommended I join its Wechat group.”
Zhong learned a lot about gardening from posts in the Wechat group, strengthening her interest in horticulture. Later, she visited the Xidan, You'an, Tiantao and Baiguanglu horticulture promotion centres in her free time, where she has learned flower arranging, miniature gardening and vegetable planting. In the past year, she had the highest attendance rate of any student at each of these horticulture promotion centres.
For Zhong Qing, lectures on horticulture are extremely enjoyable. She goes to You'an Horticulture Promotion Centre most frequently. Niu Yujin, the horticulture teacher there, is a retired employee of Beijing Florascape. Niu is well-known for her professional knowledge in a wide range of areas. When speaking of Niu, Zhong was full of praise: “Ms. Niu is awesome. You know, she once served as an expert responsible for the flower arrangements in Tian'anmen Square!” Zhong has been able to learn a lot from Ms. Niu.
The more courses Zhong takes, the more her knowledge of horticulture grows. She explained: “I used to love keeping plants such as Scindapsus aureus and succulents at home, because they're easy to cultivate. All you have to do is water them. But now things are different.
I know more about horticulture, so I can grow plants that need more work.” Zhong's balcony has now become a mini garden, with geraniums, spider plants, miniature potted gardens, Barbados lilies and crab cacti. This summer, Zhong even managed to harvest a bitter gourd on her balcony that was as big as her head, using the knowledge she learned at the horticulture promotion centres. Zhong explained proudly, “I ate it and it was delicious!” Aside from creating her own mini garden, Zhong has even been invited by a friend to their company to teach flower arranging to the staff.
However, Zhong's greatest sense of achievement comes from having been selected as a contestant in the Xicheng District Horticulture Talent Competition this year after several rounds. Although she was not entirely satisfied with her result among the many strong opponents, she is nonetheless happy to recall the event, saying: “I think I didn't do a great job with the plants during the section for arranging a miniature potted garden. The winner did a good job and theirs had a real sense of depth, which is definitely a skill worth learning.”
Through the horticulture promotion centre, Zhong now has another identity— She is a volunteer in the “Caring about Stars Campaign.” This campaign is designed to help children with autism using horticultural therapy. Zhong said: “I think that learning horticulture is a really happy thing, and the activities put on by the horticulture promotion centres really do benefit us residents.”
Residents have shown increasing recognition of and participation in the horticulture promotion centres. Once the family-horticulture campaign spreads further, it will play a key role in enriching people's ecological and cultural lives. However, the concept is currently still in its infancy, and the existing 24 centres cannot cover the whole of Beijing. As such, there is still a long way to go before the whole city can be served.
This is a green campaign that aims to benefit the public and requires a long time-scale and persistence. In terms of how to carry it out, Chen Changwu stated firmly, “The construction of horticulture promotion centres must always serve the grassroots and the masses, carry out regular ecological services to benefit the public, and enrich their ecological and cultural lives.”
Through the useful attempts of horticulture promotion centres in Xicheng, Haidian and Yanqing, an advanced model has been established for future construction. For example, ideally, centres work best when they are around 200 sq.m and can receive around 30 to 50 people at a time. Chen elaborated: “These are important reference points. When it comes to the actual implementation, the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau doesn't impose strict regulations on districts. The construction of horticulture promotion centres must be adapted to suit local conditions and conform to natural conditions.”
The Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau has been advancing the pilot construction of horticulture promotion centres throughout the city since 2018. On the basis of those already completed, each district is required to build one or two trial centres to explore new methods. The selection of sites adheres to the concepts of positive guidance, stimulation of vitality, self- fundraising and sharing. The construction of facilities adheres to the concepts of low- carbon operation, saving energy, repair and rejuvenation, recycling waste and unique facilities. The utilisation of space aims to make effective use of unused spaces, organise convenient activities for residents, carry out lectures on the ecology and DIY activities, and provide other horticultural services.
The Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau will strive to build no fewer than 100 horticulture promotion centres across the city within three to five years, with no fewer than 10 per district. It will push for the centres to cover the entire city, explain the concept of integrating ecology, environmental protection and home life to the public, and organise various promotional activities related to horticultural training, handicraft production and displaying works, to subtly promote a green and ecological transformation of residents' lifestyles.
In the future, more residents will undoubtedly learn how to cultivate plants, marking the advent of greener and higher quality ways of living. When people become accustomed to such a lifestyle, green, ecological concepts take root and prolifferate.
Members take part in a horticulture class.
A girl learns horticulture skills at the Rendinghu Park Horticulture Centre.
Zhong Qing, an experienced flower arranger