HANGZHOU, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Xu Xiaohua, a farmer from Zhuma Township in Jinhua, east China's Zhejiang Province, carefully pruned the frost-damaged camellia branches in his garden without disturbing the buds.
Xu is among many other farmers in the region who has ridden the wave of the floral industry's success, particularly represented by camellias. The industry generated over 500 million yuan (about 76.92 million U.S. dollars) in sales for the township last year.
Walking on the paved road with colorful camellias alongside, 73-year-old Qian Ruihua reminisced how their happy life bloomed.
Qian became the Party chief of Xiazhangjia Village in Zhuma Township in 1976 when every household in the village planted rice, but the harvest barely made ends meet.
"We can't increase our income or even shake off poverty by growing grains," Qian said to himself at the time. He then tried to promote vegetable cultivation such as sweet corn and asparagus, but the yields were less than satisfactory.
Thereafter, Qian visited several villages in other provinces to learn about achieving prosperity and finally decided to plant camellias in 1996.
No one was skilled in planting flowers at that time, but Qian was determined. "Camellias can be grafted, so why can't we graft the technology in our village?"
Qian then invited 23 experienced flower growers and persuaded villagers to lease their land to them. He also encouraged the villagers to find jobs at the camellia fields and learn planting technology.
"I expected the villagers to take three years to grasp the technology, but some of them took only six months before procuring land on contract and starting camellia plantations," he recalled.
Camellias from Xiazhangjia Village gained popularity as China's burgeoning urbanization bolstered the demand for flowers.
"Our customers are spread across the country, from northeast China's Jilin Province to south China's Guangdong Province," Qian said.
In 2003, the International Camellia Species Garden was established in Zhuma Township as the industry thrived. The garden focuses on camellia conservation, breeding and utilization, with up to 204 camellia species at present.
The garden is etched to the memories of Gao Qunliang. "I used to stroll through it as a child and I realized how amazing it was," said Gao, who was born in 1987.
In 2011, Gao returned to the township to start a business after retiring from active military service. Unlike his parents, who "only planted camellias and waited for enterprises to come and buy seedlings," Gao took his venture online and promoted sales through e-commerce.
E-commerce and short video platforms have helped him a lot. "I earn 800,000 yuan a year from selling camellias, and 70 percent of my income is generated through online sales," said Gao.
Currently, eight villages in Zhuma Township plant more than 1,200 varieties of camellias. However, Jiang Jianjun, Party chief of the township, believes camellias still have great development potential and can bring vast opportunities.
Jiang intends to develop camellia products with more added value, such as dried flowers, essential oil and soaps. He also wants to invest in relevant tourism projects.
"We will keep walking on the development path with camellias in full bloom," Jiang said. Enditem