It’s summer time in Linxia, a small town in China’s Gansu province, and the peonies are in full bloom.
Following two years of effort by the city fathers, the peony tour is now a popular attraction, with the colourful flowers popping up all along the Binhe Road in Linxia, forming a peony promenade that runs almost 100 kilometres.
Visitors can enjoy the charms of the blooms while learning about the peony’s various properties, among them medicine from the peony root and bark, and refreshing tea from the pistil, stamen, petals and buds.
Known as the first peony village in Hezhou, the mountainous Wangping Village is home to more than 170 kinds of peonies. The planting has worked wonders for the locals, with the number of poor families tumbling from 172 in 2013 to just six at the end of last year.
Now the village has set up an oil peony plantation cooperative. According to villagers' calculations, planting wheat makes little money, but planting peony seedlings, with a single cycle of five years, saves labour and can bring farmers more than 100,000 yuan (Bt500,000).
He Shenghong, who is known as Linxia's Peony King, is the pioneer of the peony industry in Wangping Village. He not only circulates land for seedling cultivation, but also develops peony tea products and peony alcohol. Peony stamen tea is sold by gram weight and goes for just under 10,000 yuan per 500 grams.
“Poverty alleviation in the northwest is like the rockii peony, which will bloom one day though it blossoms late,” muses the Peony King.