TAIPEI — Standing in front of a sea of crimson red petunias with her husband, Chang Chien-hua nods and smiles approvingly.
“I’ve been walking around the park for almost three hours, and I still don’t want to go home,” said the 73-year-old grandmother, who was one of the special guests invited to tour the Taipei International Flora Exposition on the first day of its trial run in early October.
The longtime Taipei City resident said she has loved flowers all her life because they “always put me in a good mood.”
“How can anyone get angry when they are surrounded by these beautiful flowers? This is exactly the kind of thing that Taiwan needs right now,” she added.
Whether Chang is proved right cannot be known just days before the Flora Expo 2010 officially opens tomorrow. But the Taipei City government hopes the event will not only add much needed hues to the capital city’s environment but also solidify Taiwan’s place as the world’s “Flower Kingdom.”
Taiwan was selected by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) in 2006 to host the prestigious event, the first internationally recognized exposition ever to be held in Taiwan.
The Taipei City government has been working double time to ensure that the six month festival that runs from Nov. 6 to April 25 has enough substance to hold the interest of visitors, quell critics, and amaze the world with Taiwan’s “flower power.”
The 91.8-hectare expo site in the northern part of the capital city is spread out over four park areas — Yuanshan, Xinsheng, Fine Arts and Dajia Riverside.
It will be home to 14 pavilions and more than 800 varieties of orchids, 329 million stems of locally developed plant varieties, from impatiens and bamboos to bonsai trees, and award-winning landscape and gardening designs from 36 countries.
“Although Taiwan’s flower industry already enjoys international prominence, the expo is a perfect chance for more people to appreciate the wide range of flower species we have in the country,” said expo spokeswoman Ma Chien hui.
To make the event truly “Taiwanese,” over 90 percent of the flowers and vegetation on display have been procured from flower farms around Taiwan, injecting NT$2.2 billion into the local flower industry.
Besides promoting Taiwan’s floriculture prowess, the event also hopes to showcase the country’s commitment to green technology and environmental conservation.
The Pavilion of New Fashion located in Yuanshan Park is the world’s first house made entirely from reusable waste. A total of 1.5 million recycled PET plastic bottles were used to build the pavilion’s EcoARK, and all materials used during the R&D, manufacturing and construction phases of the project were sourced in Taiwan.
During the six-month exposition, only paper products made of dandelions instead of trees will be used on the show grounds. Doing so will save 3,300 trees and 281 tons of carbon emissions, organizers said.
With the city holding a mayoral election on Nov. 27, the expo has been a target of opposition politicians looking to discredit the city government. They have accused expo organizers, for example, of procuring flowers at inflated prices and said the expo’s layout would disrupt traffic.
But during the exposition’s 20-day trial period, the 450,000 visitors had a 78 percent satisfaction rate, and what they saw, says Taipei City Acting Deputy Mayor Allan Chu, was just a “sneak preview.”