NANJING, May 13 (Xinhua) -- As flowers start to bloom in his rose garden, Zhang Ji is preparing to welcome a busy season of over 1,000 visitors every day.
The visitors will take selfies and enjoy rose cakes while appreciating the splendid colors of nature.
"The number of tourists would have doubled this year if not for the coronavirus epidemic," said Zhang, who expects a tourist boom as the epidemic eases.
When Zhang finished his studies in Britain in 2012, he returned to his hometown in the city of Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province, and built the rose garden that covers an area of 23 hectares with his family.
Boasting a beautiful view and a rich variety of flowers, the garden soon became a popular tourist destination and yielded a revenue of more than 17 million yuan (about 2.4 million U.S. dollars) last year.
Zhang's rose garden is close to Taihu Lake, China's third-largest freshwater lake, where the floral industry is bearing fruit as more efforts have been taken to improve the local ecosystem.
Not far away, a park carpeted with azalea blossoms made its debut in 2019.
The park features more than 30,000 fine rhododendrons of over 120 varieties, many of which are imported from Japan and other countries, said Zhang Lin, the landscape engineer of the park. The oldest of them is 500 years old.
"Tourists can purchase an azalea plant they fancy and the price can reach as high as over a million yuan," said Shao Li, a worker at the park.
Wuxi has tasted the sweetness of the "floral economy" by building a world-class cherry blossom viewing site and creating a lavender park that generates an annual ticket revenue of over 25 million yuan.
"Taihu Lake suffered a severe blue-algae outbreak in 2007, which made the local government realize the importance of environmental protection while maintaining steady economic growth," said Tan Jun, an official with Binhu's department of agricultural and rural affairs.
According to Tan, the floral sector has hence begun thriving around Taihu Lake and all highly polluting businesses within 5 km from the lake have been shut down or relocated.
Changzhou, a city neighboring Wuxi on the west bank of Taihu Lake, is also witnessing a flourishing scene of prosperity from flowers. It has a national flower expo park and the sales volume of the city's floral markets is as high as more than 10 billion yuan.
"Besides going out to admire blossoms, a growing number of people buy and grow flowers too," said Cui Jingbin, a villager of Wuxi's Huaxi Village, known as the richest village in China.
Cui, who is responsible for the floral business of the village, said villagers who accumulated wealth through the development of industries such as steel and chemical fiber also set foot in the floral sector last year.
Local residents mainly plant orchids. "We also sell orchid decoration designs for courtyards, offices and hotels," Cui said.
Yang Lanhua, a Wuxi resident, started his own orchid business in 2010. Back then he could sell 20,000 pots of phalaenopsis orchids a year, but now the annual sales are 15 times of that number.
"Chinese people's pursuit of a better life and environment is much stronger now, and it is time for the floral industry to blossom," Yang said. Enditem