Korean Spring Blooms and Blossoms
Starting as early as March, the cold winds and freezing temperatures of winter begin to subside as spring draws near. In Korea, a wide array of events celebrating the season are held throughout the country where many activities take to the outdoors thanks to the milder weather leading up to early summer festivities.
Regardless of the blankets of snow that may cover patches of earth, many of the early blooming plants spread out their petals to the warming sun. One of Korea’s greatest charms is its endless gardens and lovely landscape. Throughout the country, one can find numerous parks, trails, and gardens dedicated to all the plants in the area, whether indigenous or planted. During the spring months, the blossoms throughout Korea bring in hundreds if not thousands of visitors from all over the country and the globe. Ranging from small flowering bulbs to impressive trees, the sights are never-ending.
A crowd favorite is the flowering of a variety of trees ranging from the famous cherry blossoms to those of the plum and apricot. Many festivals are held to celebrate the blossoms’ beauty and the coming of spring with Jeju Island kicking off the string of festivities, as it’s the first part of the country to have their cherry trees bloom.
Jinhae Gunhanghe Festival is one of the biggest festivals in which people can attend events near the Korea Naval Academy. Along with musical performances and local events such as the commemoration of Korea’s national hero Admiral Yi Sunshin, visitors are guaranteed breathtaking photos no matter which angle they choose to take their pictures from. There are hundreds of cherry trees planted along the scenic railways of Gyeonghwa Station and Yeojwacheon Stream known for its Romance Bridge. Likewise, the Simni Cherry Blossom Road boasts a 6 km path lined with trees where it is said if a couple walks together from end to end holding hands, they will share a long life together.
Many others take delight in the inspiration and photographical opportunities offered by such sights. Others opt to enjoy the moment with foods made from cherry blossoms, such as the much-famed cherry blossom Starbucks beverages made only around this time. Many races and marathons are held during the spring along the winding paths of Bomunho Lake, such as the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon. Other than cherry blossoms, plum and apricot blossoms are equally admired at the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival, with many blooming on the side of Bawgunsan Mountain. The Gurye and Icheon Baeksa Sansuyu dogwood festivals are also crowd favorites for the spring months!
The sansuyu flower is much celebrated during mid to late March. The Gurye Sansuyu Festival takes place at Jirisan Mountain where the yellow buds on trees coat the mountain side. From the flower’s fruit, many people come to take part in making cornus fruit makgeolli as well as to enjoy musical performances near the hot springs.
Blooming Bulbs and Flowers
Across the globe, many of the harbingers of spring tend to be the early spring bulbous plants. A famous sign of early spring is the arrival of tulips. Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, tulips gained popularity and were soon imported into Holland, which hosts the world’s most famous tulip festival. Able to withstand freezing weather and frost, tulips were planted all across the northern hemisphere due to their hardiness.
One park famously known for its extensive gardens year round is the Garden of Morning Calm. An equally impressive display of fields upon fields of tulips can be seen at the Shinan Tulip Festival. A ferry ride can transport you to Imja Island, one of the many islands off the coast of Mokpo, which boasts having the largest tulip fields with a total of 11 hectares. By April, the fields are in full bloom with over five million bulbs planted. Aside from the never-ending horizon of tulips, visitors can also enjoy endless activities such as walking through paths of flowers or riding bikes/horses across the flower-strewn island. Should you be lucky, you may be able to find a double-stemmed tulip! Similarly, Everland also boasts an impressive tulip display.
Aside from the tulips of Imja, Hillam Park also has its own display of tulips, even offering a bibimbap decorated with the colorful flowers. Additionally, fields of yellow canola blossoms carpet Jeju Island in early spring. Covering 10 hectares, Hallim Park brings out the beauty of the sea with its spread of warm yellow canola flowers framed by gardens bursting with cherry blossoms. Wandering down winding paths may lead to additional surprises such as the exhibit of calanthe orchids.
Jeju’s volcanic rich soil also supports rows and rows of green tea plants that creep up the hills and through meadows. Additionally, the Boseong Green Tea Festival celebrates the long history of Korea’s green tea. Boseong’s first green tea fields were planted in 1939 and hold a long history of producing 35% of Korea’s green tea. As more and more interest grows regarding the health and beauty benefits of green tea, so does the number of visitors to the tea fields. At the Bonseong Green Tea Festival, which is held in May, visitors can learn more about the use of green tea by partaking in tea picking and roasting while simultaneously learning about the art of tea making! Apart from the sightseeing and activities, visitors may also treat their taste buds to a variety of green tea treats such as ice cream, or by simply participating in tea tasting.
The royal azaleas and the Rose of Sharon are final must-see blossoms. Each year, Hwangmaesan County Park holds a festival to help preserve the native azalea fields. With the pink flushed flowers ranging from light pink to a deep magenta, Hwangmaesan Mountain was listed on CNN’s “50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea.” Additionally, many movies have been shot at this location including The Sound of Flower which starred Bae Suzy and tells the story of the first female pansori singer likening her voice to the blossoms of the mountainside. To celebrate these mountainside beauties, Yeongchwisan Azalea Festival holds a Miss Azalea Flower Pageant every year as well! The last flower you shouldn’t miss is the Rose of Sharon, Korea’s national flower. The Rose of Sharon, taxonomically known as Hibiscus syriacus, typically blooms much later in the season. Missed the initial blossoming of the spring flowers? Don’t fret! The early to mid-summer months will continue to sport the nation’s pride for you to enjoy!