by Gerard Claramunt
It’s important to know that TET or the Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year in
Vietnam. All people return to their hometowns for big celebrations with their families. One of the oldest
traditions surrounding TET is a live Kumquat tree and every family must have one. In the northern part
of the country, there is a new trend that allows more families to join in with this rich tradition-it’s a
bonsai kumquat tree that is perfect for people who live in small apartments.
I met a master gardener named Mr. Manh, he is a fourth generation Hanoian resident that grew up in an
area and family famous for growing kumquat trees for the TET holiday. In 2000, he had a notion to
innovate the growing process of the kumquat tree by making a smaller version that people could display
on tabletops. While this may sound like a great idea, minds are hard to change in a society as culturally
traditional as Vietnam. The response from his neighbors and friends was to laugh and call him crazy,
some even stopped talking to him and banished him from their lives. Later in 2005, he decided to move
forward with his idea and began growing the smaller kumquat trees much like the Japanese grow
various bonsai trees and plants.
Fortunately for all of us, Mr. Manh worked hard to cultivate the smaller kumquat trees and slowly he
began to win people over with his revolutionary idea. He watched as sales of his smaller trees slowly
grew and many of those that had laughed at him came to realize the greatness of his idea and the skill
involved with it. As with most great ideas, copycat gardeners began to appear but none matched the
level of this humble man. He has received numerous awards for his master gardening skills, including
one from the President of Vietnam in 2014 as one of the top artisans in the country. He is now
considered a true pioneer in his field and has won the respect of everyone in Hanoi and across this great
country. It is a well-deserved honor and shows how thinking out of the box, hard work and persistence
can bring you national attention.