As with almost all activities at Chinese New Year (CNY), there is enormous symbolism in the use of flowers and plants. Miniature kumquat plants are popular, with the fruits’ golden colour symbolising money, while pomelos, often seen in pairs, are said to promote family unity. You’ll see orchids galore – their delicate blooms symbolic of luxury and abundance.
Potted plants (rather than cut blooms) are the number one essential at CNY, since they represent new life. Any flower that blossoms over CNY bestows a blessing but a plant that blooms on Lunar New Year’s Day brings 12 months of prosperity to the family that homes it. This is particularly true of the white narcissus.
If you don’t fancy braving the crowds at the festive flower markets at Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park and Prince Edward’s Fa Hui Park, Tat Tung Road Garden in Tung Chung hosts a small CNY flower market, while Prince Edward’s permanent stalls on Flower Market Road often yield better bargains than the seasonal flower fairs.
Needless to say, Hing Fat Flower Market’s Tung Chung shop in Fu Tung Plaza does a roaring trade in the lead up to the holidays, as does Garden Plus over in Pui O. “We sell a lot of kumquat plants for Chinese New Year – they are traditional gifts symbolising wealth,” says Henny Robertson at Garden Plus. “We also have red gladioli for career success; narcissi and chrysanthemums for prosperity, and cherry blossoms for fresh starts.”
For Alice Chan at Hing Fat Flower Market, orchids, symbolising wealth, luxury, good fortune and abundance, are go-to picks at CNY. “They are undoubtedly the most popular Chinese New Year flower if you are thinking about adding some cheer to your home or workplace,” she says. “The waterfalltype pot plants are adorable display pieces. Having a beautiful phalaenopsis (moth orchid) at home can improve air quality, reduce stress, and improve healing and concentration.”
Alice also recommends forsythia for prosperity, cherry blossom for new beginnings and, if you are looking for a gift for the one you love, red amaryllis.
Bright red peonies (the flower of riches and honour) are another auspicious choice at CNY. Over the holiday, business people spend a lot of money on bouquets of peonies to ensure that they will have a prosperous year. As well as bringing with them the promise of material success, peonies are also associated with romance, since they are a symbol of feminine beauty.
Peach blossom is considered the most auspicious of all plants at this time of year. Its significance lies in the symbolic importance of the peach, which, in Chinese culture, signifies long life, and is regarded as the strongest defence against evil.
Well-chosen arrangements make a play on words. The Chinese language opens up endless opportunities for punning, and this is demonstrated in the flowers that are most sought-after at this time of year. For instance kumquat plants, pronounced gam gat sue in Cantonese – the word gam rhymes with the Cantonese word for gold, and the word gat rhymes with the Cantonese word for luck. In Mandarin, kumquat is jin ju meaning golden orange, symbolising gold or wealth.
Foliage plays a supporting role –in more ways than one. Bamboo stems (implying compatibility) are often fixed on to pine sprigs (symbolising longevity and steadiness). These are then sculpted into meaningful Chinese words or characters, for instance shou, meaning longevity. Mix in a couple of plum blossoms and the grouping symbolises friendship.
Garden Plus, 6547 2233
Hing Fat Flower Market, 3643 0590
Tags: auspicious plants, chinese new year, kamquat