Hong Kong florists sow seeds for timely Lunar New Year blooms, as warm weather causes flowers to blossom too early
Sellers switch on air conditioning, among other measures, to delay blossoming process
Unpredictable weather in the city since the start of the year has prompted florists to take extra measures to ensure that their flowers blossom just in time for the Lunar New Year.
Farmers have seen their flowers bloom early this year as a result of warmer weather, with last month being the second-hottest December in 132 years, and this month’s daytime temperatures set to range between 14 and 29 degrees Celsius.
This comes ahead of the annual Lunar New Year fairs – which this year would be from January 22 to 27, a day before the Lunar New Year – where most shoppers would usually buy their flowers.
Sellers advised shoppers to get their Lunar New Year flowers at the start of the fairs so they would be able to witness them blossoming in time for the celebrations, signifying a prosperous and lucky year ahead.
Peach blossom seller Lau Hoi-to said he had decided to delay the usual process of speeding up the blossoming of his flowers because of the warm weather late last year.
His peach blossom trees are now set to bloom just a day or two before the first day of the lunar new year next Saturday, he said, while 90 per cent of vendors in Guangzhou have already seen their trees blossom to their peak as early as the start of January.
“People who usually buy from the mainland now buy from me instead,” Lau said excitedly. “I am having a sore throat because I have taken too many orders over the phone!”
Lau, who took over his father’s flower business 42 years ago, said he had stopped taking orders yesterday because he was worried that he would not have enough trees to sell at his five stalls in the Victoria Park market. He originally planned to sell 1,000 peach blossom trees, but because many blossomed earlier than expected, only 700 would be put on sale.
But he does not intend to raise prices. “The Lunar New Year is for everyone to be happy, and I would like to keep my old customers. They are almost like friends,” he said.
Meanwhile, orchid seller Yeung Siu-lung said that he had to fork out between HK$100,000 and HK$200,000 for an extra month of all-day air conditioning for his flowers to delay the blossoming process in the glass house. This was to ensure he had enough orchids to sell at his 16 stalls at the Lunar New Year fair in Victoria Park this coming Sunday.
He said the warm weather would not affect his flowers much as orchids can usually last longer compared with other flowers normally bought for Lunar New Year.
Yeung has 16,000 pots of the flowers available, with one stem of orchids selling at between HK$138 and HK$380. His most expensive pot, which has one seed with 28 orchid buds, will be priced at HK$12,800.
Narcissus seller Tam Chun, 68, expect 70 per cent of his flowers to be sold three days before Lunar New Year as more than half of his pots have already blossomed.
“[Warm weather] is not necessarily a bad thing; some customers like to see some flowers in the pot blossoming so that they will have something to show to relatives when they drop by for the new year,” Tam said.
He is optimistic that his business would see a 20 to 30 per cent increase from last year.
“[Although] warm weather does cause flowers to bloom earlier, it will also make more people willing to go outdoors to the Lunar New Year fair, so it could be a good thing,” he added.
Lai Chuk-lam, who grows peach blossom trees, tangerines and narcissus in his flower farm in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po, said that a lot of his regular customers had visited his farm earlier than usual to purchase flowers as they knew that the flowers were already blooming. “I tell customers to pour cooler water into the narcissus pots so they will not wither so quickly,” Lai said.
“There is not much that we can do with the weather – as long as we try to ensure that they bloom till the new year day, people will be satisfied,” he said.