THE HONG KONG horticulture industry not only provides blooms to individuals wishing to spruce up their homes, but also serves commercial clients who understand that flower power can help clinch a sale or win new business. At present, major commercial clients include property management companies, design businesses and the visual merchandising departments of retailers who use flowers and plants to add colour and style to their premises. On the other hand, 'Some of our clients from design companies are likely to buy materials such as flowers and decorative accessories for their own creative use,' said Belinda Ko, Brighten Floriculture's marketing manager. 'Other clients are more interested in our designed products that have been [created] by our own floral designers.' That said, the Hong Kong government is one of the industry's most valued customers, with extensive yearly planting programmes for trees, shrubs and annual plants throughout every district. The distinct improvement in the economy over the past few years has also had a major impact on the industry. 'Because ... the financial market is getting better, the business environment allows us to have many more opportunities to do a lot of decoration projects,' said Jay Ko, the project manager of local horticulturalist Lung Shan Garden. Unfortunately for the horticulture business, however, not all was well as far as private clients were concerned, he said. 'Private clients are gradually decreasing their consumption of plants,' he said. Ways to boost the public's consumption of flowers and plants included negotiating lower prices, to which most clients had responded with enthusiasm. In addition to that, 'Even the government and industry need us to tender for most orders, which has led us to waste a great deal of time and resources,' Mr Ko said. 'This has encouraged other companies to keep their tender prices too much lower, [meaning that] there is an imbalanced market in which to carry out our business.'