400,000 set to tiptoe through the tulips

FROM today until March 27, the Hong Kong Flower Show will turn Victoria Park into a blaze of colour.

Almost 80 local and international organisations will present a profusion of orchids, geraniums, roses, dahlias, pansies, rhododendrons, tulips, and many more blooms and shrubs from around the world.

The theme of this year's show is ''Floral Elegance of our Great City''.

Thirty-eight local flower associations, corporations and government departments, including, for the first time, the MTRC, the Hong Kong University's Kadoorie Agricultural Research Centre, and the Hong Kong Oriental Orchid Development Association, have set up magnificent displays to help highlight the theme for the eighth annual show.

Among them will be a floral pyramid by China Light and Power, Ocean Park's Lost Paradise, and an estate garden prepared by the MTRC.

The show is jointly organised by the Urban and Regional councils whose contribution is a European formal design known as parterre, level ground filled with flower beds with a fountain in the centre.

An interesting variation on floral exhibits is the Agricultural and Fisheries Department's Alice in the Insect World.

The largest overseas contingent is, as usual, from China and the Garden Bureau of Guangzhou, one of 22 Chinese organisations participating this year, will be presenting a massive display of chrysanthemums.

Other nations taking part are South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United States, and, making its debut, the Netherlands.

Air New Zealand, Air Niugini, Garuda, Qantas and Thai International will also present displays of flowers.

The main aim of the 1994 Flower Show is to promote an interest in the love of flowers, according to Cheung Yiu-kong, chairman of this year's show committee.

''Each year, we try to think of new ideas to vary the display,'' said Mr Cheung.

''This year, we have introduced topiary for the first time in the form of a dinosaur.

''We have also created a Chinese walled garden to contain all exhibits from the mainland, including more examples of topiary in the centre.'' The organisers have also extended the length of the flower show by one day by cutting out the need to close for 24 hours while the flowers are changed.

In the past, people have been disappointed to find the show closed, and, this year, flowers will be rotated a few at a time while the show is open.

Another first this year is the introduction of hanging baskets dripping with flowers, a common form of decoration in Europe, but rarely seen in Hong Kong.

Backing up the floral displays will be a wide selection of other entertainment, including competitions, concerts by three bands, talks on a range of horticultural subjects, a variety show and Happy Wonderland, a play area for children.

The flower show has come a long way since the early days when a mere 30,000 attended the Urban Council Flower Show in City Hall.

In 1992, the last time the Flower Show was held in Victoria Park, more than 350,000 people visited the displays and side shows.

Although the number fell to around 300,000 last year in Sha Tin, Mr Cheung is confident that the increased length of the show, together with new exhibits, will attract a record-breaking 400,000 this year.