Tall and proud on wooden stands, the bouquets of tiger lilies, roses, sunflowers and peonies – a delight for the senses – line the wall of a busy street in Causeway Bay.
It is customary in Hong Kong for people to send bouquets to new shop owners to wish them luck with their business. Often, they are accompanied by greeting cards, especially from fellow shop owners in the neighbourhood hoping the addition will also bring prosperity to their own business. But when the opening show is over, it’s a sadly all too common sight to see these flowers dumped in alleyways, many still in full bloom with at least a few days left in them before their date with the rubbish bin.
I’ve often found myself rummaging through bunches like a vulture at a rather lovely carcass, picking off flowers that still have colour and fragrance and taking them home so they can see out their short life with dignity. I don’t understand why shop owners don’t take the flowers home, or at least hand them out to family and friends. If that’s too much to ask, then maybe they could be collected by a charity and distributed to hospitals and old peoples’ homes rather than being dumped unceremoniously in back alleys.
There’s also a serious reason why they should be shown more respect. Cut flowers come with a high carbon footprint because Hong Kong has to import blooms since it does not have a local floriculture industry. One supplier of flowers to Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou says its blooms are brought from many countries¬– as close as the mainland and as far away as Holland.
Those opening bouquets have come a long way to be prematurely thrown in a gutter.