With 18 days to go before Chinese New Year, nurseries here are gearing up to welcome the first wave of crowds looking to stock up on festive plants and blooms this weekend.
Early container loads of plants from China and Malaysia were delivered over the past week and nurseries are expecting more to arrive in the next few days.
But unlike the memorable Year of the Dragon or Horse, the upcoming Year of the Goat has not yielded any fancy plants, save for some goat-shaped pots and adorable sheep figurines that adorn arrangements.
As usual, traditional favourites such as kumquats, chrysanthemums, kalanchoes and phalaenopsis are expected to fly off the shelves.
Hardier plants such as the four seasons lime, zamioculcas and tangerine shrubs have arrived since last week, as early- bird shoppers start trickling in for a look-see.
Flowering plants will be on sale closer to Chinese New Year so that they will stay fresh in time for the first day of Chinese New Year on Feb 19, when families start their visiting.
Mr Lee Meng Kwan, assistant general manager of World Farm, a nursery in Bah Soon Pah Road, has had customers coming in to check out his fresh stock of kumquats and mandarin orange shrubs since last week.
Mr Lee, who has been in the industry for 24 years, says: "The Chinese are still very traditional when it comes to decorating with plants for the new year. Mandarin orange and kumquat plants, cockscomb and celosia are must-buys every year. These plants signal that Chinese New Year is here."
Mr Peter Cheok, sales and marketing director at Far East Flora, agrees. "There is a Chinese saying, 'hua kai fu gui', meaning 'when flowers bloom, prosperity comes'. Festive plants and blooms have long been associated with good fortune, growth and prosperity for the coming year."
Besides the tried-and-tested offerings, nurseries are also offering familiar plants with a different twist.
For example, Far East Flora and Candy Floriculture, which usually bring in the cherry blossom plant, are stocking cherry blossom bonsais this year. The bonsai version has a more Oriental look and thicker branches that spread wider.
Then there are mandarin orange plants shaped like topiaries and pussy willows coloured green, blue and purple.
These plants are brought in specially during the festive season to add variety, says Mr Mok Keng Houng, manager of Ji Mei Flower in Joan Road.
His take on this year's decorative trend: centrepiece displays and pairing real flowers with silk ones. He has had more customers asking for statement pieces, which he says were previously more commonly seen in hotels.
"Those with small homes or don't want to worry about having many plants to care for will go for one or two pots of plants which will really stand out.
"Silk flowers help enhance an arrangement and they look fresh all the time," he says.
For Ms Gracelyn Lin, vice-president of sales and marketing of Sing See Soon Floral & Landscape, gold is the hue du jour this year.
The colour was popular in China when her team went there to source for plants and saw many gold-themed accessories, which she says "set the trend and tone for the season".
This is why the nursery in Punggol East has brought in a variety of gold pots that customers can fill with their choice of plants.
Ms Lin says: "This is different from the Year of the Snake in 2013, when customers wanted jade and orange to counter the negative connotations attached to the snake.
"The Year of the Goat is associated with success and wealth, so that means there is a lot of gold in the decorations to create that auspicious feel."
Speaking of money, nurseries say plant prices remain the same as last year.
World Farm's Mr Lee advises shoppers to buy their plants, especially the hardier ones, early rather than wait till the last minute.
He also suggests shoppers ask for tips from nursery staff on how to care for the plants so they remain in tip-top condition throughout the festive period.
"The plants are grown at the same time, but may not be delivered together. They are all of the same quality."
This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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