By Mike Lee
While varieties such as the Celosia, kumquat, and pussy willow continue to be best-sellers at local nurseries during Chinese new year (Cny), new product offerings like the "double-8" bamboo, rice and even the coconut are giving the traditional favourites a run for their money.
The "double-8" bamboo is literally another new twist to the plant that symbolises good luck, says Mr royston Low, managing director of Katong Flower shop. It is among the latest in the trend of bending the bamboo plant into various aesthetic shapes, with the curves symbolising the turn of luck for the better.
In addition, two eights are pronounced "fa fa" in Cantonese, which is associated with striking it rich. Another new offering is the "lucky bamboo wealth vase", which is shaped in the form of a well.
It signifies the retention of wealth and adding more wealth with the opening of one's personal luck, says Sinflora's managing director Dato' Bernard Loo.
"It has been a great favourite with consumers and the first shipment sold out so quickly that we had to double our order with our suppliers," remarks Dato' Loo.
Then there is Xiqueyingchun, or magpie welcoming spring. This plant has flowers which bears an uncanny resemblance to birds.
The paired "birds" signify love and affection too. But what about rice, coconut, and even carrot? Get rice for a bountiful harvest; coconut or yezi to attract the caishenye (God of Fortune), and carrot to welcome the year of the rabbit.
Traditional favourites like the Zamioculcas continue to do well. While many know it as the money plant, less known is the fact that it flowers too.
As that is a rare occurrence, it is believed a windfall will follow.
"One of our customers shared with us that after his Zamioculcas bloomed, he won $5,000 from 4D (lottery)," says Dato' Loo.
It is not just the Chinese who believe in their efficacy. Dato' Loo adds that an indian couple encountered similar luck when their Zamioculcas bloomed, quickly selling a property that was previously neglected by the market.
Mr Low sees an increasing number of foreigners including expatriate Chinese at his nursery too. Not all are hunting for lucky charms though, as some people may simply be passersby who are attracted to the displays, or those who are already plant and flower enthusiasts.
He adds that serious buyers make several trips to check out the products. The bigger and more lasting plants would have been on the market for around one to two weeks already; flowering plants will be starting to make their appearances; cut flowers will be available three days before Cny.
But even those who just want to soak up the sights and fragrances of the flora market will be rewarded.
Says Mr Low: "Singapore is very fortunate. Cny is the best period of the year to see so many beautiful flowers at the same time."
What the flowers mean
Chrysanthemum: fonghuafugui, or wealth and status
Narcissus: haoyundaolai, arrival of good luck
Azalea: ruyijixiang, good fortune as one wishes
Zamioculcas: jinqianmanman, literally full of money
Orchids: caifuwanguan, wealth and literally ten thousand strings of cash
Cockscomb: hongyundangtou, lucky strike
Peony: minglieqianmao, first in rankings
Pussy willow: yinguangsishe, literally radiating silver light
Celosia: fenghuangchengxiang, auspicious phoenix
Kumquat: dajidali, good fortune and great profit
Bamboo: kaiyun, zhuanyun or to open up luck, turn of luck for better
Coconut: sounds like caishenye or God of Wealth
Shop at any Sinflora's outlets located at 1 Seletar West Farmway 1, 2 Tampines St 85, or 19 Bah Soon Pah Road and you will stand a chance to win three times the amount spent.
You can use this prize money to buy more festive plants. The promotion is on now and the draw will be conducted a week before CNY.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
For more The Straits Times stories, click here.