Fri, Feb 04, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Flower markets bloom

Jianguo and Neihu flower markets are open 24 hours in preparation for Lunar New Year, when flower purchases are a must

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Orchids have become a popular pick for Lunar New Year floral arrangements.

PHOTO: DIANA FREUNDL, TAIPEI TIMES

Before sundown on Lunar New Year's Eve, you need to clean the house, settle outstanding debts, resolve any differences with family and friends and purchase the essential holiday flowers. The last project can be achieved at the flower markets under the Jianguo expressway, or in Neihu.

In preparation for the New Year celebrations, both markets flourish with an array of holiday plants, flowers and consumers.

On any regular weekend, Jianguo Flower Market (建國假日花市) is full of colors and crowds, but as the holiday approaches, the festive atmosphere is amplified with plenty of red, orange and gold trimmings. In operation for more than 20 years, the market has grown to include numerous vendors who converge on the weekend to sell plants, vases and garden fountains.

While Jianguo is the more tourist-friendly market, Neihu boasts a larger size and se-

lection. Formerly part of the Bingjiang Street fruit and flower market, it relocated to the bigger venue in Neihu a few years ago. The market carries everything associated with plant life, from seedlings and gardening tools to gigantic potted plants. An early morning trip witnessed numerous florists stocking up on holiday flora to be sold at their own neighborhood vendors.

Most of the flowers sold at the market are grown in Taiwan, but there are a variety of imported plants and flowers. Orchids, kumquat trees, bamboo, water lilies and plum blossoms are the most in demand at this time of year, said Zhou Jing-ping (周景平) a vendor of small flowers in Keelung. But chrysanthemums, roses and even bonsai, have become popular in the last few years.

"Any flowers or plants are suitable. People even buy daisies for their homes; but just don't give them [daisies] to someone, because they are associated with bereavement," he explained.

While each plant is associated with a particular meaning, fresh flowers and plants in general symbolize rebirth and growth, so they are an essential New Year's decoration.

Orchids or plum blossoms arranged with bamboo and pine stems are one of the most common combinations and symbolize perseverance, unity and longevity. Tangerines, oranges and kumquat trees are also popular for their representation of wealth and fortune.

In terms of pricing, the best deals are found in Neihu, where orchids sell for NT$200 per stem while more elaborate arrangements in decorative vases cost NT$2,500 on average . Kumquat trees range from NT$400 to NT$1,500 depending on size. Single flowers and bouquets sell for a fraction of what they cost at smaller markets. Twenty long-stemmed red roses, which cost NT$50 in the Neihu market, are sold for NT$200 or more by some flower vendors.

Filling a home with flowers may not bring wealth or career advancement, but without the roots there can be no fruit. And lucky is the home in which a plant blooms on New Year's Day: This foretells a year of prosperity.

To accommodate seasonal customers, the hours of operation at both markets have been extended until New Year's Eve. The Neihu Flower Market is located at 400, Rueiguang Rd, Neihu, (內湖瑞光路400) and will be open 24 hours from today until Tuesday, when it will close at 3pm. The Jianguo Weekend Flower Market is located under the Jianguo expressway, at the intersection of Renai and Xinyi roads, Taipei, (仁愛信義路口/建國高架橋下) and will be open from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7, from 9am to 10pm, except Tuesday when it will close at 6pm.

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