As the Lunar New Year approaches, local florists are now displaying dazzling and beautiful flowers for customers to choose from, either in physical stores or markets or via the internet.
It’s amid outbreaks of the Covid-19 Omicron variant in many countries, which could dampen sales this year.
Yet, the “Year of the Tiger” is approaching, and whether it is rooted in certain traditional beliefs or simply a long-standing practice that signifies our inner contentment and appreciation for natural beauty, we can indeed celebrate the occasion with flowers.
As for varieties, there are many charming flowers coming out now such as chrysanthemums, camellias, orchids, bromeliads and gloxinias, as well as non-flowers such as jade plants or “money tree”. and crassula (pigmyweeds), as well as the traditional orange, mandarin or pomelos.
Nowadays, artificial flowers and decorative plants are sold in abundance in many stores. However, for the offering intended to be brought to temples, churches or even cemeteries, the request is always for fresh flowers.
Chrysanthemums are what we consider “must haves” for the Lunar New Year, in that they symbolize good health. There are more than 10 special breeds of different colors, sizes and shapes. Flower ‘dwarfing’ is aided by hormones to achieve uniform size and also uniform ‘bloom time’ so they are ready for market.
The ready-to-sell state is also subject to day length treatment – a daily 14-hour “dark period” for up to two months before flowering.
All seedlings were once imported from Holland.
Chrysanthemum is a flowering member of the Asteraceae family and is “related” to sunflowers, dahlias, marigolds, zinnias and cosmos. Each flower is made up of many small florets. These are known as ‘spiky flowers’, ‘spider flowers’ and ‘anemones’ where the central disc is surrounded by several petals.
Considered to be native to Asia, chrysanthemums have long undergone hybridization to obtain a commercial specialty.
- Cultivation tips
– Growing in the tropics requires special sun protection to prevent overheating. The soil should have a neutral pH of 7 and also incorporate well-composted potting soil. Mulching with coconut fibers is a good way to keep the soil cool and maintain viable moisture. A slow release is recommended for the life of the plant. It is important to provide ample watering to promote good growth, as you would a tomato plant. Typical pests and diseases affecting the plant are mites, scale insects and aphids.
- Health Benefits
– Many of us often drink chrysanthemum tea, not knowing about the health benefits of such a natural drink. It is said to be able to “relieve heat” from the body, alleviate cold symptoms, help in blood cleansing, improve cardiovascular function, lower cholesterol levels, as well as improve sight by increasing the sharpness of vision, maintaining moisture in the eyes and addressing “patchy vision”.
Chrysanthemum tea would contain vitamins B9 and B6.
Many types of orchids are not too difficult to plant.
A favorite flower species for displays, orchids generally last longer than other horticultural flowers.
In terms of varieties, we have dendrobium, vanda, arachnis (spider orchid), cymbidum (boat orchid), phalaenopsis (butterfly orchid), cattleya and oncidium among the most recognizable. Of the few types usually chosen for display on festive occasions, the butterfly-shaped phalaenopsis is a favorite, each flower having a chain of eight to 10 florets.
Some orchids have a mild, sweet scent, with a pleasantly noticeable scent early in the morning or late at night when the air is humid.
One of the criteria for selecting flowers and also other plants for the celebration of Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival is the tradition, or the symbolism that each of them represents.
Orchids are generally associated with fertility and abundance, while a fruiting orange tree represents abundance and happiness.
A pair of pomelos sharing a twig signifies good luck and strong family ties; a bouquet of luscious jujubes (Chinese red dates), plums or grapes also symbolizes good luck, as well as prosperity.
Other flowers representing good fortune are willows, narcissus (water fairy) and peach blossoms, which also symbolize growth.
I would like to share my experience in planting ‘limau kasturi’ (calamansi) and kumquats. Last year I planted about 50 plants using ready-to-grow graft material, which my friend Lim bought from me at RM8 per plant.
I had cleared a patch for planting and all I did was make planting holes that averaged 1.2 feet by 1.2 feet in size and about two feet deep.
After adding basal lime fertilizer, NPK and a soil mix, I inserted the seedlings and covered them well.
It is necessary to think of watering them sufficiently because the weather is not always favorable to the creation of a good establishment.
Weeding should also be done, with supplemental nutrients by foliar spray and 15-15-15 NPK applied intermittently.
Flowering should begin after six months for the first season. The fruits must be protected against skin rust and sometimes also against burns.
Pests like sooty mold could strike some trees.
Shrubs would need regular pruning; otherwise, there would be too many branches and leaves which could lead to overgrowth and lack of flowering.
Fruit should be ready for harvest within three months of flowering.
Happy New Year to you and I wish you success in your gardening.