Feature: Hong Kong florist embraces unusual busy season amid epidemic

2021-02-08 02:25:02 GMT2021-02-08 10:25:02(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2021 shows the orchid cultivation area of Yeung Siu-lung, known as the Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2021 shows the orchid cultivation area of Yeung Siu-lung, known as the "orchid king" in Hong Kong, south China. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
Yeung Siu-lung, known as the Yeung Siu-lung, known as the "orchid king", is seen at his orchid cultivation area in Hong Kong, south China, Jan. 28, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
Yeung Siu-lung, known as the Yeung Siu-lung, known as the "orchid king", works at his orchid cultivation area in Hong Kong, south China, Jan. 28, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2021 shows the orchid cultivation area of Yeung Siu-lung, known as the Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2021 shows the orchid cultivation area of Yeung Siu-lung, known as the "orchid king" in Hong Kong, south China. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
A customer selects flowers at a Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang) A customer selects flowers at a Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
Yeung Siu-lung, known as the Yeung Siu-lung, known as the "orchid king", works at his orchid cultivation area in Hong Kong, south China, Jan. 28, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
Customers select flowers at a Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang) Customers select flowers at a Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
Customers select flowers at a Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang) Customers select flowers at a Lunar New Year flower market at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, south China, Feb. 6, 2021. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

Buying flowers ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year is a tradition in Hong Kong as flowers in full blossom are considered an auspicious omen for a new year. It is also a once-a-year opportunity for flower farmers to reap the rewards of a year of hard work.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, this year's busy season is unusual for Yeung Siu-lung.

Known in the sector as the "orchid king", Yeung, 59, has planted flowers for 24 years and could always weather out hardships from spiking rents to the adverse climate. But the government's decision to call off the annual flower fair scheduled at the beginning of February still caught him unprepared.

The fair is a popular festive event held each year around the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. Markets are usually set up in multiple places where people can purchase flowers and festive products.

As infections continued to rise, the government in early January announced the cancellation of the fair for public health risk, which caused immediate outcries of flower growers.

"Flower farmers like me have been working so hard for a year and we mainly rely on the fairs to sell flowers," Yeung said. He planned to set up 16 stalls at Victoria Park and Mong Kok sites and has employed workers and made preparation for the event.

The cancellation would be unbearable for numerous farmers like Yeung, who estimated a loss of three million Hong Kong dollars (387,000 U.S. dollars) himself.

Fortunately, after days of appeals, the government backtracked on the decision and allowed the fair to be held on schedule with anti-epidemic measures put in place.

For six days starting Saturday, there are sales points at 15 sites in Hong Kong. The number of flower booths inside each site is halved from a year ago, and florists are required to offer hand sanitizers at their stalls and take virus tests before the fair opens.

Relieved by the news, Yeung could refocus on tending his orchids.

Yeung owns 10 greenhouses in Hong Kong and the largest one can hold 40,000 orchids at the same time. Over the past year, he has planted some 180,000 orchids covering over 60 different varieties.

"There must be at least eight buds at each stem and the stem should also be long enough to bend into various shapes," Yeung said. Before putting flowers up for sale, every orchid is carefully examined and sometimes a single flawed bud could lead to the whole pot discarded.

It usually takes more than two years for an orchid to bloom and the cultivation requires some very special conditions such as sharp temperature difference.

"The weather has been very friendly to orchids this year so the flowers are the most beautiful I've ever seen," Yeung said.

As the new year is coming, the number of customers coming to his greenhouses has exceeded Yeung's expectations. He guessed that more people will stay in Hong Kong for the holiday due to the epidemic, rather than traveling abroad, which leads to more demand for flowers.

"I may have 20 percent more customers than last year," he said. "Hong Kong people really love flowers."

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