Since the 1970s, Flower Market Road (花墟道) has been the go-to place for plants and flowers in Hong Kong. The term ‘market’ conjures up an image of a large open space packed with stalls, but Hong Kong’s floral focal point is made up of about fifty privately owned shops extending along two parallel streets and the short roads that connect them. Although originally the heart of the city’s wholesale flower industry, the market’s customers are now mostly local people, purchasing house plants and cut flowers for every occasion. For those with a balcony, or anyone fortunate enough to have a garden (a rarity in Hong Kong), there are pots, compost and all the usual gardening paraphernalia.
Whilst the flower market has become an attraction in its own right, it’s a practical affair and tourists are advised to stand back in favour of serious shoppers on a mission. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and laced with the heady perfume of lilies, carnations and jasmine. I paid an evening visit, vying with workers buying flowers on the way home from the office. The choice is fairly pedestrian by UK florists’ standards, bright and colourful but with no pretence. Bouquets are more Liberace than Liberty, featuring concentric rings of chrysanthemums around roses or lilies, all imported from China or further afield.
Most people in Hong Kong have busy lives and reside in compact apartments, so there are all sorts of solutions on offer for small spaces, including air plants, succulents, the ubiquitous orchid and decorative arrangements of foliage plants growing in nutrient-rich solution. It’s rare to visit a home (or showroom in my case) that doesn’t have an arrangement of Chinese ‘lucky bamboo’ (a plant entirely unrelated to bamboo, called Dracaena sanderiana), which is available in every shape and size at the market. I can’t stand the sight of it myself, but it’s popular because it survives without much natural daylight and plays an important role in Feng Shui.
If you’re in Hong Kong, Flower Market Road is definitely worth a diversion and is open from 9.30am to 7.30pm every day except the first day of Chinese New Year.