It is indeed a very busy time for all of us who celebrate the lunar new year. First, we will refer to the almanac or consult the astrologers, geomancers or feng shui masters to check what the coming Year of the Tiger has in store for each of our family members. We will select the auspicious dates for spring cleaning our homes and offer prayers to welcome the new year.
It may sound complicated, but we refer to 3 calendars i.e. the Hsia (Solar) Calendar, the Lunar (moon) calendar and the internationally accepted Gregorian Calendar. For example, I celebrate my birthday twice a year, according to the lunar and gregorian calendar. This year I celebrated New Year Day on Jan 1st, and I will celebrate New Year again on Feb 14th.
My first important celebration this year will the the day of the Lichun on Feb 4th. This is the day we welcome Spring because according to the Hsia (solar) calendar, that is the day of the begining of spring season. On this day, we pray to the gods and welcome the God of Prosperity to our homes at an auspicious hour.
We have a saying "Hua Kai Fu Gui (花开富貴)", meaning, "When Flowers Bloom, Prosperity Comes". It is important that gardens are green & blooming and homes are decorated with healthy, vibrant plants. Care is taken to remove all dead, dying and decaying plants from sight. My post today is about auspicious plants and flowers for the Chinese New Year season.
1. Pussy Willows
Pussy willows have white, silvery buds that look like silk and emerald green shoots and leaves. They symbolise the arrival of prosperity and growth in prosperity. They are usually sold as long stalks tied in bundles. We put the stalks in tall beautiful porcelain vases to decorate our homes. Nowadays they also come in flower pots. It is a good sign if we can get the pussy willows to sprout new shoots and leaves.
2. Plum blossoms (Prunus mume) are native to China where it is known as "mei hua (梅花)". They symbolise beauty in adversity, good fortune and longevity. Plum trees flower in winter and bloom vibrantly admist winter snow after most plants have shed their leaves and before other flowers appear. Plum blossoms are symbols of winter and the harbinger of spring. Plum blossoms together with the peony are the most beloved of flowers in Chinese culture. They are the subject of many Chinese paintings, calligraphy, art and poetry. In China, the plum blossom is the Flower of Winter.
What's the difference between Plum blossoms and Cherry blossoms?
Plum blossoms are the flowers of the plum tree and they bloom in winter, e.g. January. Cherry blossoms are flowers of the cherry tree and they bloom in April during spring as in Japan's sakura flowers season from March to May.
1. View real cherry blossoms in Joanne's Cottage Garden here (April 2010)
2. View real plum blossoms in my January 2011 post here.
3. Celosia argentea
Their Chinese name is feng wei (凤尾) or Phoenix Tail and they represent harmony and good fortune. Celosia blooms come in reds and yellows. Red blooming plants are grouped in pairs at doorways or gates to signify double happiness and bliss for the family and home.
Chrysanthemums symbolise perfection, optimism and joy, and on a more spiritual level, longevity and meditation. In China, the chrysanthemum is the Flower of Autumn.
We like to buy cut chrysantemum flowers, put them in vases for used as prayer offerings. We also buy them in flower pots to decorate our homes. The preferred colours are yellow and orange.
Together with the peony, orchids are Flowers of Spring. Orchids are also popular objects in Chinese art and culture as they are emblems of love and beauty. Their fragranced flowers represent virtue, moral excellence, refinement and reputation. They also symbolise good family luck and plenty of progeny. Violet coloured orchids are said to be the most auspicious.
The peony or mudan (牡丹) is the flower of riches and honour, romance and beauty. However, in Malaysia, we can only get the plastic ones to decorate our homes.
Azalea is the symbol of happiness, harmony and balance in life. It is used to foster and strenghten relationships.
7. Four Seasons Citrus Lime Trees
The fruits look like gold nuggets. A pair of blooming lime trees are placed at doorways and living room to bring abundance, good luck and wealth for the coming year. In Malaysia, local nurseries have perfected the art of getting the plants to flower at precisely the right time so that during the New year, the fruits will ripen.
Two types of lime plants commonly used here for this purpose are the Calamansi lime (吉子) and kumquats (金吉). The chinese letter, "kat" - 吉 means auspicious. Calamansi in chinese carry the meaning 'little auspice' while kumquat means 'golden auspice'. This is a plant that has bloomed and is now bearing golden fruits. It is like saying that your efforts have brought excellent results. These are evergreen plants, so the words "Four Seasons" are cleverly added to signify everlasting auspice. Now, can you see why these citrus plants are so saleable during Chinese New Year?
I have written a post titled, "Calamansi, The Multi-Purpose Plant" on its off-season uses.
8. Pitcher Plant
The pitcher plant (Nepenthes) is zhu long cao (猪笼草) in Chinese, meaning "pig cage plant". Some people also call it 'Monkey Cups'. The pitchers are said to attract and accumulate all the good luck and fortune that the New Year brings. The more pitchers a plant has, the more luck and fortune you are likely to accumulate!
Update: To view more pictures of these plants, please visit Aaron's blog here.
9. The Crassula ovata or Jade Plant is a native of South Africa. Its emerald green succulent leaves look like jade, a precious stone highly valued by the Chinese for its many good attributes. This plant is regarded as a symbol of prosperity, continual growth , wealth and fortune. It can also be grown as an indoor bonsai. We regard this plant as a wealth or money plant.
These plants are placed near the entrances to restaurants to create success luck for the business. You may also find them at the cashier's counter. At home, we place them at the Southeast to energise money luck. Sometimes, other species of succulent cactuses are used as a substitude. Their thick leaves are loaded with water, so they are used to attract money and wealth luck. Water is frequently associated with money luck. However, cactuses with thorns are considered not auspicious as these thorns are like poison arrows.
10. ZZ Plant and Lucky Bamboo
The Zamioculcas zamiifolia or ZZ plant is native to Eastern Africa. It is also know as the money plant Jin Qian Shu (金钱树) or 'gold coin plant'. Its dark green juicy leaves are neatly arranged on opposite sides of a long petiole, therfore it looks like a string of ancient Chinese coins. Just like the jade plant, the ZZ plant is also used extensively in business shops, offices and homes to attract wealth luck. It is also commonly called the fortune plant in the west.
The Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is a native of the West African (Cameroon) rainforest. It can be bent and twisted into auspicious shapes, e.g. circles and figure of 8. It is used to bring prosperity, fortune and happiness. The plants in the picture above has been decorated with red ribbons and lucky ornaments.
New plants are given auspicous sounding names and constantly introduced into the market to attract more buyers and cash in on the festive occassion . For example, the pitcher plant N. ampullaria 'Brunei Red' was named "zhu long cao" which literally translates into "pig cage plant" in the Year of the Boar back in 2007. The above are only some examples of the many many auspicious plants we can buy or grow for this occassion.
My post today is dedicated to Di from the Pacific Northwest of Voice in the Garden blog. She has a lovely and interesting blog about gardening and beautiful scenery. Occassionally, she will include a good recipe and once in a while, she also gives tips and good advice on blogging.
This is my last post for January 2010. I will be taking a break from writing. The rest of the week will be spent visiting blogs and commenting to clear my backlog. My sincere apologies for not visiting as often as I'd like to. I hope you didn't fell asleep reading my strange stories here.