To celebrate good luck and success in the Year of the Rabbit, pick these flowers

To celebrate good luck and success in the Year of the Rabbit, pick these flowers

Here comes the Year of the Rabbit. And if you are thinking of a feral pest despoiling our coastal headlands you have it all wrong. In Chinese astrology the rabbit represents elegance and delicacy, peace and hope: definitely something to celebrate.

Lunar New Year is traditionally rung in with fruits and flowers and other omens of prosperity. I lived in Hong Kong for a while and at Lunar New Year we would walk down to the Victoria Park flower market in Causeway Bay. (I’m told this is no longer the best choice for New Year flowers as it is uncomfortably crowded; better is the market at Fa Hui Park at Sham Shui Po, just around the corner from the year-round Flower Market Road, hence particularly strong on flowers.)

Flowers ready for sale for Lunar New Year in an orchid farm in Hong Kong.Credit:AP

Back in the day in Causeway Bay red lanterns glowed and banners everywhere pronounced ‘kung hei fat choi’. The turnip cakes with dried mushrooms were irresistible, and so were the little potted cumquats, covered with glowing orange fruit. Cumquat can be literally translated as ‘gold’ and ‘luck’ in Cantonese, so is considered a tree that ushers in wealth. Didn’t work for me that year, but I did love the cumquats.

You can’t find cumquats in Sydney at Lunar New Year, nor the other harbingers of spring that are traditional choices, such as peach blossoms and jonquils. But many of the other flowers featuring at Hong Kong’s New Year flower markets are easy to come by.

Orchids of any kind are a popular choice, portending fertility and luxury, and having the extra advantage of being relatively long-lasting, even if you don’t manage to reflower them. Gladdies forecast career success, as the flowers start blooming at the base of the flowering stem then rise inexorably all the way to the top. They are even luckier if red. Marigolds promise long life as their name in Mandarin is a homophone for ‘longevity’.

Shoppers look at flower bouquets at a Lunar New Year flower market in the Causeway Bay district in Hong KongCredit:AP

Celosia is another fortunate choice. This annual has two distinct flower shapes, which are both reminiscent of lucky animals, which bring wisdom and prosperity. The rooster of the two is Celosia argentea cristata, commonly called the cockscomb flower for its red, rippled felty flower head.

Hybridisers have been to work on this one, expanding the colour range and increasing the size of the flower so it now looks more like an exotic coral than a rooster’s comb, or as the Lambley Nursery catalogue describes the brilliant crimson ‘Chief Carmine’, like ‘a velvety sheep’s brain.’ Showy!

The phoenix is Celosia argentea plumosa, with feathery plumes of flower, luckiest in red, but also available in gold, orange and a very stylish lime green. In an ideal world, you would have sown seed of celosia last spring, or planted seedlings in early summer, and now be enjoying a vibrant display. More likely is a trip to Sydney Flower Markets, or down to the local florist for an armful of blooms to make your home lucky and to welcome beauty and grace in the Year of the Rabbit.

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