When I was in high school, I used to get cut roses with some regularity. They were, of course, lovely, but they always wilted and then started to smell weird, since I never learned how to properly dry them. Actually, I wouldn’t want to dry and save flowers much anyway, since I hate having clutter around. At any rate, I’ve since tipped boyfriends off that I’m not a fan of cut flowers, being as they’re already dead.
So. Valentine’s Day.
Not actually my favorite holiday, even when I’m not single.
Anyway, Jeff and I didn’t really plan much for the big V day, but we ended up having a pretty good one. We decided to go to one of the expansive flower markets in Beijing, the Zhongshu Grand Forest Flower Market (中蔬大森林花卉市场), which is part of the Beijing Agricultural University.
The entire market was about the size of a Costco, and was divided into three sections. The front-most section has cut flowers to one side and potted plants to the other. Since it was Valentine’s Day, which the Chinese do celebrate, the cut flowers area was complete pandemonium. Like many things in China, the rose bouquets were super-sized, each about 18 to 20 inches across at the top, bursting with roses, baby’s breath and stuff animals. Of course, they also had other kinds of flowers, indeed almost any kind you could ask for.
Behind the plants is a furniture, decorative arts and paintings area. It had some nice wood carved benches, lots of household decorations in the Asian style and other things that were expensive and not to my taste.
Behind that is the exotic fish and pets section. I saw a lot of really weird fish — most of which I can only describe. Some were recognizable —black mollies, angel fish, eels, sun fish, various iridescent fish, clown fish — but many were bizarre, Discovery Channel-worthy specimens. I also saw snapping turtles, several kinds of tortoises, rabbits, chinchillas and birds. My favorite pet was a store cat in a fish store who apparently just doesn’t like fish. In my opinion that store owner’s just asking for trouble. I was also really tempted by the tortoises I saw, but I don’t even want to know the illegalities of importing one of those into the U.S.
The potted plant section, which is the largest section, contains house plants, garden supplies and even fruit trees. There are woven bamboo plants of all sizes, various kinds of orchids, floating lilies, bonsai trees, flowering trees, green house plants of all kinds, herbs, lemon trees, rose bushes, towering tropical plants and of course tons of decorated planter pots and gardening tools.
I ended up getting a mint plant (pot, dish and potting soil 11 kuai; mint plant 8 kuai). I’m still deciding where to put it. The kitchen seems most natural, but I have so little counter space that I’m often wrestling with my dish rack for space when preparing a meal.
I also got this adorable little tree (pot, soil 20 kuai; tree 7 kuai). I’m not sure what kind it is, but I love the bright colors right on my nightstand.
And I couldn’t help but also get this hanging basket (basket, pot and plant package 35 kuai). It’s hanging in my front hall, next to my kitchen.
I love the flowers on this vine!
I think these are the best Valentine’s present I’ve ever gotten, even if I did pay for them myself. Jeff did help me schlep them home, and I wouldn’t have gone without him. I really hope I don’t kill them off by accident. I don’t have the most stellar history of keeping plants alive. I used to have a pet cactus — it died.
I’m hoping to visit some more flower markets now that I know how cheap they are. Zhongshu was really worth the trip, and so far the plants seem like good quality. After all, it is part of the agricultural university. Definitely a must for the plant-crazy headed to Beijing — but you may want to bring a car along. I was pretty sore that I couldn’t drag a lemon tree home on the bus.