|Vietnamese are willing to pay for imported flowers and ornamental plants for Tết. — VNS Photo Văn Châu|
HCM CITY — As the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday is less than two weeks away, people in HCM City and across the country are opening their wallets to buy special ornamental plants and imported flowers to decorate their homes for the nation's biggest festival.
Hà Thu Mai, owner of an imported flower shop in District 3, said that the winter peach tree branches imported from Japan and the Netherlands were sold at VNĐ400,000 (US$17) or more per branch, far more expensive than the locally grown peach tree.
Meanwhile, apricot blossom trees imported from Japan are selling from VNĐ220,000 ($8.5) per branch.
At least 10 branches are needed for decoration. Customers have been willing to spend about VNĐ2.2 million to VNĐ4 million ($85-170) for each imported flower pots for Tết.
Besides the traditional Tết flowers, apricot blossoms and peach flowers, customers are also seeking to decorate their houses and offices with other artificial plants including mangos, kumquats and soursops, which are placed in ceramic pots and cost between VNĐ8 million ($340) and VNĐ25 million ($1,050) each.
In recent years, there has been higher demand for uniquely shaped ornamental trees for Tết such as five-fruit trees, a new tree variety that farmer Lê Đức Giáp of Hà Nội has successfully grown.
Depending on their size and quality, the trees, which yield five fruits of pomelo, orange, tangerine, kumquat and phật thủ (Buddha hand-shaped fruit), cost between VNĐ8 million and VNĐ25 million.
The shapes of 12-animal ornamental plants are also in high demand this Tết, especially those in the shape of the rat, this year's zodiac symbol.
The rat-shaped plants are 1.5 metre high and are sold for VNĐ2-5 million.
Last year, Việt Nam imported flowers and ornamental plants worth $18 million including orchids, rhododendron, dumb cane plants and cedrus bonsai trees for the 2018 Lunar New Year.
Prices going up
Besides expensive imported flowers, the high rent needed to secure a place to sell ornamental flowers and fruit trees have also pushed up Tết flower prices.
As usual, many types of ornamental flowers are being sold at flower shops. But traders and gardeners have also rushed to find places to sell peach blossoms and miniature orange citrus trees ahead of Tết.
Trần Ngọc Thiện, owner of Trương Thiên apricot blossom garden in HCM City’s Bình Chánh District, said he had to spend VNĐ300 million ($13,300) to rent six land lots to sell apricot blossoms in Phạm Văn Đồng Street.
A few years ago, the rent in the area was only VNĐ10-15 million per land lot. But since flower sellers have been banned to showcase goods in many roads, the land lot rent has risen, causing problems for gardeners, he said.
Trần Thiện, an apricot-blossoms seller in Củ Chi District, said that he had to register early with organisers to secure a place in District 10 to sell flowers. The price of blossoms this year thus increases slightly due to the high rents.
Some places used for selling flowers ahead of Tết every year have been relocated at the back of high-rise buildings. — VNS