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Lilies for the house 百合


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If you've been in China a while and would like to bring some beauty indoors, consider 百合 lilies, especially now that it's late winter -- almost early spring.


I live in Kunming where flowers are abundant and relatively cheap. But lilies are found all over China, though they may not always be locally grown. Picked up some this morning and thought I might take you through the process of how to buy and prepare them for use.


As for anything, the first step is the shopping. I buy mine from a wholesale flower market not too far away, reachable by city bus. If you buy from a retail flower store or Walmart, there of course will be more markup and they might not be quite as fresh.


I buy from the vendors near the back of the market who just keep them in large tubs instead of having snazzy displays like those up by the main entrance. I also prefer vendors who just sell lilies, instead of a wide variety of flowers. I buy from the same one or two stalls over and over, so they know me and are more likely to give me fresh stock. 老顾客 is a good thing to be.


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Go in the morning for the best selection. Around here we have red, which the flower sellers call 深红, and pink 粉红色, and white 白色的。Sometimes also yellow 黄色。 The red are usually the most aromatic. You might ask the vendor about it if that's important to you. 香味 is aroma.


They are sold in bunches 一包。Usually a bunch has 10 stems, but sometimes only five. Need to ask about that (这个包有多少枝?) Don't just count them yourself unless you are desperate; use it as a chance to practice the language.


Lilies here have either two flowers per stem or three. The word you need there is 朵。(每个枝有多少朵?) Best to buy ones which are not open yet, since they will get beat up on the way home. Also best not to get ones which are too tightly shut. Buds which are not a little bit loose may never actually open. Also, you would like them to open in a day or two instead of delaying the gratification forever. They usually open a few at a time.


The ones I bought and which are pictured here cost 40 yuan for a bunch of ten stems, each of which has two red flowers. Those that have three flowers each usually cost 70, a big step up in price. They aren't worth such a steep differential unless I'm having company, at which time I splurge.


Once home, cut away part of the long stems. Cut on a bias. Strip off some of the leaves -- they just suck up water.


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I drop half of a 10 mg vitamin C tablet into the vase and crush it with a chopstick. The acidity makes the flowers stay fresh longer.




So that's the process and here's what they look like today, day zero.




They usually last a week or 10 days before they die. Word for that is 谢 as in 谢谢。 Lilies are thirsty and will drink a cup or two of water daily. I change the water every couple of days and pull of any withered leaves. Sometimes I replenish the vitamin, but I'm not sure it matters after the first couple times.


They not only look pretty, but will give your whole house a nice scent.



Edit note: 只 changed to 枝. That's the way to say "stem."

Edited by abcdefg
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Grammar question.  In "每个只有多少朵", I would have thought that 只 is the measure word (for stem), so the sentence should be "每只(stem)有多少朵(flowers)".  What is the correct way to parse the sentence?

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@JBradfor --


每只有多少朵 looks good too.


But I don't really know. Someone else will have to answer. At this point in time, my main goal is "first-pass mutual understanding" under real-life (field) conditions. If a word or phrase "works" in context to convey the desired information the first time it is said or heard, that's good enough for me.


If I encounter confusion or get corrected often enough, then I change the way I say something. At other times, I have set the language bar higher. But right now, that's where it is.

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Looks like this will not be a very popular topic. Likely that most of you are too busy to think about bringing flowers home, what with the demands of school, jobs and such. I admit it's not a high-priority project.


But I will still post at least one or two follow-ups before letting it drop, just so as to leave a record for anyone who might come along later wanting to know about such things.


Added water today, slightly less than 24 hours after the initial setup. These lilies are always thirsty once you cut off the ends of the stems. It required 450 ml (measured) to bring the water level back up to where it was yesterday. More than one might intuitively guess.


The chopsticks show the now-empty part of the vase.




And some of the blossoms are just barely starting to open. Still no aroma. That comes later (hopefully.)



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Just so as to make this post more useful for future reference, I'll go ahead and add the next part. Today is day 6, and by now all but one or two buds have opened into blooms. The house smells good, and the bouquet is pretty.




I continue to change the water every couple of days and add water on the other days. When I change water, I sometimes also cut off a little more stem, doing that when the end becomes soft and macerated.


The other thing that one usually does about now is to trim away the pollen-laden stamens. If these are allowed to fall off naturally to the table top or the floor, they make a dark and somewhat sticky mess.




The pistil is the single stalk in the center. The stamen (or stamens) surround it. These are the flower's reproductive parts. Pistil, female; stamen, male.


Even though exhorted to be sure and do this by Chinese friends, the first couple times it made me vaguely uneasy. A Freudian might say something about castration anxiety.


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Slide a piece of paper under the stamens, snip carefully with scissors. Leave the pistil alone.


There you have it.

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