Once again, this festival season that has seen Chinese Spring Festival and Western Valentine’s Day fall in the same week has proven that a beautiful bouquet of flowers always makes for a great gift.
Retail stores and whole-sale markets offer flowers at low prices, and the old-fashioned street vendors that sell kitschy bouquets from their bicycles are even more affordable. But, in a city where the luxe is always preferred, more and more boutique florists have set up shops and studios in a bid to turn the craft of bouquet tying into an art. Stepping into these little studios feels like entering a world of floral bliss, and even if you’re not sure what type of bouquet you’re looking for, the trained florists working there will be able to advise you and work within your budget.
On a sunny winter afternoon during the holidays, I took a walk to check out some of the city’s best flower shops.
Kiki Zhang, the founder of Cicada, started an online flower shop in 2014, initially because she said she couldn’t find the flowers she was looking for for the events she was organizing through her primary business. Zhang now owns a flower studio where she creates bouquets that she hopes will touch people at a special moment in life.
“Anywhere and anytime, flowers are making people happy. More so than any words,” Zhang said.
“First, I will ask about their requirements. Is it for a birthday? An anniversary? For whom is it, and what kind of flowers or colors do they like most?,” she said. “In a word, I hope to know about the person who will receive the flowers as much as possible, and bring him or her a memorable bouquet.”
Many of the orders are placed online through Wechat “cicadaflora,” but the studio deserves a visit as well. Classes are offered where customers can learn about the art of flower arrangement.
Flowers are one of the most easy-to-get ingredients that can bring a beautiful surprise,” Zhang said.
Address: No. 12, Lane 930, Yan’an Rd M.
Opening hours: 9:30am-6:30pm (Monday-Friday); Reservation needed on Saturdays and Sundays
I was able to find this flower studio hidden in an old lane on Taiyuan Road because I am a big fan of AKK Cui, a gardener and blogger known as AKKLematis with several thousand fans on Sina Weibo. As an architect, Cui reconstructed a single room with a small garden in the old lane to be his floral studio, and this tiny space has became a “Land of Peach Blossom‚” to many of his fans and clients who hope to find something special.
Clusteria is a mix-and-match space. “In the past 10 years, I have spent almost all my leisure time with gardening, from my own house to the studio,” the Shanghai native said.
When I walked into the garden in front of the small room, various herbs caught my eyes.
“Sometimes, I love these colorful leaves more than flowers,” he told me.
From time to time, he teaches his clients how to make their home and life more colorful — even a single rose in a recycled coffee cup can add beauty to your home, and may do so even more than a heavy bouquet of red roses that cost a fortune.
“Every creative idea makes life beautiful,” he added.
Address: No. 8, Lane 25 Taiyuan Rd
Opening hours: Reservation needed
Walking out of Clusteria, you’ll find another flower store on the same road, the hard-to-miss “Prima,” a small shop owned and run by a Japanese florist. Gray bricks and pots and baskets with flowers and plants line the roof; wooden shelves and floors are the basis of the shop’s interior, giving it a French countryside feel.
“The sparrow may be small but it has all the vital organs,” is the saying that popped in my head when I entered the store. The space is understated, but when you see those fresh flowers and plants under the warm light, you will feel like a close friend has just invited you into her beautifully-kept garden.
The Japanese owner is neither fluent in Chinese nor in English, but her language skills are good enough to understand customer requests. Watching her grab different flowers to tie a bouquet is somewhat magical. The first time I passed by this shop was after the sunset on a fall evening. I was on the way to have dinner with my best friend who had just married, and, walking past, I had the spontaneous idea to buy her flowers to celebrate her life as a newlywed. I told the owner about the bouquet’s purpose and my budget of around 100 yuan (US$15.4). She looked at me and just said, “sweetheart grass,” then she started fetching purple and white sweetheart grass, pink roses and yellow balloon flowers from around the shop. A couple minutes later, she presented a simple and delicate bouquet that I loved just as much as my friend did.
Address: No. 1, Lane 8, Taiyuan Rd.
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Sans Souci (Jia-Hou)
Located in the center of Lujiazui financial area in Pudong, this flower shop features huge French windows with golden frames and walls painted in elegant purple. I was attracted by its imported roses, like the Roses of Ecuador, Japanese Count Rose, and David Austin Rose‚ the latter being the favorite of the Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the flowers that were used for her wedding.
The space blends floral art and lifestyle, with products ranging from flowers and plants to vases and crystal decorations.
Owner Cecilia Hong was born in Fujian Province, but moved to Shanghai to assist her family business after she finished her studies in New York.
Jia-Hou holds floral and deco art salons and afternoon tea every weekend, a chance to make new friends who share an appreciation for flowers.