Brooklyn in bloom

for The Brooklyn Paper
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When it’s this cold out, the only flowers you generally see alive are for sale near the door of a deli.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is out to change that with its Lunar New Year Celebration and Flower Market on Feb. 10.

“This is a pretty neat thing for us to launch a new event. It’s been a little while since we’ve done one,” said Garden President Scot Medbury. “We’re so loaded with events in the spring and in the autumn, we are trying to see if we can create an event in the winter that will capture our regular audience’s attention and, perhaps, bring some new audience members to the garden.”

The debut of this festival, honoring the traditional holiday celebrated by Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese communities around the world, will offer traditional Asian foods, performances and workshops in addition to the namesake flower market which will carry orchids, camellia and other plants native to these countries.

Included in the festivities will be performances by the Nori Company, leading a traditional Korean dance and drum procession; Huaxia Edison Dance Troupe, which use ribbons and fans to perform its signature “Peacock Dance”; and Qi Shu Fang, a household name in China whose Peking Opera joins music with martial arts, acrobatics and dance.

“We’re really excited [for] an opportunity to really share our culture and our art with ordinary American people,” said Li Ping Dong Wang of Huaxia Edison. “It will be the perfect time for us to display Chinese arts, specifically Chinese folk dance, so [people] will know all the traditions and the cultures of all the ethnic groups in China.”

In between performances, there will be family-friendly workshops on Chinese brush painting, making paper flowers or designing your own Lunar New Year card on pressed flower petal paper.

For more visual learners, the authors of “Vietnam: A Natural History” will narrate a slide show on the flora and fauna of Vietnam (no, it’s not like the time your neighbor made you relive his trip to Disneyland).

Meanwhile, tours of the grounds will also be offered in both Mandarin and English.

Nobody’s leaving this party without a goody bag: “There are a lot of different things to choose from,” said Anita Jacobs, BBG’s director of programming. “You’re guaranteed to have something: a little sachet, the flowers and a Lunar New Year card.”

The festival is designed to work up your appetite for not just Asian plant life or culture, so the menu at the Terrace Cafe will feature Korean kim chee (spicy, pickled cabbage), Vietnamese vegetable rolls, Chinese pork or vegetable buns and a sampling of sweets all day.

As always, though, the BBG has plants on the brain. With months until springtime sprouts are the topic du jour, they’re taking this as a chance to push winter foliage.

“A really important thing for us as an institution is to show people that plants are an important part of everyday life,” said Jacobs. She adds that it’s important to “remind urban folks that it’s a good thing to have plants in your life. Make sure you take the time to go out and explore what’s out there.”

The Chinatown crawl

A look at what Eighth Avenue, the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown and the main drag for the New Year parade (for which the 2007 date is still pending), has to offer.

1. Fa Da Mall

(5515 Eighth Ave., No Phone) The place to pick up an assortment of discount trinkets, from clothing, tea sets and incense to traditional musical instruments and sculptures. Also, located downstairs is the Yue Feng Ginseng Antler & Dry Seafood Center.

2. Fung Sing Noodle Shop

(5605 Eighth Ave., (718) 854-3996) Small, Cantonese-style noodle house with a large selection of congee (traditional rice porridge).

3. Dragon Bay Bakery

(5711 Eighth Ave., (718) 853-8188) In addition to classic Western items such as German Cheesecake and Tiramisu, they offer cakes featuring mango and longyan. There is also an enormous selection of baked buns with meat and fish fillings.

4. Sea Town Fish & Meat Market

(5802 Eighth Ave., No Phone) The biggest of the area’s many fish and meat markets, this is the place to do all your shopping out of tanks — from live crabs, lobster and fish to eels, frogs and turtles.

5. Green Forest Herbs

(6010 Eighth Ave., (718) 567-9292) The place to fill your Eastern prescription for dried herbs, roots, and seafood (don’t pretend you don’t use dried seahorses!). They also have an in-house doctor; when the only English-speaking employee was asked, “How much for a consultati­on?” he offered a regimen to combat constipation.

6. Diamond on 8 Restaurant

(6022 Eighth Ave., (718) 492-6888) Teeming with Chinese families at large round tables, this seems to be the spot for a festive meal of dim sum or fresh seafood specials.

7. Hong Kong Supermarket

(6013 Eighth Ave., (718) 438-2288) One of many supermarkets along the strip, this one is probably your best bet for non-perishables (your toothpaste, your exotic candies, etc.). For fruits and vegetables, you’d be better off haggling at the outdoor stands.

— compiled by Chris Varmus

The Lunar New Year Celebration and Flower Market will take place from 10 am to 4:30 pm on Feb. 10 at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1000 Washington Ave at Montgomery Street in Prospect Heights). Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students with valid ID and free for children 16 and under. For information call (718) 623-7200.

Updated 4:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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