Romance blooms at the world's flower markets

Visitors at the Hong Kong Flower Market admire a delicate orchid, one of the many exotic blooms for sale at the site.

Love is in the air, and so is the fragrance of flowers as sweethearts exchange symbols of affection on Valentine’s Day.

Now that the holiday has you in the mood for roses, peonies, tulips and other beautiful blooms, it’s time to plan a getaway where bouquets rule all year round, not just on Feb. 14.

These flower markets around the world offer colorful sights and sensory delights:

Hong Kong Flower Market -- Hong Kong
A huge selection of exotic blooms makes this one of the most colorful places in the Asian metropolis.

Before Chinese New Year, the market attracts people who buy peach blossoms, orchids, chrysanthemums, lilies, cumquats, narcissus and gladiolus to prepare for the festival, said Quinn Elyse Doan, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Many believe carefully-chosen flowers and greenery can attract good luck and fortune as a new lunar cycle begins.

Roses rule on Valentine’s Day, just like in many other parts of the world.

In the mood for more than just flowers? Check out the nearby Goldfish Market, Jade Market and Bird Market.

Aalsmeer Flower Auction -- Aalsmeer, Netherlands
The world's largest flower auction attracts buyers from around the globe, bidding on 20,000 different varieties of flowers and plants.

Millions of flowers are sold at the Aalsmeer Flower Auction in the Netherlands.

The buying frenzy only gets more intense as Valentine’s Day nears.

Over 100 million roses, 100 million tulips and 100 million other flowers are processed in the week leading up to the holiday, according to FloraHolland, the company that runs the auction.

You can’t bid on the flowers, but you can watch the spectacle from a special gallery. The auction is open to the public on weekdays, starting at 7 a.m. The earlier you get here, the more you will see, FloraHolland advises.

Columbia Road Flower Market -- London
Every Sunday, this quiet street lined with specialty shops, eclectic restaurants and cozy cafes turns into a flower-lover’s paradise, with vendors selling everything from lilies, gerberas and carnations to chrysanthemums and tulips.

Head to the Columbia Road Flower Market in London on Sundays.

Herb lovers will find purple sage, sweet basil and lemon thyme. Gardeners will delight in shrubs, grasses, bulbs and trees.

“It’s very charming. You certainly feel like you’re in a historic and old part of London,” said Emma de Vadder, a regional director for VisitEngland, the country’s national tourist board.

“There’s a great smell as well, that’s something you definitely notice when you’re walking down there… it’s a great way to see a part of London that’s a little bit off the tourist map still.”

London’s East End, where Columbia Road is located, has been enjoying a huge regeneration after the Olympics, and the market has benefited from that as well, de Vadder said.

Cours Saleya -- Nice, France
Colorful geraniums, dahlias and impatiens are just some of the flowers on display at this market, one of the busiest places in Old Nice. Many of the blooms are grown locally in greenhouses dotting the hills around the city.

The market, where you can also buy fresh fruits and vegetables, is open every day, except Mondays, when it transforms into a place to buy antiques.

Los Angeles Flower District -- Los Angeles
Billing itself as the largest flower district in the United States, this six-block area of downtown Los Angeles attracts wholesalers, floral designers, event planners and retail florists, with many sellers welcoming the public.

Vendors at the Los Angeles Flower District have been in 24-hour mode ahead of Valentine's Day.

Most have been working overtime ahead of Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year, second only to Mother’s Day.

“Right now it’s hustle and bustle. We are going to go into 24-hour mode,” said Mark Chatoff, owner of the California Flower Mall, where dozens of vendors spread out over 45,000 square feet selling “everything underneath the sun.”

“The smell of fresh-cut greens is everywhere,” he said.

Flowers blooming right now include forsythias, freesias, gardenias, tulips and dahlias. For Valentine’s Day, roses rule and visitors must pick from a rainbow of reds, yellows, whites or pinks.

Yearning for something a bit more delicate and sophisticated? The area where the California Flower Mall is located has become known as “Orchid Row,” a place where you can find a huge variety of potted orchids.

Sydney Flower Market -- Sydney, Australia
The public is welcome at Australia's largest market for fresh-cut flowers, where 170 vendors display blooms grown on farms around the Sydney area. For the best selection, go bright and early, as the market opens at 5 a.m. and florists compete for the most beautiful blossoms with brides-to-be and other flower aficionados.