Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A Walk in the Park

Giant trees everywhere in the Gardens
If you are ever in Singapore and love hanging out in parks, you must check out the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a short bus ride from the popular Orchard Road shopping district.
It's a gigantic horticultural space that takes visitors away from the hectic life of the city and invites them to relax and appreciate the natural surroundings. On the weekend many did just that, bringing blankets and picnic baskets, vigorously walking through the trails for exercise, or parents playing with the children in the open spaces.
The idea of the park first took root thanks to Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. He was an avid naturalist and established the first botanical and experimental garden on Government Hill (Fort Canning Hill) in 1822, shortly after he arrived in Singapore.
Orchids galore in the National Orchid Garden
However, as there was no full-time salaried director and enough funding, the garden closed down in 1829 after Raffles' death.
Thirty years later, the Agri-Horticultural Society founded the gardens in its present site and the society had planned it to be a leisure garden and ornamental park. In 1874 the society handed over administration of the garden to the government.
What is also interesting is that in the mid-1960s when Singapore started its greening initiative, it turned to the gardens for supplying planting material to add colour to the roadsides and other parks.

A pitcher plant, deadly for insects
So it's kind of appropriate that the entrance of the gate says: "Singapore Botanic Gardens: Connecting Plants & People since 1859". My friend jokingly suggested the tagline seems to suggest plants and people are networking, but in a way they are.

While the gardens do function as a park with wide open spaces for people to play frisbee, blow bubbles for babies and stroll around, there are other interesting aspects to it too.

We checked out the National Orchid Garden for S$5 ($3.81) which was definitely worth the price of admission. This was a giant space dedicated to everything orchids. There were orchids of all different colours, shapes and sizes, all grouped together nicely. What was funny was that periodically there were designated "photo spots" for people, as if neglecting the fact that almost every angle seemed to compose a great picture.

There was also a rain forest section that was also interesting and a Cool House where the temperature in the enclosed area dropped and featured interesting plants. One was the pitcher plant that feeds on insects. It has an open spout that lures insects in and that is basically the end of them because inside it is too slippery for them to get out. At the bottom of the pitcher is a liquid that basically drowns the insect and dissolves its body. The pitcher plant also collects rainwater and has a lid to prevent it from over flowing too.

Mangroves in the pond
The trees in the park are magnificent. There are giant banyan trees and fir trees with the fine leaves drooping down. There were also trees with its roots coming out of the ground like wedges; these are buttress trees whose roots come up like this to keep tall trees standing.

The park also has a stage area set on a pond with the cover shaped like a giant lotus leaf. There the public can listen to live music which must be a treat in the evenings (sans mosquitoes, as I got many bites in the late afternoon).
The stage where live music is performed

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful afternoon in the park -- much more inspiring and beautiful than Marina Bay Sands.

Singapore Botanic Gardens
1 Cluny Road
6471 7361

1 comment:

  1. the same applies to central park in new york. the city forefathers had the foresight and wisdom to dedicate one big green area for the use of its citizenry. it becomes the 'lung' of the city. in this age of greening of the earth this is a precious space to rejuvenate the busy over worked and stressed out people.