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Botanic Gardens

Singapore’s Botanic Gardens has been honored as UNESCO World Heritage Site on 4th July 2015.  The Gardens is the first and only tropical botanic garden on its list.  With more than 150 years old and 82 hectares now, the idea of this garden was started in 1822 when Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore developed the first experimental garden in Fort Canning.  30 years later, the present botanic gardens began in 1859 when Agri Horticultural Society was granted 32 hectares of land in Tanglin by the colonial government.

In early days the garden played an important role in fostering agricultural development in Singapore.  It got its success in the experimentation and promotion of Para Rubber, the seed that changed the world.  70% of the world’s natural rubber supply comes from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia and it all started in Singapore Botanic Gardens. The success journey is beautifully captured in this image.

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The whole area has three main gates : Tanglin Gate, Nassim Gate and Bukit Timah Gate.  We entered the Botanic Gardens via Bukit Timah Gate.

Trellis Garden: The first garden we encountered was Trellis Garden.  It showcased Singapore’s climber collections.  Climbers are plants that require support in order to grow upwards to harvest sunlight. There are many types of climbers like twining vines that twine around the host whereas few others climb using tendrils, thorns and hooks.

Reflexology Footpath contributed by Rotary Club of Changi.

Evolution Garden: After an imaginary foot massage walking through the reflexology path, we came across the Evolution Garden.  The entire garden’s display is on fiery beginnings of  our planet to first living organisms and gradually changing plant life on land.

At the entrance of the evolution garden, there were large pieces of wood. The theme of the display was called “Trees of Stone”.  When trees are buried in mud they sometimes get soaked in mineral rich ground water.  Over time the minerals like silica crystallizes and turns wood into stone.

 The next segment was on Lifeless Earth.  Million years ago when Earth was formed, living organisms could not survive in the planet due to lack of oxygen and no ozone layer to block the UV rays from the sun.  Although today, I could hear some frogs croaking beside “The Lifeless Earth”!

The beauty and main attraction of this garden is Magnificent Ferns and Cycads.  They spread out their claws up in the air like a man eating animal.

Healing Garden: This garden showcased over 400 varieties of  plants used medicinally to cure all parts of body such as head, respiratory and reproductive systems.  Walking into this segment of the garden and breathing fresh air psychologically makes you think that it has the power to heal just by sheer breath.  No wonder my lungs must have got swelled up due to too much intake of air!

The photo shown below is of Snake Plant native to Africa and Nigeria, traditionally used to treat ulcers, headaches, earaches and sores.

Ginger Garden: From Banana Plantations to spices like turmeric, young ginger, Galangal can be seen here. Speaking of Galangal reminds me of Thai curries Yum ! Ginger Garden is situated right next to the Orchid Garden.  It displays several hundred species of ginger and its related families.

Further ahead you can spot waterfalls where you can take snaps going behind the falls.

There are also beautiful sculptures of a boy holding a tortoise in his hand and a girl on a swing beside the pool adorned with amazon water lilies.

Besides the Ginger Garden you have a famous restaurant named “Halia”.  I tried their chicken rice.  I loved the freshness of ginger and flavors of the dish.  Here rice is not what you expect like you get in hawker centers. Its a puffed rice which you can actually count on fingers sprinkled across the juicy chicken pieces.  Its a different twist to the original chicken rice you get in Singapore.

Palm Valley and Symphony Lake: Amidst the lush lawns of Palm valley with different varieties of Palm tree collection, you can spot Symphony Lake.  The Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage occasionally has free concerts on weekends.  The stage looks very beautiful when lit after the sunset.

Tembusu Tree: Further ahead you notice a large evergreen tree growing in an irregular shape surrounded by barricade.  It has a unique appearance with a loose branch hanging from its bark.  This tree is reportedly more than 150 years old and has a girth spanning more than 7.8 metres in circumference and stands at a height of 30 metres.  This tree is also featured on the reverse of Singaporean Five Dollar Bill.

“Chang Kuda” is a sculpture beside Tembusu depicting carefree days when children come home after school and immediately rush to play.  “Chang” means “to carry” and “Kuda” means “horse” in Malay.  It is the name of a popular game which children used to play in 1950s and 1960s.

Sun Garden: Sun Garden displays plants of arid regions which includes cacti, agaves and other drought tolerant species.

There is a beautiful sculpture named “Passing of Knowledge” symbolizing the knowledge passed on from generation to generation

When you step down you see a Sun Dial Garden set in Victorian style with marble statues standing on all four sides of the garden.   A bronze sundial on white pedestal, used in olden days to show time  is seen as the centerpiece of the garden.

Bonsai Garden: Bonsai is an art of dwarfing plants and developing them into aesthetically appealing shapes by growing them in containers.  Besides the Sun Garden, they have few specimens of bonsai ranging from tropical to sub tropical species. The photo shows one of the specimen of bonsai plant.  It almost looks like a man wearing a barbie gown with a huge headdress ready to swing for the carnival and adjusting the pleats of his gown.

 Prisoner of War Brick Steps: The steps and bricks were made by prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation of Singapore between 1942 to 1945.  As a sign of defiance, the prisoners of war imprinted arrows on most of the bricks to indicate that they were detained by the authorities.

Swan Lake: Swan lake is one of the major attractions in botanic gardens.  There are numerous aquatic species plants and fishes along with the swans.  A giant sculpture in the middle of the lake showing several swans ready for the flight can be seen from a distance when you walk towards it.  You cannot see as much as real swans in the lake as you have in those sculptures ! The lake is named after a pair of mute swans from Amsterdam that glide gracefully like kings across 1.5 hectares of the lake.

Swan lake is also called the First lake / Main lake as it was constructed shortly after the formation of the gardens.  There are interesting facts about this lake.  Years before a crocodile had escaped and had taken residency in the lake. It seized one of the coolies while he was drawing water.  Following the incident, they had to drain the entire lake to capture the crocodile.  Indeed dangerous…makes me remind of the movie Black Water.  After that incident the lake again had to undergo draining but this time due to different reasons.  Several water lilies were found missing in the lake.  After investigations it was found that it was the work of six hungry herbivorous turtles.  They drained the lake and removed the turtles and replanted the aquatic species. But this was not the end of the adventures of Swan Lake.  During the draining of Swan lake they found 100 specimens of predatory fish called Aruan. Most of them were caught but the sheer number of the fish made the eradication impossible.

 Bandstand: Bandstand is a beautiful octagonal gazebo surrounded by a ring of yellow rain trees. Its a favorite spot for wedding photographers.  When we went there we saw two girls dressed in bridal wear standing in front of the gazebo capturing few of the best moments of their life.

bandstand gazebo

bandstand

Vanda Miss Joaquim:  Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim also known as Vanda Miss Joaquim (easier to write than pronounce) is the first orchid hybrid from Singapore.  It is also the national flower of Singapore.  Situated opposite to Bandstand, you can see plants of this orchid hybrid.

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National Orchid Garden: This is the only garden in the entire Singapore Botanic Gardens which is not free for public.  We payed 5$ per person and got the ticket to enter into orchid garden.  The last sale of the ticket is till 6 pm and last entry into the garden is 7 pm. The entire orchid garden is divided into separate segments like Mist House which showcases extensive unique award winning orchids, Cool house which mimics the tropical cloud forest with carnivorous plants (the only air conditioning effect in botanic gardens), VIP orchid gardens which has hybrid orchids named after famous personalities like Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, William Catherine, Margaret Thatcher and so on.  They also have celebrity orchid garden where hybrid orchids are named after celebrities and famous film personalities.

When we first enter the orchid garden we see a beautiful sculpture with two cranes standing amidst the colorful orchids.

Cranes

Further ahead we walk into the heritage orchid gardens.  Several varieties of Dendrobiums can be seen here. Several other varieties of beautiful orchids can also be spotted.

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Spotted a funny looking plant as shown in the photo below.  It looked as if several strands of thick hair was entangled on a branch of a tree.

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We then entered VIP orchid garden area where state visitors and other VIPs were honored by naming selected orchid hybrids after them.

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orchid 4

The photo below shows a hybrid orchid named after William Catherine.

The best and exotic collections of orchids were in Tan Hoon Siang Misthouse further ahead from VIP orchid section.  I took a few snaps of rare and unique orchids.  The orchid family is the largest family of flowering plants in the world.  It is estimated that 10% of all species of flowering plants are orchids.

MistHouse

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 orchid 6

orchid 7

Stepping ahead of mist house, we then proceeded to Cool house. Besides orchids, there is a display of carnivorous plants from all over the world. I spotted pitcher plants which attracts insects with color and nectar secreting glands.  Once inside the pitcher, the insects are trapped and cannot climb out because of the slippery wall with wax.  The rim of the pitcher has an overhanging row of teeth and finally the insects drown in the fluid in the pitcher.  Their special glands secret acids and enzymes to digest dead insects and absorb the nutrients.

CoolHouse

Pitcher plants

We then stepped into Bromeliad garden.  Pineapple is a well known bromeliad discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

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Bromeliad

Further ahead was Celebrity Orchid Garden named after famous film personalities.  After seeing the hybrid orchids at Mist House, this particular section turned to be way below average.  I spotted two orchids named after famous Indian Movie Stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan.

This brought me to the the end of orchid garden visit.  I made my way to exit the botanic gardens park. I enjoyed this trip.  The place is so huge to grasp all the details at one time.  They have guided tours too for each of the gardens.  Singapore botanic gardens is one of the places where you will find many locals visiting other than the tourists.  Several families have get together and potluck near the Symphony Lake.  Joggers run across the ends breathing fresh clean air. Its difficult to get a photo spot alone to yourself.  You will be constantly buzzed by group of people walking in and out of the place.  I am not surprised when I see so many wedding and birthday photo shoots taking place on weekends.  The park has so many scenic and vantage points that its a one place stop for capturing memories with your loved ones with beautiful backgrounds!

Photo Spot Orchid 1

Copyright ©2016, Lakshmi Nair . This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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