Heritage takes centre stage in new garden

The Heritage Garden, which opened yesterday, is situated on the lawn above Swan Lake at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Visitors to the garden can learn about the country's greening journey that began in the 1960s.
The Heritage Garden, which opened yesterday, is situated on the lawn above Swan Lake at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Visitors to the garden can learn about the country's greening journey that began in the 1960s.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Set in Botanic Gardens, it showcases 80 plant varieties introduced in S'pore in last 50 years

Singapore has a global reputation for being a garden city, but this did not come about by a haphazard planting of trees and shrubs.

Varieties have to be chosen carefully in order to thrive in the conditions they are grown in, and must also be pleasing to the eye.

Visitors to the Singapore Botanic Gardens can now see more than 80 different varieties of plants introduced to Singapore's streets and green spaces over the last 50 years at the Heritage Garden, which was unveiled yesterday by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

The garden was developed from February to this month and occupies an area of 0.1ha.

Singapore's greening journey began in 1963 when founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew planted a mempat tree at Farrer Circus.

The Botanic Gardens has since helped to trial thousands of plants for suitability, including the iconic rain tree that lines many of Singapore's roads, providing welcome relief from the hot sun.

Among plants displayed in the Heritage Garden are varieties of ixora which are often found in parks and gardens here.

Dr Wilson Wong, deputy director of horticulture at the Gardens, said ixora works well because it has colourful and fragrant flowers and enhances biodiversity by attracting butterflies.

Meanwhile, 10 students from Tanglin Secondary School have been trained to give guided tours of the Heritage Garden to their peers over the past week.

The school has been partnering the Gardens under the Ministry of Education's Applied Learning Programme and plans to train more students to give such tours in the future, possibly to the public as well.

Mrs Ng-Leong Kai Ling, the school's humanities head, said: "The Botanic Gardens is a very good case study because of the mix of history as well as nature."

Secondary 2 student Phua Mei Lee, 14, said she improved her confidence during the training.

"You have to speak to people you don't know."

Sec 1 student Muhammad Nabil Ali, 13, hopes that those on his guided tours will "take a moment to appreciate the rich history".

Mr Shee Zhi Qiang, deputy director of development at the Gardens, said that the Heritage Garden is "part of the continuing improvement" of the Gardens.

He added that the Gardens' inscription as a Unesco World Heritage Site was based on its historical, economic, scientific and social importance, and the last aspect is further supported by the Heritage Garden.

The garden is situated on the lawn above Swan Lake, where Mr Lee inaugurated the first People's Variety Show in 1959. Some 22,000 people gathered to see multicultural performances by artists of different races.

Mr Wong, speaking at yesterday's launch of the Gardens' Heritage Week, said that the Botanic Gardens is a place where the Singaporean identity and culture were forged.

"The Gardens has a very special place in the hearts of all of us as Singaporeans."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'Heritage takes centre stage in new garden'. Print Edition | Subscribe