Urban Haven

Above: The resident white swans feeding on the foliage at Swan Lake. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Above: The resident white swans feeding on the foliage at Swan Lake. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Above: An aerial view of a gardener watering the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchids. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH, MARK CHEONG
Above: An aerial view of a gardener watering the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchids. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH, MARK CHEONG
Above: An aerial view of Symphony Lake, which has a large concert stage built on an islet in the middle of the artificial lake. It is located in the Central Core of the Gardens. On the right side of the photo, people are seen doing their morning exer
Above: An aerial view of Symphony Lake, which has a large concert stage built on an islet in the middle of the artificial lake. It is located in the Central Core of the Gardens. On the right side of the photo, people are seen doing their morning exercises. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH, MARK CHEONG
Lily pads on Symphony Lake (above); the Cannonball tree attracting a bee to its flower in full bloom: and a newly abandoned spider’s web along the Rainforest Trail. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Lily pads on Symphony Lake (above); the Cannonball tree attracting a bee to its flower in full bloom: and a newly abandoned spider’s web along the Rainforest Trail. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Lily pads on Symphony Lake; the Cannonball tree attracting a bee to its flower in full bloom (above); and a newly abandoned spider’s web along the Rainforest Trail. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Lily pads on Symphony Lake; the Cannonball tree attracting a bee to its flower in full bloom (above); and a newly abandoned spider’s web along the Rainforest Trail. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Lily pads on Symphony Lake; the Cannonball tree attracting a bee to its flower in full bloom; and a newly abandoned spider’s web along the Rainforest Trail (above). ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Lily pads on Symphony Lake; the Cannonball tree attracting a bee to its flower in full bloom; and a newly abandoned spider’s web along the Rainforest Trail (above). ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28 (above), having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens; family time in front of the iconic Tembusu
Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28 (above), having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens; family time in front of the iconic Tembusu tree; Girl On A Swing sculpture by Sydney Harpley, commissioned and presented by Singapore’s first chief minister David Marshall in 1984. There are three works by the British sculptor at the Gardens. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
From far left: Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28, having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens (above); family time in front of the
From far left: Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28, having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens (above); family time in front of the iconic Tembusu tree; Girl On A Swing sculpture by Sydney Harpley, commissioned and presented by Singapore’s first chief minister David Marshall in 1984. There are three works by the British sculptor at the Gardens. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
From far left: Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28, having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens; family time in front of the iconic T
From far left: Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28, having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens; family time in front of the iconic Tembusu tree (above); Girl On A Swing sculpture by Sydney Harpley, commissioned and presented by Singapore’s first chief minister David Marshall in 1984. There are three works by the British sculptor at the Gardens. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
From far left: Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28, having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens; family time in front of the iconic T
From far left: Channel marketer Eugene Cheong (in pink), 31, and sub-editor Audrie Soh, 28, having their wedding photographs taken at the Botanic Gardens; one of many groups that exercise regularly at the Gardens; family time in front of the iconic Tembusu tree; Girl On A Swing sculpture by Sydney Harpley (above), commissioned and presented by Singapore’s first chief minister David Marshall in 1984. There are three works by the British sculptor at the Gardens. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

Gardens which has drawn generations of Singaporeans over the years gets international nod for its research efforts and role in rubber trade

For Singaporeans, the lush greenery and historic charm of the Singapore Botanic Gardens has made it a favourite spot for family picnics, wedding pictures, a walk or jog amid nature or just an escape to tranquillity.

But the 156-year-old Gardens, accorded the coveted status of a Unesco World Heritage Site yesterday, is so much more.

It is a place of research and conservation, giving home to more than 10,000 species of plants.

It has more than 1,200 species of orchids and about 2,000 hybrids housed mainly in its National Orchid Garden - making it the largest collection in the world.

It is also a site with 15 heritage buildings, including the 1921 Holttum Hall, now a museum but formerly a laboratory where orchid breeding and hybridisation techniques were experimented at.

EXAMPLE OF HUMAN POSSIBILITY

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is encouraging proof of how men can re-create lost paradise, and of harmony between men and nature.

MR DARKO TANASKOVIC, Serbian ambassador and Unesco delegate

It is also where 47 heritage trees remain preserved - including a Tembusu tree which is believed to be 200 years old.

Praising the Gardens, Germany's World Heritage Committee representative Birgitta Ringbeck pointed out that it has a variety of landscape features, plantings and buildings. That helps explain why the Gardens draws more than 4.4 million visitors annually, making it the most-visited botanic garden in the world. Leading US travel website TripAdvisor ranked it as the top park in Asia last year in its Travellers' Choice Awards.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the 39th World Heritage Committee session in Bonn, Germany yesterday, the vice-president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), Mr Alfredo Conti, noted that the site is home to living heritage.

"It is not an archaeological site or monument that doesn't change over time. There are plants and changes there, and there are people of the city who spend some hours of their week or weekend there. So those aspects related to life and to intangible components of heritage are also very important."

 

  • When the Botanic Gardens was founded : 1859

    How big the Botanic Gardens is - about the size of 100 football fields : 74 ha

    Different types of plants found there : 10,000+

    Number of visitors every year : 4,000,000+

Dr Kishore Rao, director of Unesco's World Heritage Centre, said yesterday: "It is perhaps one of the most important botanic gardens in the world, reflecting a variety of values..."

Icomos, a Unesco-appointed panel that assessed the Gardens, praised it as an "exceptional example" of a British tropical colonial botanic garden in South-east Asia.

In a report released in May, Icomos also highlighted the pivotal role the Gardens played in the rubber trade in the region, as it was where rubber cultivation and extraction were perfected. Those advances led to Malaya producing half the world's latex harvest by 1920.

Icomos also said that the Gardens has played an integral role in the social history of Singapore, providing a backdrop for the lives of its residents for a continued sense of place and identity.

A green oasis in the middle of a highly urbanised city, the Gardens has played an integral role in the greening of Singapore over the years. National Parks Board chief executive Kenneth Er, who was in Bonn, said that Singapore has put in a lot of commitment and effort in keeping the city green and in doing so, retained and conserved the

Botanic Gardens. This he noted, was acknowledged by the World Heritage Committee.

"They also recognise how the Gardens has over the years contributed to the scientific research of botany and is recognised as a world institution for botanical research, particularly in the field of plant taxonomy," he said.

Among the effusive praise drawn from World Heritage Committee members, this one from Serbia stood out.

Its ambassador and Unesco delegate Darko Tanaskovic said: "The Singapore Botanic Gardens is encouraging proof of how men can re-create lost paradise, and of harmony between men and nature."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'Urban Haven'. Print Edition | Subscribe