CHINESE NEW YEAR

Blooming welcome for spring

The begonia hybrid (above) and dahlias (right) at the Dahlia Dreams show. A three-tiered pagoda (above) complements the show's Chinese garden theme.
The begonia hybrid (above) and dahlias at the Dahlia Dreams show.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The begonia hybrid (above) and dahlias (right) at the Dahlia Dreams show. A three-tiered pagoda (above) complements the show's Chinese garden theme.
A three-tiered pagoda (above) complements the show's Chinese garden theme.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

This year's dahlia extravaganza at the Flower Dome offers not only the blooms, but also a new begonia hybrid

Flower lovers, take note: The annual dahlia extravaganza is back.

This Chinese New Year, the Flower Dome in Gardens by the Bay will be turned into a Chinese garden with stunning displays of these vibrantly coloured, many-petalled flowers.

On until Feb 19, the Dahlia Dreams exhibition features more than 20 species of the blooms, most of them unseen in previous years.

This is the third consecutive year that dahlias are taking centre stage at the dome's annual floral exhibition to usher in the Spring Festival.

The Chinese garden theme, however, is new. It brings in other traditional elements, such as a three- tiered pagoda decked with lanterns, a pond with lotus flowers and circular archs known as moon gates.


The begonia hybrid and dahlias (above) at the Dahlia Dreams show. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

With the upcoming Year of the Rooster, sculptures of the animal adorn much of the grounds at the Flower Dome. Visitors can also look out for the previous years' zodiac animal driftwood sculptures - they are reused throughout the year as part of the dome's decorations.

Of the 3,000 pots of dahlias that will be shown in rotation during the show, 500 are grown in-house.

The rest of the dahlias were grown in Cameron Highlands, where the temperate plants thrive. When they start to bloom, the plants are wrapped up for the journey to sunny Singapore.

The biggest challenge is in maintaining the fresh flowers during the show, says Mr Gary Chua, 46, assistant director of conservatory operations.

As the exhibition uses mainly large flowers, the team has to ensure that the plants' stems are properly supported so they do not break.

He adds: "It is a mammoth task to maintain the flowers on a daily basis - the watering and pruning of plants alone takes the entire morning."

Besides dahlias, there will also be begonias on display. The highlight is a new begonia hybrid developed by the horticulture team at the Gardens, the first such hybrid cultivated commercially in Singapore.

  • BOOK IT /DAHLIA DREAMS

  • WHERE: Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive

    WHEN: Till Feb 19, 9am to 9pm

    ADMISSION: Local residents: From $8 for a conservatory and from $12 for two conservatories; foreigners: from $15 for two conservatories

    INFO: www.gardensbythebay.com.sg

While there are usually two types of begonias - one known for its flowers and the other valued for its attractive foliage - the new hybrid combines the best of both: It has pink or red-toned flowers and dark green foliage with sharp leaves.

The new hybrid is also cultivated to be more resistant to plant diseases such as stem rot and powdery mildew. The team took two years to grow it.

Senior researcher Paulo Peralta- Quesada, 37, says: "We could not get the plants to grow past the seedling stage at first and had to do test runs with different substrates and soils, before coming up with a different methodology for germination."

To encourage families to visit the exhibition, Gardens by the Bay is offering a discount where senior citizens enter free with each adult ticket purchased.

Returning visitor Danessa Foo, 34, is looking forward to the new edition. The legal counsel hopes to take her six-year-old daughter to enjoy the flowers and learn more about Chinese culture. She says: "I always admire how they find fresh inputs every year - like the Monkey King theme last year - so it's a trip that's educational for my child."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Blooming welcome for spring'. Print Edition | Subscribe