South Africa in bloom

Plants on display include (from far left) the leucospermum, the protea and the Aloe dichotoma.
Plants on display include the leucospermum (above), the protea and the Aloe dichotoma.PHOTO: GARDENS BY THE BAY

Gardens by the Bay's Tribal Tempo aims to transport visitors to the country with plants

Trees that are nearly seven storeys tall, flowers that look like powder puffs and blooms that resemble pin-cushions are on display at Gardens by the Bay's Flower Dome.

Named Tribal Tempo, the display is the first large-scale South African floral show at Gardens by the Bay. Visitors can expect to see a total of 10,000 plants across 70 species at the exhibition, which will run until Oct 30.

Most of these plants were imported from nurseries in Europe and Australia, with the show's highlight - the Aloe barberae - shipped in directly from South Africa. Gardens by the Bay's horticulturists and researchers also grew about 2,500 of them, including the colourful Gerbera jamesonii (Gerber Daisies).

The Aloe barberae, Africa's largest tree aloe, can grow up to 20m in height, has long curvy branches and is able to store water in the fleshy tissues of its leaves and roots.

Plants on display include the leucospermum, the protea (above) and the Aloe dichotoma. PHOTO: GARDENS BY THE BAY

Another exotic plant on display is the sun-loving Gazania rigens - a plant with flowers that face the sun and require strong sunlight to unfurl. The petals close at night.

One of the aims of Tribal Tempo, says Ms Felicia Chua, 35, senior manager of gardens operations at Gardens by the Bay, is to "transport visitors to South Africa using plants".

The idea of having a South African floral display came about after a five-person team from Gardens by the Bay went on a study trip there in 2014 and discovered many one-of- a-kind plants.

Transporting the large number of plants, including trees, to Singapore was no easy feat.

The plants had to be loaded into several containers, endure a plane or ship journey to Singapore and be inspected for disease before being moved to the cool and dry Flower Dome, which has similar climate conditions to the plants' natural habitat.

Plants on display include the leucospermum, the protea and the Aloe dichotoma (above). PHOTO: GARDENS BY THE BAY

The trees, recounts Ms Chua, were more difficult to handle. "Because the plants do not take to rain well, we had to work quickly to get the trees unloaded from the containers and transferred to sheltered areas."

But the experience, including cultivating the new species, has taught researchers a thing or two.

We have learnt more about the different requirements of each cultivar and fine-tuned our growing methods... to bring out the aesthetics of the plants.

SENIOR RESEARCHER PAULO PERALTA-QUESADA on how the team put together the Tribal Tempo display

Mr Paulo Peralta-Quesada, 36, senior researcher at Gardens by the Bay, says: "We have learnt more about the different requirements of each cultivar and fine-tuned our growing methods accordingly, from making adjustments to temperature, light, water and nutrients to applying different trimming techniques to bring out the aesthetics of the plants."

The exhibition features more than just plants.

As visitors stroll around it, they will be immersed in South African culture, with the pulsating rhythm of tribal dance music and the energetic beats of drums playing in the background.

They will also be able to see a tribal hut and view a mother- and-baby rhino sculpture, one of many animal sculptures on display.


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

    WHEN: Till Oct 30, 9am to 9pm daily

    ADMISSION: $8 to $25


And in celebration of Children's Day, maracas - percussion instruments that are typically filled with seeds or pebbles to produce rattle- like sounds - will be given out to children in the Flower Dome from Oct 1 to 9. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ms Teo Feng Ying, 28, a financial consultant, will be visiting Tribal Tempo soon. "I've been to Gardens by the Bay before, but not specifically for the exhibits, so I'm looking forward to the exhibition because there are plants you won't be able to see in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'South Africa in bloom'. Print Edition | Subscribe