SINGAPORE - Nature lovers and families have more options to unwind outdoors, exercise and even learn how to grow their own vegetables at a new attraction at Gardens by the Bay.
The new green space, called Active Garden, spans the size of about 1½ football fields and comprises a community garden, two lawns for recreation, fitness equipment for various ages, a classroom for nature-related workshops and a pet-friendly cafe.
The 1ha attraction - which sits along the waterfront promenade facing Marina Bay and is a 10-minute walk from Bayfront MRT station - was officially opened by President Halimah Yacob on Saturday (April 2) to mark the 10th anniversary of Gardens by the Bay.
Admission is free to Active Garden, which was built with the support of the Tote Board. A shuttle service connects Bayfront MRT, Active Garden and the park's conservatories.
The community garden is verdant with more than 50 types of vegetables, herbs and fruit, such as long bean, starfruit and rarer edibles like noni and bilimbi.
Noni is a fruit-bearing tree from the coffee family, and its fruit and leaves are used as traditional medicine in South-east Asia. The green bilimbi fruit tastes sour and is usually eaten as a relish to add flavour to food.
The community garden is run by horticulturists and volunteers, who will conduct edibles-growing workshops for visitors.
Twenty volunteers - who are in their 30s up to their 70s - maintain the community garden by preparing the soil, sowing the seeds and fertilising young plants.
One of them is business owner Mike Lian, 52, who has been volunteering with Gardens by the Bay for five years and tending to the vines in the community garden - which has yielded eggplant, winged bean and winter melon.
He looks forward to welcoming visitors to the 278 sq m plot and showing them how to grow edibles.
"We hope to share some knowledge with the visitors and inspire them to try growing edibles in their homes or community gardens. There will also be terrarium-making workshops and classes on growing basil and mint," said Mr Lian.
Other upcoming workshops and activities at Active Garden are found on the Gardens by the Bay website.
Gardens by the Bay is also working with community partners such as the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to roll out activities at the new green space.
Ongoing collaborations between the Gardens and HPB include a physical activity programme for parents and their children, and health sessions to equip seniors with skills to prevent falls.
Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who joined Madam Halimah at the Active Garden's opening on Saturday, said: "We want to continue to create new spaces and programmes in the Gardens that can help to build strong social and community bonds and, in particular, to encourage families to interact and bond across multiple generations."
He added that the new attraction is one of the many new offerings that will commemorate the Gardens' 10th anniversary this year.
Gardens by the Bay chief executive Felix Loh said: "Even before Active Garden's official opening today, we have been seeing many people drop by from the busy waterfront promenade to make use of the exercise equipment."
On Saturday, a new sculpture - a large cluster of white glass flowers - was unveiled at Cloud Forest, one of the two domed conservatories at the Gardens.
The 2.7m-tall artificial garden - named Ethereal White Persians - is an artwork by renowned American glass artist Dale Chihuly and was donated by philanthropic organisation Tanoto Foundation to commemorate the Gardens' first decade.
The sculpture stands above a darkened pond at the topmost level of Cloud Forest for visitors to pose for pictures.
Last year, Ethereal White Persians was part of a showcase of 140 of Mr Chihuly's artwork at the Gardens and will now be a permanent feature at the park.
The glass installation adds to the more than 200 sculptures displayed at the horticultural attraction.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, local visitorship to the attraction last year was at its highest ever with 8.3 million visitors, said the Gardens in a statement.
The Gardens' director of programming Dinesh Naidu said: "Although the pandemic has reduced our foreign visitor numbers, we are very gratified to see that local visitor (numbers) are at the highest level ever.
"Singaporeans are keen to look for nature places for respite and recreation.
"The migrant workers here have been quite isolated from the community, and we have been working hard to bring them down to visit the Gardens."
Mr Naidu also noted that last year's roll-out of the SingapoRediscover Vouchers had contributed to the larger turnout.