Gardens by the Bay holds showcase of new plant varieties in South-east Asia's first flower trial

Syngenta employees with their company's cultivar at the flower trial organised by Gardens by the Bay on June 30, 2022. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Gardens by the Bay held a showcase of 150 new plant cultivars on Thursday (June 30) in South-east Asia's first flower trial aimed at diversifying plant sources and showcasing cultivars that can grow well in the tropical climate.

The Gardens as well as local nurseries were hit by disruptions to the supply chains of potted plants from overseas caused by Covid-19.

The experience highlighted the importance of diversifying plant sources, said Gardens by the Bay deputy chief executive officer Lee Kok Fatt at the event.

Flower trials let breeders showcase their new products for industry players to view and procure and such events are highly anticipated within the horticulture industries in the United States and Europe.

Holding such a trial in Singapore expands the supply options available to the horticulture industry here and the region, Mr Lee, 48, added.

Thursday's flower trial was attended by more than 120 growers, landscapers and distributors from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

It was organised by the Gardens and held in its nursery in a closed-door event.

Five breeder companies showcased their products: Syngenta from Switzerland, Pan-American Seed from the US, Dummen Orange from the Netherlands, and Sakata and Takii from Japan.

They funded the trial and provided the flower seeds, which were grown in the nursery.

Port closures during the pandemic disrupted the supply of potted plants from abroad for Gardens by the Bay.

In a bid to overcome this problem, Mr Lee said that the Gardens started to look into growing flower seeds bought from overseas seed or breeder companies.

He noted that through the trial, growers in Singapore and the region can develop business opportunities with seed companies and increase their range and variety of plants sold.

Due to the pandemic, Madam Christine Neo, 58, a local grower from landscaping specialist Tai Kwang Garden, faced delays in imports of potted plants.

For example, plants such as hydrangeas from Europe, a popular flower during Chinese New Year, arrived a month later in March, after the festive season.

She said: "Ports were jammed and people were falling sick. As a result, the plants were left inside containers for about 18 days, causing them to wilt or die."

Her nursery incurred a loss of about $10,000 this year due to such damage to plants she had ordered.

"That's why I think the event is a really good way to network with breeder companies and buy seeds that we don't usually see in Singapore. I have more options of seeds and places to get my seeds in future," said Madam Neo, who intends to grow more potted plants from seeds to sell at her nursery and rely less on imported plants.

Mr Ng Keng Guan, 36, assistant sales manager at World Farm & Hua Hng Jurong nursery, decided to buy the sunflower and petunia seeds at the flower trial.

The nursery sells more than 800 species of plants and gets its supply of potted plants from Thailand, China and the Netherlands.

Attendees at the flower trial organised by Gardens by the Bay on June 30, 2022. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Prior to lockdowns overseas, Mr Ng had stocked up on plants and the nursery was able to continue sales during the pandemic.

He said that the trial is beneficial to nurseries like his as they would be exposed to new species of plants that would usually thrive only in temperate countries.

He added that growers also learn techniques on how to propagate high quality plants in a shorter period of time, such as planting them in peat moss and using fertilisers.

Flowers showcased at Thursday's trial included begonias, petunias and sunflowers.

These flowers can thrive well in humid and sunny conditions, and some are resistant to diseases.

Pan-American sales and marketing representative Jane Vathesatogkit, 39, said that the company decided to trial its seeds here as Gardens by the Bay has the technology to support plant production.

"The temperature-controlled greenhouse here means we can grow cooler-climate plants too. Being able to control the environment makes it easier to trial the flowers as they will perform their best," she added.

Mr Lee said some of the plants from the trial will be displayed in cooled conservatories and outdoor gardens at Gardens by the Bay for the public to view.

Members of the Gardens will also be able to view the flowers in the trial in the nursery on Saturday.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.