SINGAPORE - Singapore has a global reputation as a garden city, but this did not come about by haphazard planting of trees and shrubs. Plant varieties have to be chosen carefully in order to thrive, and they have to look nice too.
Visitors to the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) will now be able to see more than 80 different varieties of these plants in one place, with the launch on Saturday (May 28) of a Heritage Garden showcasing plants introduced to Singapore's streets and green spaces over the last 50 years.
The Heritage Garden was unveiled by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
Singapore's greening journey began in 1963, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew kicked off the Garden City campaign.
The botanic gardens helped trial thousands of plants for suitability, including the iconic rain tree that lines many of Singapore's roads providing welcome relief from the hot sun.
Among the plants displayed in the Heritage Garden are varieties of Ixora often found in parks and gardens here. Dr Wilson Wong, deputy director of horticulture at SBG, said that Ixora works well because it has colourful and fragrant flowers and enhances biodiversity by attracting butterflies.
Ten students from Tanglin Secondary School having been trained to give guided tours over the past week.
The school has been partnering SBG under the Ministry of Education's Applied Learning Programme, and plans to train more students to give such tours to their peers, and possibly to the public in the future.
Mrs Ng-Leong Kai Ling, the school's humanities head, said: "the Botanic Gardens is a very good case study because of the mix of history as well as nature."
Secondary 2 student Phua Mei Lee, 14, said she became more confident in the course of the training. She said of the challenges of giving the guided tour: "you have to speak to people you don't know."
Secondary 1 student Muhammad Nabil Ali, 13, hopes that those on his guided tours will "take a moment to appreciate the rich history".
Mr Shee Zhi Qiang, deputy director of development at SBG, said that the Heritage Garden was part of the SBG's continuing efforts at improvement. The botanic garden being made a Unesco World Heritage Site was based on its historical, economic and scientific importance. With the Heritage Garden there was now an additional element of social history, he noted.
In fact, the garden is situated on the lawn above Swan Lake, the site of the very first People's Variety Show inaugurated by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, where in 1959, 22,000 people gathered to see multicultural performances by artistes of different races.
Minister Wong, speaking at yesterday's (May 28) launch of SBG's Heritage Week which kicked off with an edition of the People's Variety Show, said that the Botanic Gardens is a place where the Singaporean identity and culture were forged.
"The Gardens has a very special place in the hearts of all of us as Singaporeans."