Sunday, March 18, 2012

Winter Travels - Part 7: National Orchid Garden, Singapore

Probably Singapore's most famous horticultural attraction, the National Orchid Garden is  truly a garden with wow factor. It may not be the most elegant, and there is definitely nothing tranquil or secluded  about this very public - and popular - floral showplace. However, for sheer extravagance and lushness any garden would be hard-pressed to compete with this one. Once past the the entrance pavilion and ticket counter, one first comes upon a large semi-circular water feature crowned by a sculpture of two sporting cranes, all framed by verdant foliage and myriad orchid blossoms in shades of yellow, orange, and red. A winding path leads deeper into the garden, flanked on both sides by beds filled with more orchids and foliage plants in a similar color scheme. Then come a series of arches covered in Oncidium orchids which send out clouds of delicate, bright yellow flowers. Beyond these the color scheme diversifies, with more pinks and purples, and the garden opens out to cover the hill side in veritable fields of orchids.

The water feature at the entrance

Oncidium-fringed path

Orchid arches

Rows and rows of yellow-flowered orchids of the Vanda alliance

A pink Vanda hybrid

Orchids and various foliage plants covering the hill side

Different cultivars of ground orchid (Spathoglottis plicata)

Eventually one reaches a stair case that leads to the top of the hill and which is lined with plantings - including lots of orchids, of course - which are kept in cool shades of white and green. To the right of this staircase are located the gardens specialty collections - the Orchidarium, which features tropical species orchids in a naturalistic forest setting, the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House, the Yuen-Peng McNeice Bromeliad House, and the Cool House, which houses vegetation of tropical mountain regions for which Singapore's climate is too hot. At the top of the stairs one finds Burkill Hall, a pretty colonia-era bungalow built in 1866 which used to be the residence of the director of the Botanic Gardens. Now its ground floor hosts an informational display chronicling the history of the Gardens' orchid breeding programs and particularly the line of orchid hybrids named after celebrities developed by them. The latter also constitute the main focus of the VIP Orchid Garden that immediately surrounds Burkill Hall. I personally liked this section best, since the intricate plantings, liberally accented with sculptures and additional orchids in decorative containers, make for a smaller, more intimate scale and a lot of interesting detail. As a result, this part of the garden feels a little less like a public park and a bit more like a private garden, and seems to offer more in the way of inspiration for the home gardener.

White Dendrobium phalaenopsis around the staircase

Burkill Hall as seen from the VIP Orchid Garden

Some classical statuary amidst the green

More classical sculpture and lots of orchids

Another border in the VIP Orchid Garden

The plantings in the Orchidarium are not as flashy since they are supposed to be reminiscent of a natural forest habitat, though of course there are plenty or orchids here as well.

Walk in the Orchidarium

An inflorescence of torch ginger (Etlingera elatior)

Brassavola nodosa flowering on a tree

The Tan Soon Hiang Mist House which is nestled into the hillside below the Orchidarium contrasts strikingly with the somber green shade of the latter, for it is filled to the brim with brilliantly colored orchid hybrids. While the flowers were stunning, their precisely staged arrangement was a bit too much artifice for my taste.

A view in the Mist House

A pink-and-purple hybrid of the Cattleya alliance

A blue-purple checkered Vanda

A Phalaenopsis cultivar

Green lady slippers (Paphiopedilum maudiae)

A little further down the hill lies the Yuen-Peng McNeice Bromeliad House, which, while similar in style and lay-out to the Mist House, is filled with a large variety of of Bromeliads.

View over a section of the Bromeliad House

Colorful Neoregelias

Vriesea gigantea among other Bromeliads

Finally, there is the Cool House which features tropical mountain flora for which Singapore's climate is too hot. Coming from a decidedly non-tropical place, the concept of a greenhouse that is artificially cooled first struck me as rather odd, though I guess it is not much weirder than the heated greenhouses for tropical plants in colder regions.

White-and-yellow Dendrobium densiflorum in the Cool House - this is one of my favorite orchid species

A delicate Paphiopedilum

A tropical Rhododendron

Th sheer abundance of flowers and intensity of colors meant that with this garden I went even more overboard on the pictures than usual... If you want more information on Singapore's National Orchid Garden, including hours and ticket pricing and the like, you can find its official website here.


  1. Nice post. You might be interested in my post on our Singapore stopover on the way to Paris.

  2. The tidiness of the abundance is VERY shocking! It's the cleanest, most diverse botanical garden I've ever seen. I can see the utility in a cool house - I can't grow certain nepenthes because of the heat here. Great post!

  3. What a beautiful garden! I enjoyed the trip you took us through.I hope to visit that place some time.

  4. NotSoAngryRedHead - The tidiness really is quite impressive. Funnily enough, while we were there a local college student was interviewing visitors about their thoughts on park regulations and potential vandalism. As far as I understood, the goal of her study was to devise strategies to ensure even greater order and cleanliness!

    lotusleaf - I am glad you liked it! Singapore really is very nice, and for such a big city there is a truly admirable amount of greenery and garden-related places to see.

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