Friday, January 29, 2016

Singapore: Chinese and Japanese Gardens

Lily Pads in the Japanese Garden with a view of the Chinese Padoga in the distance 
If you want to explore a park in Singapore a little off the beaten path, I would suggest the Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden in Jurong East. Both Gardens are built on artificial islands in Jurong Lake (previously Jurong River) and are connected by a 13 arch bridge 'Bai hong Qiao' or 'the white rainbow'. The Chinese Garden features a Pagoda, a stone boat, a Garden of Chinese Zodiacs, a stunning Bonsai Garden of over 2,000 trees, and a tea house. Inspired by Japanese Gardens from the 14th-17th century, the Japanese Garden has fewer obvious attractions as its neighbor but is meant to be a place of tranquility and contemplation. Here visitors can enjoy lily ponds, stone walkways, a traditional resting house, and arching red bridges.

Everyone enjoys the Japanese garden; two turtles sunbathing; the Turtle and Tortoise Museum is on the grounds; you should also keep your eyes open for the large monitor lizards that like to lounge in the gardens
Multiple bridges cross over the Lily Pond  
Stunning Bonsai Garden in the Chinese Gardens; opened in 1992; 2,000 Bonsai trees were imported from China and other countries 
Bonsai Garden; little glimpses into a number of 'rooms' full of bonsai trees on pedestals

Bonsai Garden: a sneak peek into another part of the garden
Bonsai Garden: Bonsai trees growing from stones meant to resemble mountainous landscapes 
In the Garden of Abundance: 12 Chinese Zodiac animal sculpture, a sun dial, and pomegranate trees 
7- story Pagoda in the style of the Ling Ku Temple 
A detailed look at the exterior of the Pagoda
Looking up the heart of the Pagoda 
A view from the seventh eave of the Pagoda 
Tip: The Gardens are easily accessible from the MRT (Chinese Garden stop) and can be combined with a visit to the Jurong Bird Park a mere 8 minute drive away. Gardens are open daily from 6am-11pm.

Enjoy your green adventures!
The Bayou Botanist

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In a Sea of Orchids

Bird Cage of Orchids 
Located in the heart of The Singapore Botanic Gardens, The National Orchid Garden of Singapore holds the honor of having the largest display of tropical orchids in the world. With over 60,000 orchids, made up of 1,000 different species and 2,000 hybrids, the garden is awash with a full spectrum of color and fragrances. Numbers aside, the garden is otherworldly in its design with pathways surrounded by towering orchids, tropical palms, and three greenhouses. Singapore has been at the forefront of orchid hybrid and cloning research for the past century. And of course, it is only fitting that Singapore's National flower is an orchid: Vanda Miss Joaquim (also the first registered plant hybrid in Singapore and the only hybrid that is a national flower).   

Heritage Orchid Garden: Layers of Orchids up the hillside

The Swoonworthy Tan Hoon Siang Mist House 
You can get lost in the color and smells of the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House 
Hanging plants in the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House 
Tan Hoon Siang Mist House 
Yuen-Peng Mcneice Bromeliad House 
Bromeliad House: The Pineapple, the most well known Bromeliad, was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe 
Lush Greenery line the paths throughout the Orchid Garden
Cool House: a collection of plants from tropical cloud forests
Some of the plants along the paths were just as intriguing as the multitude of colorful orchids 
VIP Garden; hybrids are named after important State Visitors and other VIPS
Golden Shower Arches 
I would't mind losing my way for a few hours/days in this stunning Orchid Garden. How can you say no to thousands of flowers?

Up Next: Singapore's Chinese and Japanese Gardens

The Bayou Botanist

Friday, January 22, 2016

A World Heritage Site: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Park Visitors Enjoy Twilight at Eco Lake 
Smell the Frangipani, lay under a palm tree, feel the mist of the rainforest, taste the ginger, and be engulfed by thousands of colorful orchids. Taking a stroll through  Singapore Botanic Gardens  isn't just a walk in a park, it is an exploration of all of your senses. The 156 year old garden was first developed as an English colonial garden on grounds that were formerly overgrown plantations and virgin tropical rainforest. With such cultural and educational significance, the Singapore Botanic Gardens was honored last year as an UNESCO World Heritage Site; only 1 of 3 gardens have been granted that distinction along with England's Kew Gardens and Italy's Padua Gardens.  I was lucky enough to visit the garden on my first day in Singapore and couldn't help but return 3 more times before my trip home. The Park is organized into 3 "cores": Tanglin (the oldest part of the garden; heritage core;Swan Lake), Central (tourist belt;National Orchid garden, ginger garden), and Bukit Timuh (educational; Eco Lake, children's garden).  It is little wonder that the Park is well- loved by locals and visitors alike. On each of my visits (even in the rain), I saw friends and families enjoying picnics, couples strolling hand in hand, many runners and walkers, practicers of tai chi, kite fliers, an impromptu soccer game, and a wedding. Life was happening in this green space. All parts of the gardens are connected by looping pathways so there are multiple ways to get to any one destination. You feel completely separated from the skyscrapers and bustle of the city even though the Garden is located a mere 5 minutes from the busy Orchid Rd.

Swan Lake in the Rain; Swan Lake is the oldest ornamental water feature in Singapore (1866)

Bonsai Garden: a collection of 48 dwarfed tropical and subtropical trees

Inside the Bonsai Garden

Frangipani Garden

Princess Vine covering walkways; Princess vine is a close relative of the common grape

Ginger Garden; if you get a change stop by the Halia restaurant located next to the garden. DELICIOUS
National Orchid Garden; over 1000 species of orchids and 2000 hybrids

Symphony Lake in Palm Valley; free concerts can be enjoyed at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage 

Families Enjoying Palm Valley 
Black Swan in Eco Lake

Nesting Black Swan; black swans are native to Australia but have been introduced to other countries as an ornamental bird since the 1800's 
Singapore Orchid Garden: so stunning it deserves it's own blog entry 
Singapore Botanic Gardens is one place that you'll never grow tired of visiting.
Open from 5am - midnight daily
free; (other than Singapore Orchid Garden $5)

Up Next: A stroll inside the Singapore Orchid Garden.

Stay Green,
The Bayou Botanist

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Garden City: Singapore

SuperGrove at The Gardens by the Bay in Singapore 
What do you do when you have two weeks off from the studio? Travel to "The Garden City," of course. Singapore has to be the greenest and cleanest city I have ever had the pleasure of visiting; and here's the thing: it was designed to be that way. The story goes that in the 1960's the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew flew over the city and decided that a lush green landscape would result in a happier and healthier society.  A tree-planting initiative was started shortly after, along with putting aside land for parks and green spaces for every development; the green spaces act as a natural air filter for the populous city. Today, parking decks, high-rises, and shopping malls are all draped in green; roads are lined with shady trees; and the public parks are otherworldly in their beauty. The green spaces and parks have increased from 879ha in 1975 to 9,707ha by March 2014, and the number of parks from 13 to 330.   

For the next several days, I will attempt to give a visual tour of my favorite Gardens in Singapore: from the airport Sunflower garden to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  My First Stop on the Garden tour is the relatively new Gardens by the Bay (opening in 2012). The Gardens by the Bay has three main attractions: the Supertree Grove and the two enormous conservatories: The Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest.

The Supertree Grove is as spectacular as the photos suggest; they tower over the rest of the park and connect with a skywalk enabling visitors to experience life above the canopy. Plants line the sides of the metal structures; you kind of feel as though you've landed on Avatar's Pandora.  Encircling the Supertree grove are a number of smaller Gardens divided into distinct areas: the Colonial Garden, the Malay Garden, the Chinese Garden, the World of Palms, etc.
View of the Harbor and the Flower Dome from the Tallest Supertree 
The Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world as of 2015. The plants and flowers are from the Mediterranean and semi- arid regions. The Dome is divided into 9 seamless sections: The Baobabs, A Succulent Garden, The Australian Garden, The South African Garden, the Californian Garden, the South American Garden, the Olive Grove, the Mediterranean Garden, and the Flower Field at it's center. As it was shortly after Christmas, the large central flower field was replaced by enormous decorations that I felt distracted from the natural beauty of the surrounding plants. I would love to see what this greenhouse looks like on a normal day.

Christmas in the Flower Dome
Inside the Flower Dome
Visitors strolling through the Flower Dome
Several impressive driftwood sculptures were scattered throughout the Dome
The Cloud Forest was my favorite part of the Gardens at the Bay. Immediately as you walk into the conservatory, a light mist tickles your face and you smell the earthy scent of wet earth. The mist is coming from the world's tallest indoor waterfall cascading from the side of a mountain that doubles as a six story hanging garden. . . that you can climb.  Each level that you travel up gives you a new perspective with secret views from inside it's core.

The Cloud Forest Dome
A real life Hanging Gardens in the Cloud Forest Dome; world's tallest indoor waterfall

A small piece of the massive green mountain; the variety of plants covering every inch was unbelievable.  

What you find at the top of the Cloud Forest: The Lost World

Walking through the inside of the structure can be just as interesting 
A view from above in the Cloud Forest 
Stay Tuned for Day Two: The Singapore Botanic Gardens (aka I found Eden).

Enjoy a green space today!
The Bayou Botanist

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