Welcome back to part two of our three part series on ‘Gardens by the Bay’. As I mentioned in the last post, it is basically hot and sunny or hot and humid (with maybe a torrential downpour) in Singapore all of the time. This along with the fact that we were just about to enter what is essentially a giant glasshouse and we were imagining a very unpleasant environment inside the ‘Flower Dome’, despite being told otherwise. Imagine our surprise when we walked through the door receiving an almost icy blast (well, probably more of a temperate blast but dry and way different to outside). It was so cool in fact that I almost went searching for my jumper (which incidentally I didn’t bring on this holiday). This cool environment is produced by cleaver technologies and glass panels that aren’t what they seem (more about this in my ‘Green Mindset’ section).
Unlike the outdoor area of the garden that is open 21 hours of the day the ‘Flower Garden’ is only open a modest 12 hours (9am-9pm). The actual indoor temperature ranges from 23°C to 25°C, this along with its lower humidity allows plants to grow that would not have a chance in Singapore’s natural environment. The glasshouse is the largest in the world (covering 1.2 hectares) and features flowers and plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions of the world. It is broken up into 9 main areas that we visited as follows:-
The Australian Garden_______________________________________________________________
No, we didn’t come here first because it reminded us of home but because it is the first thing you see when entering the garden. The Australian section has many plants mainly from Southern and Western Australia.
The African Garden _________________________________________________________________
We visited the South African plant section next. Although the fauna of South Africa is rather different from that of Australia I have always found the flora remarkably similar, a bit like the difference between ‘The Sunrise Show’ on channel 7 and ‘The Today Show’ on channel 9, subtle. This can obviously be contributed to the continents being joined at one time and the similar temperature and landscape.
The Olive Grove____________________________________________________________________
Not only features olive trees but figs, grapes pomegranates and other crops related to the Mediterranean. One of the big features of the Olive Grove is a 1000 year old Olive tree that I managed not to get a clear picture of, anyway you get the idea. The trees were moved from Spain where the area was about to be redeveloped.
This garden represents the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean Basin that was one of the first places to practice agriculture in the world. Some of the crops that come from this region were mentioned in the ‘Olive Grove’ section but also include wheat and lentils. Other trees in the garden are the ‘Stone Pine’ Pinus pinea that is now known worldwide for its edible pine-nuts used in traditional pesto sauce and the ‘Cork Oak’ Quercus suber that is harvested for cork in wine bottles and flooring. The cork forests have a rich biodiversity, sometimes reaching up to 135 plants per square meter but unfortunately since the introduction of synthetic bottle stoppers the Cork oak landscape (2.5 million hectares in Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France) is quickly being degraded by numerous man made threats to make money through other uses of the land. I found this fact interesting because in this case, industry was actually protecting these fragile forests.
A little staircase near the Olive Grove takes you up to the Californian Garden that represents plants from the Chaparral in the Californian Mediterranean region.
South American Garden______________________________________________________________
Represents many of the interesting plants from this region. Some of the plants you can see in this area are the ‘Chilean Wine Palm’ Jubaea chilensis (considered vulnerable by ICUN, you can probably see why from the picture above, not nearly as cute as the Giant Panda) , ‘Monkey Puzzle Tree’ Araucaria araucana (considered vulnerable by ICUN, are you seeing a pattern here) and the ‘Chilean Puya’ Puya chilean (a native from the Bromeliaceae family that is only considered threatened in its natural environment, that’s a relief). Interestingly the Chiliean Puya is also known as the sheep eating plant. It can grow to 3m tall and its sharp spines are known to trap sheep and other small animals that starve to death, decay and feed nutrients to the plant, a natural fertilizer.
Boababs & Bottle Trees______________________________________________________________
In this area are the massive Boabab trees from Africa, Brazilian Amazon and Madagascar regions of the world. Some of the trees in this area are the ‘African Baobab’ Adansonia digitata (this speciman is the largest plant in the ‘Flower Dome’ coming in at a whopping 32 ton), the ‘Drunken Tree’ Ceiba chodatii and the ‘Ghost Tree’ Moringa drouhardii. The ‘African Boabab’ and ‘Drunken Tree’ are both in the same family as our Australian ‘Queensland Bottle Tree’ Brachychiton rupestris)
This area represents the hardy Cacti, Aloes and Crassulas. The shape and waxy surface of many of these plants protects them against the harsh UV of their natural environment and water loss while sharp spins protect them from animals.
The very interesting ‘Tree Grape’ Cyphostemma juttae and Cyphostemma currorii are part of the Vitaceae or grape family. They have thick stems for storing water and grape-like fruit (to be expected). In times of drought, these plants loose their leaves to conserve water but still photosynthesis through their light, translucent bark.
The Flower Field___________________________________________________________________
This field is also themed but is constantly changing to represent different seasons, festivals and cultures. They even set it up with a tulip display sometimes called ‘Tulipmania’. Tulips in the tropics, classic. There was a distinctive African theme going on at our visit.
Well I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed this weeks ‘Walk About Plants’. Stay tuned for the last part in this series (The Cloud Garden) coming up in the following weeks. I have just added some other interesting photos for your viewing pleasure, see you next time.
- Information boards at the gardens.
- Information pamphlet.