The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Singapore Botanic Gardens


A little while ago someone I know was planning a trip to Singapore and asked if I could recommend going anywhere.

I’d only been on a short visit several years ago so I’m probably not the best tour guide, lol, but still had to say “Yes, you have to go to the Botanic Gardens!”.

I got my photos out to show them and it brought back some lovely memories. It was 12 January 2004 that I was there so I thought I’d use that as an excuse to turn them into a blog today :)
… and besides, there’s not much of interest going on in my garden right now to share …

I’m afraid I can’t name or tell you anything about each of the plants, so instead I will add snippets of info about the Gardens as I go along.

The first “Botanical and Experimental Garden” in Singapore was established in 1822 by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore and a keen naturalist. The Garden’s main task was to evaluate for cultivation crops which were of potential economic importance, including those yielding fruits, vegetables, spices and other raw materials. This first Garden closed in 1829.

It was not until 30 years later that the present Singapore Botanic Gardens began in 1859, when the Agri Horticultural Society was granted 32 hectares of land in Tanglin by the colonial government, which had obtained it from the merchant Hoo Ah Kay, known as Whampoa, in exchange for land at Boat Quay.

Laurence Niven was hired as superintendent and landscape designer to turn what were essentially overgrown plantations and a tangle of virgin rainforest into a public park. The layout of the Gardens as it is today is largely based on Niven’s design. The Agri Horticultural Society, however, ran out of funds and, in 1874, the colonial government took over the management of the Gardens.

The first rubber seedlings came to the gardens from Kew in 1877. A naturalist, Henry Nicholas Ridley, or Mad Ridley as he was known, became director of the gardens in 1888 and spearheaded rubber cultivation. Successful in his experiments with rubber planting, Ridley convinced planters across Malaya to adopt his methods. The results were astounding; Malaya became the world’s number one producer and exporter of natural rubber.

Another achievement was the pioneering of orchid hybridisation by Professor Eric Holttum, director of the Gardens from 1925 to 1949. His techniques led to Singapore being one of the world’s top centres of commercial orchid growing. Today it also has the largest collection of tropical plant specimens.

During the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942 to 1945, Hidezo Tanakadate, a professor of geology from Tohoku Imperial University, took over control of the Singapore Botanic Gardens and the Raffles Museum. At the beginning of the occupation, he ensured that no looting occurred in the Gardens and the Museum. Both institutions continued to function as scientific institutions. Holttum and Edred John Henry Corner were interned in the Gardens and instructed to continue their horticultural work. The Gardens was also renamed as Shōnan Botanic Gardens. Later that year, Dr. Kwan Koriba, a retired professor of botany from the Imperial University of Tokyo, arrived as Director of the Gardens, a post he held until the end of the war.

After the war, the Gardens was handed back to the control of the British. Murray Ross Henderson, curator of the Herbarium before the war, succeeded Holttum as director from 1949 to 1954.

The National Orchid Garden is the main attraction within the Botanic Gardens. The three-hectare site has a collection of more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of orchids.

They were stunning and well worth the visit!

The Singapore Botanic Gardens has a small tropical rainforest of around six hectares in size, which is older than the gardens itself. The rainforest and its bigger cousin at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are located within the Singapore’s city limits. Singapore is one of the only two major cities with a tropical rainforest within its city limits, the other being Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro.

Located next to the National Orchid Garden is the Ginger Garden, a one-hectare garden which brings together members of the Zingiberaceae family.

The Botanic Gardens has three lakes, Symphony Lake, Eco-Lake and Swan Lake.

I can’t remember which of those lakes these little guys called home though!

There is also an Evolution Garden, a Children’s Garden and Botany Centre.

And a couple of other shots out and about in Singapore …

The Merlion is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, used as a mascot and national personification of Singapore. Its name combines “mer” meaning the sea and “lion”. The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means “sea town” in Javanese. The lion head represents Singapore’s original name — Singapura — meaning “lion city”.

It was the run up to Chinese New Year while I was there, so there were lots of decorations up in the streets and various New Year things for sale like these decorated orange trees.

More blog posts by geranium_gem

Previous post: My Garden in November and December

Next post: Keukenhof Tulips



Love Singapore and its beautiful Botanic Garden.
It is an amazing place wich seems to change each year.
Thanks for sharing the pics

12 Jan, 2013


I definitely wouldn't mind going back there one day :)

12 Jan, 2013


Thanks for that , Gg , it brought back memories for me . We lived in Singapore in the late '60s , but the gardens were never this grand .
In those days they were somewhat neglected and over-run by monkeys. We walked through one Sunday afternoon , I was carrying our 6wks old son , we were with friends , all eating ice lollipops , when we were surrounded by monkeys and we only got rid of them by throwing the lollipops into the bushes , which is what they seemed to want !
Anyway the gardens look wonderful now , they weren't
aware of the treasures that they had in those days .
We lived originally off the Bukit Timah road , and then we moved to a much bigger house with well estblished plants and bushes . I remember a ginger tree that had blossom that was white in the mornings , but grew from pale pink to a deep rose by sunset . There was a lime bush that I would go out and pick a fruit if we had pancakes for supper ( by torch light ).
There was a flower that bloomed rarely , and then at night , aptly called the Moon Flower , and the only indication that it was about to flower was the lovely scent that drifted in through the open windows , I have a picture of one somewhere .
Lots more memories flooding back , but I won't bore you with them .
Thanks again , that was really good .

12 Jan, 2013


Thank you for a lovely and most interesting blog.
I really enjoyed it this miserable January afternoon.

12 Jan, 2013


Did you live there for long Driad? That ginger tree sounds lovely, actually I'd never seen ginger growing before I went to these Gardens :)

You know I've never thought of having lime on pancakes! I always have lemon juice and sugar, but lime hadn't crossed my mind ... maybe I'll give it a try this Shrove Tuesday, I do like pancakes ;)

Glad you enjoyed it Diane, January in Singapore is certainly a bit different from January in the UK!

12 Jan, 2013


Interesting blog. Thank you.

12 Jan, 2013


Really enjoyed this - a tonic for a dull January day.

12 Jan, 2013


thank you Gg ~ what a fascinating and lovely blog, i have never been there and not likely to so i was really interested to see your lovely photos.
those plants are totally amazing

12 Jan, 2013


A very interesting blog, and full of information. Thank you for sharing your lovely pics. :o)

13 Jan, 2013


Thank you :o)

13 Jan, 2013


Only ever been through Singapore Airport - lovely to see the pics. Thanks for show and tell :)

13 Jan, 2013


Hi, Gg , we were there for three years , and had our second baby out there too . It was said that you would return home with a baby or a camphor-wood chest , we came back with two of each .
It was a wonderful , quite magical place then , under-developed , I'm sure that the modern Singapore has lots of very different charms . Our friends' daughter lives there now , but her experience is so unlike ours .

13 Jan, 2013


What a wonderful blog which I shall look at many times. The plants are stunning and what you have written is so interesting.
It's just lovely - thank you.

13 Jan, 2013


That was most interesting :o)

14 Jan, 2013


Thanks Scottish and Hywel :)

Driad I imagine it's character must have changed so much over the years.

Wildrose I'll admit to stealing most of the text from the internet ... but I didn't remember much of the history from when I visited so at least I taught/reminded myself something in the process! And I promise the photos were all mine :o))

14 Jan, 2013


This is an absolute feast of colour GG. I'm going to put it in my favourites...some of these photos would make lovely paintings, but it's really hard to do a decent flower portrait without a real life beautiful! Thank you for sharing your memories with us :)

18 Jan, 2013


Thanks Karen :)

19 Jan, 2013


What a wonderfully detailed and fascinating blog . . . many thanks GG. It's lovely to see all your photos because I ALMOST visited the Botanic Gardens a few years ago on a stop-over: we were on our way home from son's wedding in Adelaide. We got off the bus and went to the entrance where I asked if they had any "buggies" as I was too hot and tired to walk round, but the answer was "no", so sadly we didn't stay. But at least now I know what I missed!

24 Apr, 2013


Thanks Sheila, it's a shame they don't make provision for people who can't easily walk round, especially given the heat and humidity! I was definitely lucky to get the chance to go there :o)

25 Apr, 2013


I must have missed this blog in January - so glad Icaught up with it - very interesting. Thank you for going to so much trouble.

25 Apr, 2013


I enjoyed doing it Steragram, it was a bit like visiting all over again :o)

25 Apr, 2013


I enjoyed revisiting it too , Gg , thanks again .

25 Apr, 2013


I love Singapore to 1st time was year 2000 then went back in March of 2013 and saw so many changes.

Had the pleasure go going to the new gardens by the bay very impressive.

24 Feb, 2014

Add a comment

Recent posts by geranium_gem

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    26 Sep, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    1 Feb, 2011

  • Gardening with friends since
    10 Sep, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    16 Mar, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    4 Jul, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 Aug, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    9 May, 2011

  • Gardening with friends since
    24 Mar, 2011

  • Gardening with friends since
    2 Nov, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    15 Jan, 2010

  • Gardening with friends since
    19 Sep, 2011

  • Gardening with friends since
    4 Oct, 2008