Gardens by the Bay Singapore17th November 2014 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
One of the highlights of the visit to Singapore was our visit to the Gardens by the Bay. I read a lot about them when they first opened in 2011, but photos showed something that still looked quite raw and I wasn’t sure that they would be worth visiting. How wrong I was – firstly because Singapore is close to the equator so everything has grown at a prodigious rate and secondly because it is quite breathtaking in scale and imagination.
There are three elements to these gardens – a tropical garden that covers the entire site, the giant metal ‘super trees’ that are part sculpture, part plant support, and two biomes that are cooled to allow them to grow cloud forest plants in one and Mediterranean-climate flowering plants in the other.
We took a guided buggy tour round the outdoor garden to avoid flagging in the heat and humidity and then returned in the late afternoon to see some of the plants that had caught my eye. These included the extraordinary and aptly named cannonball tree (apparently the flowers smell divine and the fruit smells foul), the frangipani trees (Plumeria) with their deliciously fragrant waxy flowers and on a non-botanical note, Mark Quinn’s huge and extraordinary floating baby statue which hovers on invisible supports above a mound of grass.
The metal ‘super trees’ are increasingly clothed in climbers and settling into their surroundings rather well. There’s a restaurant at the top of the tallest and sky walks between some of them to give wonderful views over the entire garden.
Of the two biomes, it was the cloud forest that was most spectacular with a central 35 metre high ‘mountain’ and waterfall. The vegetation on the mountain was lush and authentic in appearance – even though go got to the top of it by lift and then descended via a skywalk that curved around it so that you could see the plants in detail. Somehow, despite the artifice, it worked brilliantly well – and was blissfully cool compared with outdoors.
There is a charge for each element of the visit to Gardens by the Bay – unlike the Botanic Garden where everything is free, including entrance. Nevertheless it felt like money well spent and is a ‘must do’ for anyone visiting Singapore.