When traveling I’m struck by how tied together we are and always have been. Three years ago on a trip up the Amazon we learned how rubber trees were smuggled out of Brazil to Kew Gardens in London, and from there to the Botanical Gardens in Singapore, where they were bread became the basis for the Malay rubber plantations that put Brazil out of the rubber business because Brazil could not set rows rubber trees close together due to a communicable blight. In Brazil rubber trees were spaced in the rainforest, runners tapped the trees in different locations and brought the latex to central points. This was not efficient enough for a growing car industry.
The Gardens by the Bay have a section on colonial horticulture as part of a wide ranging attraction that may well be the botanical garden of the future. It’s mix of science, education and entertainment. The three dominant features are the Super Tree Grove, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. There is also a hawkers market (with the best satay I ever have had), colonial garden, a Malay garden, ponds, lakes, a kids’ area, topiary garden, and a restaurant featuring things grown here named Pollen. I dared not enter.
The Super Tree Grove is based around huge exhaust stacks for the bio-fuel electric generators below ground. They are covered with trellises with plants growing up them. Ultimately the plants will grow out onto a suspended wire canopy. At night the trees are the focus of a sound and light show with music ranging from spaghetti western themes to Disney favorites, ending with Karl Orff. It had me laughing out loud.
The Flower Dome is an air conditioned haven that recreates a mild Mediterranean climate, It has some large, and I suspect very old olive trees. Nine permanent gardens represent different regions of the world including Australia. Aloe in Wonderland mixes Louis Carroll the succulent Aloe. There are also some organ pipe cacti. They were setting up a seasonal display of Japanese gardens honoring cherry blossom time.
The most stunning structure is the Cloud Forest. They have built a mountain under a dome with a 35 meter (113 foot) waterfall. It’s climate controlled it to between 1500 and 3000 meters. You walk through clouds to see plants that flourish in such an environment. Be careful not to be fooled, some of the plants are very realistic looking Lego constructions.
Lonely Planet lists this as the TOP attraction in Singapore. It is a place where you can lose yourself for a few hours or days and emerge back into the city a little more clear headed than when you came.