HMAA member Helen Young was in Singapore last week, leading a garden tour for Renaissance Tours, and has shared a few highlights beyond the well-known attractions of Gardens By The Bay and the National Orchid garden.
I love staying at Parkroyal on Pickering, a green icon designed by world-renowned architects WOHA. Its 15,000m2 of lush, high-rise gardens draped all over the building are immaculately maintained and offer green outlooks from most rooms.
The hotel is working on improving its sustainability with separate recycling bins in rooms, filtered water to replace single-use plastic bottles, food waste digesters in the kitchens and biodegradable napkins and straws, to name a few. Intelligently designed rooms, a gorgeous pool and terrific service add to its appeal. (If you stay there be sure to upgrade to a Collection Club room, with multiple benefits such as access to the club lounge on the top floor where daily breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails with delicious food are all included, two free pieces of laundry every day, late checkout and 20 per cent off at the excellent Lime restaurant).
We also visited the Oasia Hotel, again designed by WOHA, which boasts 10 times the area of greenery of the site footprint. The ‘living tower’ is draped in 21 different species of climbing plants that are being allowed to grow where they will on the basis they will self-select for the most suitable microclimate. Oasia also has four communal sky gardens cut into the building at different levels, which allow natural ventilation of the public spaces in lieu of air conditioning. The sky terraces serve as communal spaces with lounge areas, meeting rooms, cabanas, pools, a gym and open lawn areas.
In contrast to the built environment, Singapore is embracing its nature reserves, with an island-wide network of linear green corridors linking major parks and nature areas. We did part of the Southern Ridges route, covering the Canopy Walk and Forest Walk, on which our fabulous local guide Karen Chen taught us about the native flora and fauna. It’s just a small part of Singapore’s renewed commitment to preserving what’s left of their natural heritage. There are numerous wetland reserves, nature parks with hiking trails and tree-top walks to explore.
Surprisingly, there’s also a remnant of primary forest (part of the original tropical lowland forest that once covered the island) in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The boardwalk through this forest is an easy walk to explore the native flora and fauna, including some magnificent specimens of Jelutong (Dyera costulata). The tall, straight trunks have distinct grooves; the latex tapped from the trees was once used to produce chewing gum.
Singapore has many roof gardens but the CapitaSpring building in the financial district is outstanding. Opened to the public in late 2022, the Level 51 Skygarden has fabulous views in every direction. While it’s billed as Singapore’s highest urban farm and the planter boxes contain a wide range of herbs, vegetables and fruit trees that are used by the on-site restaurants, the plantings include other flowering perennials and shrubs and trees, aesthetically presented.
The planting method was inspired by the food forest concept, with seven layers of plants from root vegetables to trees. There are five thematic gardens, namely the Singapore Food Heritage Garden, The Wellness Garden, The Mediterranean Garden, The Australian Native Garden and The Japanese Potager Garden. Australian plants include lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), finger limes and Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides). Entry is free but the public are only admitted Monday to Friday, 8.30am to10.30am and 2.30pm to 6pm.
The Green Oasis spans Levels 17 to 20, connected by a spiraling path amid lush greenery. It provides quiet areas for office workers who wish to be away from their desks – charging sockets are built in to the seats. Amenities include a yoga alcove, work pods, an exercise corner, amphitheatre and café. For more of the Sky Garden at CapitaSpring see this link.
Across the landscaped areas at ground and podium levels, the Green Oasis and Skygarden, CapitaSpring boasts more than 80,000 plants across more than 130 species of which more than half are indigenous to Singapore.