Sunday, January 26, 2014

Singapore Botanic Garden

We were in Singapore for a couple weeks in February  recently after visiting Thailand. This smart and culturally vibrant city was a large contrast to northern Thailand. Hot, humid, and verdantly dense, Singapore was an incredibly green city.

  North of the busy part of town, The Singapore Botanic Garden is a real retreat from downtown Singapore city. Started in 1822, what we see today is largely designed by Lawrence Niven in 1874. These gardens have played a large part in the "Garden City" campaign that started with the making of modern Singapore in the 1950's.

The pathways are well designed and are sited for the most expansive and sweeping views.

Waterfalls, glass houses, and specialty pavillions are tucked amid the dense foliage.

The Evolution Garden is incredible with magnificent Tree Ferns and Cycads.

Especially known for its orchids, the VIP Orchid House is beautiful and entertaining as the Botanic Garden has been hybridizing orchids since 1928. In the 50's they started naming them after visiting dignitaries and important persons to commemorate their visit to Singapore, bringing the reputation of Singapore orchids to the world. You can see the Margaret Thatcher orchid, or the Nelson Mandela- even the Joe and Jill Biden orchid! The heart of this garden, here you can see how they got so famous. There even is a Jackie Chan orchid!

My favorite place was the Cool House.  The Cool House mimics a tropical highland cloud forest and has many carnivorous and cool weather species. Plants are grouped by Old World and New World species, with waterfalls and water mist recreating the cool but humid environment these species thrive on.

The mist creates a dense fog as you travel through. A welcome treat for the northern visitor not used to Singaporean heat.

I love seeing plants that are only available to us in the northeast US as house plants, as they live in the wild. Philodendrons become trees and Alocasias are lush and thick with foliage. The humidity of the air allows anything in the shade to be covered in moss and plant material. Even new sculpture, looks like it has been there forever.

This garden is a must see for visitors and residents. In December 2012 they submitted the garden to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. I hope this proposal is approved so that this treasure of Singapore heritage can continue to please and refresh all who visit.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

If You Love Boxwoods - Marqueyssac, Perigord, France

There is nothing that satisfies the need for structure and tradition like the boxwood. When out looking at my boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) in the yard, poking through the snow yesterday, I remembered our visit to the Marqueyssac Garden in Perigord, France.

Boasting over 150,000 boxwoods all trimmed by hand, this garden was all structure and form. The 4 miles of paths wind along a hilltop overlooking the ancient Dordogne valley, with the Aquitaine village of Roque-Gagneac along the river below. 

Restored and reopened to the public in 1997, the garden also has a restored chateau and a fine restaurant. The chateau dates from the late 1700's  with limestone slabs for its roof. Being my birthday, we treated ourselves to a spectacular lunch  of duck salad while overlooking valley.

At every turn there was something scenic for the eye. The effect of the close, middle and distance views is tremendously satisfying. Our view was of Castlenaud, which was our next stop.

On our way out we peeked into all the small out buildings that were part of the 1700 estate. Chicken house, root cellar, and a surprise! A house with dioramas of the bizzare et sauvage aspects of the local wildlife! I love the French!