Green Therapy

May 21, 2015

Mr Lee Kuan Yew greened up Singapore as he felt strongly that “a blighted urban landscape, a concrete jungle destroys the human spirit. We need the greenery of nature to lift our spirits.”

To better understand and quantify greenery’s benefits, NParks is embarking on two research studies, in collaboration with NUS and KTPH:

Park Prescription examines the positive effects of physical activity in parks with clinical research;

Horticultural Therapy investigates the effects of parks and gardening on the mental health of the elderly.

We hope to gain further insights on such greening effects through research.

But Singaporeans know instinctively all along — that green spaces promote physical and mental well-being.  Who does not want to live in or near a garden?

That is why we set out to ensure that 80 per cent of homes in Singapore are within a 10-minute walk from a park, and aim to raise this to 90 per cent by 2030.

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Moving Rain Tree Number 8

May 7, 2015


We are making good progress in our effort to pedestrianise our Civic District.  Specifically, we are creating a lawn in front of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.  The plan calls for the transplanting of 8 mature rain trees to the front of the national monuments. The 8 majestic rain trees will frame and shade the new lawn.

The process of transplanting these gigantic trees is an engineering feat. Please view video of the actual operation:

I am happy to report that the operation for 7 trees was a success.  This morning, we are moving in Rain Tree Number 8.  Keeping our fingers crossed.

We are putting a lot of thought and passion into the rejuvenation of the Civic District.  We want an integrated art, culture and lifestyle precinct set in a lush, green environment.

For example, the Esplanade Park nearby used to be known as “gor zhang chiu kar” in hokkien, or “under the shade of five trees”.  Our seniors will remember that.

Unfortunately, the 5 Angsana trees had to be removed in the 1990s as they were affected by Fusarium wilt, a fungal disease. This fungus had also killed off many of our mature Angsana trees elsewhere.

Fortunately, our NParks horticulturists are a resilient lot.  Over the years, they have specially propagated new Angsana trees that are genetically resistant to Fusarium wilt.  Five of these special Angsana trees will be transplanted into Esplanade Park to recreate the old “gor zhang chiu kar”.

We have also been experimenting with new mixtures of fertiliser to improve the health and vigour of trees in the Esplanade Park and Empress Place area. With good results!  The trees in the area are showing signs of rejuvenation. They are looking healthier with new shoots.

We are also installing new polypropylene structural cells under roads and other paved surfaces to provide our trees with space to anchor their roots.  We are test-bedding this technology to grow a new row of trees along Queen Elizabeth Walk.

Separately, we are adding more volume and colour to the landscape.  We will be planting Pigeon Orchids and Staghorn ferns on the trees, while old favourites such as the Mussaenda ‘Queen Sirikit’, Gardenias and Frangipani Singapore White will also be re-introduced.

Come to the Civic District for a walk and enjoy!

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Transplanting Is Serious Capability

April 16, 2015

Under Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s guidance and close supervision, NParks has built up deep capabilities in greening Singapore.  Not just in planting and growing trees, but also in transplanting them when necessary.

Last year alone, NParks transplanted 2,100 trees!

They were impacted by road works or flood alleviation projects, and had to be moved. For example, extensive road works are currently underway in Upper Thomson road for the upcoming Thomson Line.  Many mature trees were affected.  We try to save every mature tree and transplantation allows us to achieve that.

Transplanting mature trees is no easy feat. It requires considerable skill and effort by our NParks arborists.

First, they will assess if the tree can survive this major ‘operation’ by examining if it is healthy, and has a good and well-established root system.

Next, they will try to minimise the “water stress” a tree may face during a transplant, through methods such as trenching.

Post transplantation, the arborists will closely monitor the growth of the tree, giving it extra care through watering, mulching and supplementing with organic material.

Transplanting also allows us to speed up the greening of new roads and new parks.  NParks has tree banks where saplings are nurtured to a semi-mature age before they are transplanted out to populate our streetscapes and parks. We have a stock of more than 5,500 trees in our tree banks, comprising more than 40 different species.

We will continue to deepen these greening capabilities so that Singaporeans can always enjoy the lush greenery which Singapore is known for.

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One Olive Tree Is Flowering and Fruiting

April 10, 2015

One Olive Tree is Flowering & Fruiting

In the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay (GB), there are several old olive trees. By old, I mean more than 100 years old, with one over 1,000 years old!

I have often wondered if old trees so transplanted can still flower and fruit. As a layman in horticulture, I assume that any sign of flowering and fruiting will suggest that the trees have adjusted well to the new home. In my regular visits to the Flower Dome, I pay particular attention to looking out for such signs.

Last week, I was thrilled to see one flowering and fruiting!

The silvery-green centenarian tree from Spain has borne beautiful flowers and small olive fruits for the first timeFlowers and fruits of olive tree
since it was brought here in 2011.

Producing olives is an almost impossible task in tropical countries like Singapore. Their natural habit is in the Mediterranean world. Like most plants, certain growing conditions must be met before they thrive. While olive trees grow best in places with warm summers, they also need a certain degree of cold for proper flower development.

Last December, our horticulturists lowered the temperatures in the Flower Dome to simulate the cool climatic conditions that Mediterranean plants require to live through winter. As if responding to the nudge by its carers, the old olive dame has responded to the chilling.   Dainty olive flowers bloomed just in time for the Chinese New Year. More recently, our GB colleagues had been diligently placing fans underneath the trees every morning to give nature a helping hand. Olive flowers are wind-pollinated.

It worked! This has encouraged the tree to bear fruit!

The olive is a symbol of peace, abundance and glory. The trees are known to be resilient against drought, disease and fire. Hence, some can be very long-lived, like the 1000-year old tree in the Flower Dome.

Come visit them!

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A Little Competition, While Building Our Garden City

April 3, 2015


Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s clean and green Garden City vision is to help promote equality among all.  Fifty years on, we have internalised this aspiration.  NParks’ Community in Bloom has further brought the green movement to the community level, via our successful community gardens.

Last year, my Sembawang residents grew 250kg worth of fresh vegetables, such as kai lan, chye sim and lettuce, at the community garden and sold them for charity.  They raised $6,000 for Man Fut Tong Nursing Home. Over at Mayor Teo Ho Pin’s ward, his residents’ harvests were also outstanding.  The same is observed elsewhere.  For instance, MP Foo Mee Har harvested a giant winter melon with her residents that weighed 14kg!

Tomorrow, NParks will take this movement further by launching the Community Garden Edibles Competition at HortPark.  It is a competition, but a friendly one, with fun and good knowledge sharing.

Our founding Prime Minister believed that a lush green city would set us apart from the rest of the world. The Community Garden Edibles Competition is a little contribution towards Mr Lee’s vision, involving everyone in the creation of our City in a Garden.

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A special orchid hybrid for our Chief Gardener

March 24, 2015

A special orchid hybrid for our Chief Gardener

Our Founding PM Lee Kuan Yew loved nature and visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens whenever he could. My colleagues in NParks enjoyed taking him around in the buggy. They have a great deal of respect and affection for Mr Lee. Deep in our hearts, we know who the Chief Gardener of Singapore’s Garden City was.

The making of a Garden City was a key element in Mr Lee’s development strategy. It differentiates us from other cities, setting a benchmark for other cities to emulate. None of this would have been possible, if not for Mr Lee’s vision and single-minded commitment to creating the best possible living environment for all Singaporeans to enjoy.

Mr Lee set up the Garden City Action Committee to ensure that different Ministries would work closely together to make greenery an integral part of Singapore’s infrastructure. He created NParks (and its predecessors) because he believed that an agency with staff trained in horticulture, botany and other areas required in maintaining greenery was needed to oversee the Green Campaign, as he called it. As a result of his efforts, our roads and neighbourhoods are filled with lush greenery and birds and butterflies.

For some time, we have been looking out for a suitable orchid hybrid to name after Mr Lee. NParks officers who have staffed him on his many visits to the SBG have a good sense of what he enjoyed and liked amongst the flora and fauna.

We have found a suitable candidate in a vigorous and robust hybrid – Arachnis hookeriana x Vanda Golden Moon. ItOrchid hybrids produces flower sprays that bear up to 10 flowers each, with each bloom measuring about 9.5 cm to 10.5 cm across. The sepals and petals are bright greenish golden yellow with light tessellations and a tinge of white at the base. Each bloom is complemented by a contrasting light brown waxy lip.

The parentage is the Arachnis hookeriana and the Vanda Golden Moon. Arachnis hookeriana is native to Singapore. It grows in full sun and produces lasting scorpion-shaped flowers. Vanda Golden Moon is a large-flowered Hawaiian hybrid that contains the regional species in its lineage; Vanda dearei from Borneo, Vanda sanderiana & Vanda lamellata from the Philippines, and Vanda curvifolia from Thailand.

Ironically, Aranda Lee Kuan Yew has just flowered and will remain in flower for the next 2 to 3 weeks. This new hybrid also matches the orchid hybrid that was named after Mrs Lee, Vanda Kwa Geok Choo.

The match is not only in terms of colour, form and stature, but both hybrids also share a few species in both their lineages.

CEO/NParks, Kenneth Er, presented Aranda Lee Kuan Yew to PM Lee and his family earlier this afternoon at the Istana. It would have been wonderful if we had the opportunity to present the Aranda Lee Kuan Yew to Mr Lee himself. It was not meant to be…I am certain Mr Lee would have loved the flowers.

Orchid presentation at the Istana

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Our Mentor, Our Inspiration

March 23, 2015

Our Mentor, Our Inspiration

Our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew has passed on. My Ministry has lost its greatest mentor and inspiration.

Mr Lee devoted his whole life to Singapore. Singaporeans owe much of what we have in Singapore today to Mr Lee. He was a rare talent and few people could see further ahead than he did. He used his tremendous foresight to position Singapore well and created an endearing home for all.

My Ministry has especially benefited from Mr Lee’s immense foresight and strategic insights. He inspired many policies in MND: HDB, Garden City, Clean & Green, urban planning, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, heritage conservation, Marina Bay, etc.


It was not too long ago, in the early 60s, that Singapore was filthy, disorderly, with slums and squatters and high homelessness. Mr Lee set up the HDB and started on the ambitious task to house a nation. Through the Home Ownership for the People Scheme”, he encouraged families to own their HDB flats, to have a stake in Singapore and its future.

Key handover50 years on, Singapore has achieved one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. Our endearing HDB towns are a lasting imprint of Mr Lee. Today, a third generation of Singaporeans is embarking on their own homeownership journey. The hugely successful story of home ownership in Singapore mirrors the successful story of Singapore as a nation.

The pervasive greenery around us which transforms Singapore into a City in a Garden is another lasting legacy of Mr Lee. In 1963, he planted the first Mempat Tree at Farrer Circus, kickstarting the annual nation-wide tree planting campaign which continues till this day. Even after he retired from the Cabinet, Mr Lee asked to be updated on the work done by the Garden City Action Committee. And whenever Mr Lee was free, he would visit the Botanic Gardens with the late Mrs Lee, and later to Gardens by the Bay after it was completed in 2012.

Tree planting

Mr Lee clearly took pride in what Singapore has achieved as a clean and green city. To him, greenery is not just sound policy that makes sense, but also a personal passion and lifelong commitment. In 2013, in celebration of our 50 years of greening, we invited Mr Lee to plant a rain tree at Holland Village Park. We were so glad that Mr Lee could join us on that momentous occasion.

I know many of you feel a deep sense of loss with Mr Lee’s passing. We all share in this loss. Celebrating 50 years of greening

As we mourn the loss of our Founding PM, let’s reflect on his achievements and be grateful to Mr Lee for starting Singapore on the right footing and building Singapore into what it is today. Mr Lee and his vision put Singapore on the global map of world-class cities. His life and work have touched the lives of generations of Singaporeans. Let us build on his legacy and make Singapore even better for future generations of Singaporeans.

At this time, our prayers and thoughts are with PM Lee and his family. We wish them strength and peace in this time of sorrow.

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