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After the soothing mistiness of the Cloud Forest Dome, the Flower Dome came on strongly. I wish I had my shades cos it was a riot of colours.

The Flower Dome showcased countless flowers and plants from almost all the continents of the world; too many to enumerate but I had a few favourites.

Topping the list were the clumps of red and yellow Anigozanthos. I could have been in Australia; the kangaroo paws looked that good. I guess the microclimate in the dome suited them to a T.

Other Australian natives I saw were the xanthorrhoea, leptospermum and protea – lovely. I was looking forward to seeing the grevillea but unfortunately they were not in bloom. I guess the other flowers and plants kind of made up for that.

There were lovely fuschia standards, clumps of hydrangeas, unusually colored liliums, clematis, camellias and more.


There were some unexpected finds; I chanced upon a small lavender plant in one of the flower beds almost overwhelmed by the more flamboyant roses, clematis, foxgloves and rambling sweet peas. A fragrant treat that had me wishing for more.

And somewhere near the cacti and succulents of the semi-arid section I saw a most unusual plant with what looked like the pyramiding shell of a tortoise.  This was the Dioscorea Elephantipes or hottentot bread plant. Apparently its thick and massive stem is a source of food and is rich in starch. Utterly fascinating.

And then there were the baobabs from Africa with their huge swollen trunks, and the intriguing monkey puzzle tree from South America – the first I’ve seen in this part of the world.

But surely the real aristocrats at the Flower Dome had to be the 1000 year old olive trees from Spain. I was awed by their gnarled trunks and slivery grey leaves – it just isn’t the same seeing them in the olive groves of France or Italy. I wonder at the logistics involved in transporting these precious living fossils across the oceans; an amazing feat.

The latest updates shows the Flower Dome reflecting the splendour and charms of autumn. If only I could be there right now! If you’ve yet to visit GBB and you love plants, then you’re in for a huge treat! Happy mid-autumn festival, everyone!

And to my three dear friends who walked me through GBB and gave me that great tour, many thanks once again. I had a whale of a time!

 

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I think I know how Aladdin felt when he stepped into a cave filled with treasure.

I stopped in my tracks when my friends swung the doors open. I was speechless.

Who would have thought that a 35-metre high manmade hill would make such an impact? But it did.

The Cloud Forest Dome enveloped me in its cocoon of misty coolness. Shrouded in mist, it felt like a mysterious forest glade out of which elves and fairies would emerge.

I felt I had stepped into a dream where anything was possible;

a hollowed out hill; caverns, elevated walkways, waterfall and water features …

Someone pinch me.

I revelled in the lush growth; rhododendrons, begonias, nepenthes, orchids, gesneriads, bromeliads, epiphytes, huperzias, platyceriums, fuschias, ferns … with some rare gems in between.

There were fir trees, tree ferns, maple, mulberry, brugmansias and many more plants from higher altitudes and cooler climes.

I felt a little dazed– as one would be when faced with endless buffet lines; tables of delectable food and insufficient time to savour it all.

But what fascinated me most was a carnivorous islet of sarracenias, pinguiculas, drosera and dionaea muscipula.

To the uninitiated, this pretty islet looks innocuous enough, but I wonder how many unsuspecting victims have fallen prey to its lethal charms.


I would have remained a willing captive under the spell of the Cloud Forest Dome I had to take a reality check. Time was running out and I had to move on …

Cloud Forest, I’ll be back.

(Next up, the Flower Dome)

 

 

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I was in Singapore for my cousin’s wedding and had mentally penciled in a mandatory visit to the Gardens by the Bay. I was going with friends; one knew the gardens inside out and had promised to give me a tour. What a treat!

First up were the twelve Supertrees. Despite having seen numerous photos of these giants, I was still amazed!

These mega structures, inspired by towering trees of the rainforest, soar up to 50m high dwarfing almost everything else by the bay. I craned my neck to gaze up at the branches which etched geometric patterns in the sky. Aweeesome!

The Supertrees aren’t just ornamental either. These workhorses capture rainwater for the gardens and generate enough solar power to light up the place in technicolor by night.

The Supertrees were festooned with countless bromeliads. Strange. I had expected to see a riot of climbers attempting to outdo each other in their quest to smother the pink metal frames.

Why pink? My friend explained that the colour reflected the vibrancy of the Singapore society. Mmm ….

I didn’t have much time to ponder over the choice of either as the lift whisked us up to the 128m OCBC suspended skywalk and 360 degrees worth of panoramic views.

Beneath us sprawled four thematic heritage gardens and lakes that had been shaped out of 380 acres of reclaimed land.

A friend pointed out another six Supertrees located at the Silver and Golden gardens; and I thought 12 was plenty! Those at the Silver Garden were planted with silver and grey epiphytes while plants at the Golden Garden were selected for their gold and yellow hues.


By the time we were done with the Skywalk, the morning sun had risen somewhat and so had the ambient temperature. We had to move on.

Will I visit these majestic Supertrees and take to the Skywalk again? Without a doubt.

But before that, I’m sure I’ll be seeing many Supertree-wannabes. In fact I saw a couple of scaled down, improvised versions not too long ago. I don’t suppose Gardens by the Bay should be too bothered by this; after all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Next up … Stepping into ‘Cloud Forest’

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The theme was Roses are Forever.  Yes, that’s one theme that’s been flogged to death, but if it meant that there would be lots of roses at the festival, then I was all for it.

A colourful expanse of torenias, cataranthus, impatiens, tagetes and roses led us towards the pavilion which housed floral arrangements and the plant bazaar. With barely two hours before nightfall, that was all we managed to cover.

I didn’t get any roses.

I ended up with a baeckea frustescens instead. I was fascinated by the beautiful prize-winning bonsai specimens but settled for a small plant which was within my budget.

They had just about everything at the bazaar; herbs, fruit tree saplings, flowering plants, foliage, tillandsias, orchids, epiphytes … you name it.

That fleeting visit whetted my appetite for more and I decided to go again on the last day. This time, I had to brace myself for the relentless mid-day heat.

Many plants had succumbed to the heat over the week and had to be replaced. But it would take more than a few scorched plants to detract from the beauty of the displays.


Not surprisingly, there were almost as many temperate flowers as there were tropical ones. There were rudbeckias, begonias, agapanthus, lilies, fuschias, hydrageas … and of course the countless rose cultivars.

Two exhibits stood out from the rest; the whimsical Gardens of the Yesteryears with their whitewashed arches and birdhouses …

and the local rainforest with jungle plants and lush undergrowth.

I zigzagged through the exhibits, and gravitated back to the bazaar. Perhaps there would be better bargains waiting for me.

I bought an adenium obesum; the hybrid Patuma has the loveliest double petalled light pink flower which actually looks much like a rose. It’s no wonder that they’re called desert roses.

So, my total haul – two tiny but treasured trophies. Until next year then …

If anyone’s keen, word’s out that the next floral fest at Putrajaya will be from 30 June – 8 July 2012; dates which may be worth noting in every gardener’s calendar.

More photos ….

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Pretty weeds

P1070692Most weeds give me a nightmare and there are countless on the lawn and in the flower beds. But there are two I cannot resist. One is the trimezia, the other the torenia.

The trimezia and I are like old pals. We go back a long way. When I was just nine, there was a trimezia growing by the drain outside the house. To me, it held all the beauty of a tulip. So each time it bloomed, I would pick the flower. Somehow, when we renovated the house and shifted the driveway, the trimezia disappeared, probably buried under half a ton of cement.

Imagine my glee when I came across a host of them in the highlands just beside a pathway leading to a golf course. And what a visual treat that was – dozens of small buttercup yellow tulip-miniatures! No prizes for guessing what happened next.

So today, the trimezia has a permanent home in the garden. And I am more careful now. I let the flowers set seeds …

IMG_2203The torenia needs no introduction. I bought pots of them many many years ago and they have given me years of joy with their piquant beauty. A trimezia is never just purple or pink or white … not with its trademark blotches that nature has so generously splashed on it. 

Am I glad that the torenia self-seeds easily! It can be found in every nook and corner of the garden today. I love it when I dig around the flower beds and chance upon the cheeky face of a torenia grinning up at me.   

Care and Propagation: well-drained soil; water generously; dappled shade to full sun; propagate using seeds

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The garden not too long ago…

 
The garden has seen many changes through the years – plants and flowers appear, then disappear. But that’s what makes gardening enjoyable – the fact that it’s a canvas that changes and renews itself all the time.

While I appreciate fuss-free perennials, I love annuals and the fact that I can replace them with something new every now and then. Mixed flower beds have a charm I can never resist. Here are some photos of the garden taken a few years ago.

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Blast from the past …

The garden used to be a lot bigger than it is now, and the house was much smaller. Imagine, we learnt how to cycle in the garden balancing on a grassy slope at the back and we’d whizz right down to the flat ground.

The garden was edged with fruit trees. Dad managed to pack quite a few in the relatively small area; 2 coconut trees, 1 pomelo, 2 rambutans, 3 mangoes, 1 durian, 1 chiku, 1 waterapple, 1 custard apple, 2 limes, 2 carambola, 1 guava … I wonder if i missed out any.

Today, the slope no longer exists and neither do any of the fruit trees. Like the inhabitants of the house, the garden has also come a long way …

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