The first “Botanical and Experimental Garden” in Singapore was established in 1822 on Government Hill at Fort Canning by Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore and a keen naturalist. The Garden’s main task was to evaluate for cultivation crops which were of potential economic importance, including those yielding fruits, vegetables, species and other raw materials. It was not until 30 years later that the present Singapore Botanic Gardens began in 1859, when the Agri Horticultural Society was granted 32 hectares of land in Tanglin by the colonial government, which had obtained it from the merchant Mr Hoo Ah Kay, known as Whampoa, in exchange for land at Boat Quay. The first rubber seedlings came to the gardens from Kew in 1877. A naturalist, Henry Nicholas Ridley, or Mad Ridley as he was known, became director of the gardens in 1888 and spearheaded rubber cultivation. Successful in his experiments with rubber planting, Ridlley convinced planters across Malaya (now known as Malaysia) to adopt his methods. The results were astounding, and Malaya became the world’s number one producer and exporter of natural rubber. Another achievement was the pioneering of orchid hybridisation which led to Singapore being one of the world’s top centres of commercial orchid growing. Today, the 74-hectare Gardens is home to a great diversity of tropical plants set in verdant landscapes and has the largest collection of tropical plant specimens in the National Orchid Garden. Located on the highest hill in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, The National Orchid Garden was opened on 20 October 1995 by Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Providing a place for 60,000 orchid plants – consisting of 1,000 species and moore than 2,000 hybrids – is the three hectares of carefully landscaped slopes. The design concept presenting the display of plants in four separate color zones: the “spring” zone with its prevailing colours of bright and lively shades of gold, yellow and creams; the “summer” zone with its major tones of strong reds and pinks; the “autumn” zone of matured shades; and the “winter” zone of whites and cool blues. A careful combination of selected trees, shrubs, herbs and orchids (mostly hybrids) with matching foliage and floral colours depicts the colour combination. Vanda Miss Joaquim, an orchid hybrid, was selected as Singapore’s National Flower on 15 April 1981. The plant is named after Miss Agnes Joaquim in whose garden it first appeared. It is considered the first orchid hybrid from Singapore and the first Vanda hybrid to be registered. As Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim’s uses are more symbolic than utilitarian. It was selected from among 40 flowers, out of which 30 were orchids, as Singapore’s national flower. This makes Singapore the only country to have a hybrid as her national flower. It was chosen particularly for its vibrant colours, hardiness and resilience – qualities which reflect the Singapore spirit. It is a robust sun loving plant that requires heavy fertilizing, vertical support to enable it to grow straight and tall, along with free air movement and high humidity. It starts blossoming after its stem rises 40 to 50 cm above the support. Dedicated to showcasing the finest orchids and the largest display of orchids in the world, the National Orchid Garden is the place to enjoy the splendour of these gorgeous blooms with their diversity, richness and beauty. If just ogling at their beauty is not enough, you can even take home some orchids dipped in gold, from the souvenir shop.
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