Singapore is boss at creating spectacular gardens and parks on an ambitious scale. These are the enormous spaces where nature and man collaborate on magnificent green monsters.
Gardens by the Bay:
Built with a vision of environmental sustainability, this three-part mega-garden encircles Singapore’s business district and lines Marina Bay. While the gardens are home to 100 different species of birds and 500,000 plant species, one of the most eye-catching highlights are the 80- to 164-foot-tall “supertrees,” which have built-in photovoltaic cells that absorb solar energy. Gardens by the Bay welcomed its 15 millionth visitor this year.
Singapore Botanic Gardens:
Established in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens includes a rain forest and healing garden. Aside from its tourist-drawing one-two punch of visual beauty and strollable sprawl, the gardens also fulfills a scientific mission as a botanical and horticultural research and education institution. The process is currently underway to seek nomination for the Singapore Botanic Gardens to earn status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Stepping off of the ferry and onto this island feels like a step back in time. The small island and its impressive and equally popular offshoot, Chek Jawa wetlands, are part of the Singapore National Parks system and are known to manycycling enthusiasts for its favorable mountain biking terrain. Home to some of the last remaining traditional villages in Singapore, the island provides respite from the more frenetic energy of the city.
2. Hidden Gems
While the population density of Singapore is at more than 7,713 people per square kilometer -- that’s higher than Hong Kong’s and Bangladesh’s concentrations -- this city/country hybrid features covert gardens unknown to even Singapore natives.
Butterfly Garden in Terminal 3 of Changi Airport:
Changi Airport boasts a number of unexpected amenities, including a rooftop pool, movie theater and green spaces like the butterfly garden in Terminal 3 -- the world’s first in an airport. The intricately patterned wings of the 1,000-plus species blend in with the brightly hued flora. The Emergence Enclosure also provides visitors a chance to observe stages of the butterfly life cycle.
Novena Medical Center’s 8th-floor Zen garden:
Located in the medical epicenter of Singapore, Novena Medical Center has conveniently tucked away an outdoor, Zen-inspired garden on its eighth floor for patients, staff and visitors of the medical center. Greenophiles can also take in the views of the wooden walkways, water features and the impressive plant life of this shrouded oasis by visiting the medical center’s equally hidden coffee house-style cafe (no hospital food here).
Toa Payoh Sensory Park:
Concealed within Toa Payoh, a large residential and shopping hub, the Sensory Park invites visitors to experience green space through their five senses. The park features richly textured sculptures, Braille, art installations that require a different point of view, parabolic dishes that reverberate sound, and a closely surveilled “taste” section of edible plants.
3. Gardens In The Sky
Skyrise Greenery -- an incentive program created by Singapore’s National Parks Board to greenify the expanding concrete jungle -- encourages rooftop and vertical gardens to increase the sustainability of Singapore’s growth. Under the initiative, National Parks covers as much as 50 percent of a garden’s installation costs.
PARKROYAL on Pickering Hotel:
Probably the most recognizable of Singapore’s sky gardens, PARKROYAL on Pickering’s impressive climbing terrace gardens received the 2013 Skyrise Greenery Outstanding Award. The design concept is of a hotel in a garden. The amount of green space (waterfalls and reflecting ponds included) on the building matches the footprint of the neighboring Hong Lim Park.
ITE College Central:
Winner of the Skyrise Greenery Excellence Award in 2013, the concept for this impressive wall growth was to weave green into the face of the campus like fingers. Placed on west-facing building facades, the green walls act as “living barriers” from the hot Singapore sun and successfully reduce ambient temperatures and energy costs.
Ocean Financial Centre:
Another 2013 Excellence Award winner, Ocean Financial Centre’s vertical garden covers 2,125 square meters and uses 51,000 potted plants to create a pixelated effect. This green wall once held the Guinness World Record for the largest vertical garden in the world -- an honor that passed to another green wall in Singapore in 2014.