Name: 150 Years of Singapore Botanic Gardens
Date of Issue: 19 June 2009
When Sir Stamford Raffles established the first Botanic Gardens in 1822, its main purpose was to evaluate for cultivation, crops that were of potential economic importance. However, without a full-time salaried director and sufficient funding, the garden languished and was closed in 1829. It was not until 30 years later, in 1859, that the present Singapore Botanical Gardens was founded by the Agri-Horticultural Society. Planned as a Lesure Garden and Ornamental Park, the Society organized flower shows and horticultural fetes.
It is fair to say that the history of the Gardens is in many aspects the history of its dedicated administrators. The Garden's first Director, Henry Nicholas Ridley, came to the Gardens in 1888 and worked tirelessly for the next 23 years to usher the Gardens into the twentieth century and its most productive period historically. It was also during Ridley's administration that Singapore's national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim, was named.
Beginning in 1928, Professor Eric Holttum, Director of the Gardens from 1925 -1949, set up laboratories and conducted the first experiments in orchid breeding and hybridization. His techniques led to Singapore being one of the world's top centres of commercial orchid growing. Today, it also has a world-renowned orchid garden.
In mid 1960s, when the 'Garden City' campaign was launched, the Gardens took a leading role in the greening of Singapore. To meet the need for urban landscapes and recreational areas, the Gardens became involved in supplying planting material and in plant introduction to rapidly increase the intensity in road side and park plantings.
In 1973, the Botanic Gardens merged with the Parks and Trees branch of the Public Works Department, to form the Parks and Recreation Department.
In 1988, Dr Tan Wee Kiat became Director of the Gardens and refocused the Gardens as a tropical botanical institution with roles in research, conservation, education and recreation. To better fulfill these roles, the National Parks Board was formed in 1990. it was under his direction and vision that masterplan for the redevelopment was formulated in 1990. By 1995, the 3-hectare National Orchid Garden, a major tourist attraction today, was opened.
In July 1996, the Ministry of National Development merged the National Parks Board and the Parks and Recreation Department into the new National Parks Board, with Dr Tan as CEO. Dr Chin See Chung took over the role of Director of the Gardens. Besides continuing the Gardens' traditional roles in research, education and conservation, Dr Chin steered the completion of the redevelopment masterplan to provide better public facilities and amenities and new botanical attractions. Major projects completed include the Visitor Centre, Ginger Garden, Evolution Garden, Children's Garden and the Botany Centre. These are keeping the Gardens relevant as a leading destination and botanical institution.
Today, the Gardens is geared towards entrenching itself as a tropical botanical institution of international renown, a key tourist destination and a flagship park. Significant new attractions are being planned in a continuing renewal programme.
Monday, July 20, 2009