Sick of dates at boring restaurants or cinemas, which are only getting more expensive? UrbanWire was scouting around for a unique dating destination and stumbled upon Singapore’s HortPark.
Known as the most expensive garden in Singapore with a hefty $13 million price tag (next to the Botanic Gardens which only cost $7 million), and needing 2 years to complete, HortPark is touted as South-East Asia’s “first one-stop gardening and lifestyle hub”, boasting as many as 20 themed gardens. Officially open to the public on May 10, it serves as a park connector between Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park in South-Western Singapore, and is 23 hectares of recreational, educational, research, retail and gardening-related facilities all rolled into one.
A Walk in the Park
It was a windy and cool afternoon, the perfect weather for a stroll, when UrbanWire set foot in HortPark and we were bowled over by its tranquility. The surroundings are indeed a sensory treat – with colourful flora and fauna, sounds of birds chirping cheerily, and the sweet scent of flowers and herbs wafting through the air, leaving visitors feeling refreshed and amazingly light-hearted. Some plants have nameplates that provide basic information like their common names, scientific names, the plant family they belong to, and their place of origin.
Our first stop is the Lifestyle Corner, a display of “interior scaping” (using indoor plants to decorate homes). With a showroom flat as canvas, the Lifestyle Corner offers some innovative and appealing ideas that allow us to invite these plants home, given the spatial and lighting constraints of modern-day apartments.
Visitors can take a leaf out of its book by looking at the various rooms featured in the Lifestyle Corner, and by learning how to add a touch of green to almost every nook and cranny of their homes.
The way various potted plants were used to enhance the design and ambience of a room, and how elements of a modern home are artfully blended with a touch of nature, were most impressive.
With the furniture sponsored by Ikea and JMayer as the interior designer, the entire place is nicely done up with floral paintings, and rattan furniture that, when contrasted with today’s gadgets, like a black flat screen television, give the place an earthy yet modern feel.
Besides that, the garden is also decked out with bright yellow, pale pink, white and red orchids with ferns and vines twining around and encircling the little compound. Coupled with an eclectic mix of music, and the soft sounds of an artificial waterfall, the experience is like stepping into a secret garden, away from the cares of the outside world.
The 20 HortGardens
The 20 themed gardens are the main attractions of HortPark and are designed so that learning will be a fun and enjoyable experience in a living outdoor classroom. UrbanWire finds The Silver Garden most intriguing with its variety of grey, silver and white-hued plants that exude a futuristic and mysterious vibe. There is also the Golden Garden, where a variety of yellow or gold plants are grown. Though nowhere as stunning as the Silver Garden, the Golden Garden is still worth a visit for the rich (pun intended) feast of colours.
Another interesting gardening concept is the Recycling Garden, which teaches visitors how to turn common household items or waste materials (think plastic bottles and worn-out rubber boots) into useful gardening accessories for homes. It reinforces the concept of the 3Rs- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and is a lovely and practical idea that’s great for environmental education.
Kids will love the Fantasy Garden, where they get to see their favourite characters from the story of Wizard of Oz come alive, with life-sized structures of the Scarecrow, Dorothy, Tin Man, Toto the dog and the Lion crouched down in corners, waiting to spring a surprise. This garden promises plenty of surprises and fun for the whole family with its visual treats, and “talking” characters through animatronics.
If you’re searching for a tranquil corner for meditation and self-reflection, look no further than the Bamboo Labyrinth. Made up of a number of circular paths that are enclosed within a grove of bamboos, the labyrinth has been specially designed to manifest ancient beliefs in the meditative and healing qualities of such mazes. Instructions are provided for visitors who want to explore, and experience its healing power.
You surely won’t want to miss out on the Herb & Spice Garden where you get to engage your senses of sight, taste, touch, and smell. The strong scent of herbs in the air will tickle your nose and entice you to learn more about the medicinal and culinary uses of these herbs and spices from signs provided in front of the plants.
Apart from learning about herbs and spices, you’ll also get to learn about fruits and vegetables in the Fruited Tree and Vegetable Garden, though you aren’t allowed to pluck them for consumption.
Those who’re interested in knowing more about seed dispersal methods can also head down to the Seed Garden, and can even get to play traditional games such as “Congkak”.
Think that gardening is confined to land only? HortPark’s Water Garden is sure to teach you a lesson or two about Aqua Horticulture, with fish and plants flourishing in this watery habitat.
If you can’t get enough of the water theme, you can visit the Aquascape in the Lifestyle Corner for a view of lush landscapes and terraces submerged under water.
Needless to say, those who love flowers should also make time to visit the Orchid Corner for its wide variety of orchids, available in an array of vivid colours. If that isn’t enough for the romantic in you, you can even take a 5 min stroll along the Floral Walk; a path lined with beautiful flowering plants.
If you still have time, you may want to check out the Tree Climbing Corner or Tree Garden to learn more about the sturdy fellows we see all around our garden city.
The other themed gardens, like the Passage Walk, Flora Fancy, Home Garden, Car Park Garden, Lifestyle Corner, and Terrarium Arcade also leave plenty to be explored. There are maps provided all around HortPark to guide you along if you’re feeling lost.
At first sight of the prototype glasshouses in HortPark, we simply couldn’t take our eyes off the beautiful blossoms. The vibrant flowers in full bloom gave the sterile-looking glasshouses a dash of life with their kaleidoscope of bright colours ranging from rich reds to pale blues.
Furthermore, these are not the typical flowers you see in Singapore- the glasshouses are set to cool temperatures and low humidity similar to spring in the Mediterranean region- hence the rich colours and large blossoms, like that of the Amaryllis Lily.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to admire the flowers from behind glass because visitors aren’t allowed to step into the glasshouses for a closer look at these lovely flowers. That said, this is still a rare visual treat, especially for less well-travelled Singaporeans.
The last stop of the day is the garden centre, HortMart. Those with green fingers should check this cool retail establishment out as HortMart provides a wide variety of gardening and landscaping products or services.
Even if you’ve killed more plants than you care to own up to, HortMart promises value-added services, with workers possessing the technical know-how to provide customers with product information and advice on landscaping. Prices are comparable to nurseries like Far East Flora. A common cactus plant will set you back about $3, while orchid plants cost around $15.
Too Hot to Handle
HortPark is the perfect hangout for families, couples, dog-owners, and of course, horticulture enthusiasts.
Apart from being able to appreciate all the natural surroundings, visitors will surely feel healthier and more relaxed after the walk, which takes a good 2 hours to complete, at a leisurely pace.
Looking to fill your tummy after burning those calories after a good long walk? Thai eatery KHA is bound to satisfy, as long as you don’t mind the slightly steep prices as it is a fine dining restaurant. The serene ambience is reason enough for some to fork out a premium.
Those who need to answer the call of nature or freshen up can do so easily as toilets are available at many places in the park. Water coolers and vending machines are also provided so visitors can cool down and drink up after a long, tiring walk.
Those with children also needn’t worry about bored, whiny kids complaining about being bored as there’re playgrounds available all around HortPark to keep the kids entertained.
For its holistic approach to providing visitors with an educational, retail, and recreational experience all under one roof, UrbanWire gives this haven 2 green thumbs up!
Hyderabad Road, off Alexandra Road
Opening Hours: 6 am to 10 pm
Admission Fee: Free
How to get there:
Nearest MRT Station: HarbourFront NEL Station (NE1)
Bus Services: 61, 93, 100, 166, 963