Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Singapore’s 'Gardens by the Bay'

Report by Randy Sing, Nursery and Tropical Centre Supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Since the 1960s Singapore has cultivated its international reputation as a Garden City; a city-state adorned by gardens that hold high priority in urban planning. In the 21st century, a paradigm shift is being carefully nurtured as Singapore becomes a City in a Garden.

The primary icon of this groundbreaking model is 'Gardens by the Bay'.

According to Dr Kiat W Tan, Chief Executive Officer of Gardens by the Bay, who headed and steered the development of the Gardens by the Bay project,

'The Gardens have components of research, conservation, education and recreation. Visitors add the human component. The Gardens serve as recreation and edutainment for its visitors. The Gardens need to capture the interest of people who do not normally look at plants; as well as those who enjoy plants. In order to sustain the interest, a 'comfort zone' is created. It is not just what the team wants to show, but also in understanding what the audience needs and wants.'

It is this philosophy that inspired me to apply for the Foundation and Friends scholarship in the hope to travel to Singapore and work with the management and horticultural staff in the Flower Dome (a cool-dry biome) and Cloud Forest (a cool-moist biome) Conservatories at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.

My travel to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay was everything I had imagined and much more. I met with the staff responsible for the planning, designing, costing, procurement, sponsorship, interpretation, records management, installation and maintenance of their living collections.

On my first day I was given a personal tour of the Gardens by Dr Tan - a CEO with outstanding content knowledge and clarity of vision.

I then focused on the rotational displays in the Flower Dome to understand the challenges they face at every stage, the logistics, and overall costs as well as the ever present hidden costs. A few examples of display themes used were Winter Wonderland, Tulip Mania and War of the Roses.

The professional respect I was given as a horticulturist and employee of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust by Dr Tan and the management and staff at the Gardens by the Bay was truly a humbling experience. I look forward to a continued collaboration with the staff and applying my gained insights to our new Biome/Display Centre.

Randy's key findings

  • Year one visitation - 5 million, and 9 months into year two - 7 million
  • Rotational displays ensure repeat visitation; especially with locals
  • A solar insulation map (which charts the directions shadows would fall within the gardens) was used to site the conservatories in the most optimum locations for plant growth
  • Wonderful fusion of cutting edge green architecture with aesthetic botanical discovery
  • Specialist staff that are home-grown as well as hailing from all over the world - hand picked from Cairns, Arizona, South Africa and England
  • An in-house design team that identifies marketing and programming as the essentials
  • The display designs commence at least 6 months in advance and are always delivered on time and on budget
  • Staff at all levels (management, design, horticulture etc.) are clear on the intended outcomes of the rotational displays
  • Genuine understanding of core business and resulting freedom of staff to get on with their work.

I believe it is the combination of all these qualities that makes the team at Gardens by the Bay one of the world’s best, and enables the team to deliver a world class garden that is and will continue to attract and engage millions of visitors each year.