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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jun 26, 2010

"Tembusu Heritage Tree" of Singapore

Excerpt from Shawn K. Y. Lum's letter (Straits Times, June 9, 2007 "For The Love Of The Tembusu") in celebration of the Tembusu tree.

[Tembusus (Fagraea fragrans) are majestic wayside trees that have their origins in the forests of South-east Asia. They are not uncommon in our secondary forests and, for some reason, these trees do exceptionally well in Singapore.

Apparently, the 'bough of a tree' does not apply to the Tembusu as all its elegant branches seem to reach for the sky, snaking vertically up. The tiny leaves on its branches add gentleness to its size. The ribbed bark, dark and carved with mysterious lines, stands in contrast to the green and light green leaves.

If you are looking for fine Tembusu specimens...the larger of them is huge and tall, but has apparently lost its crowning glory. As both trees are much darker in appearance than usual, I suspect they could be as old as 100 years].

A row of younger Tembusu trees at the Botanic Gardens.

The "Tembusu Heritage Tree" is not an ordinary Tembusu tree. It is our Singapore heritage tree at Botanic Gardens!

Wei and Dad below the "Tembusu Heritage Tree". Many generations of Singaporeans have looked up at this Tembusu at the Botanic Gardens and grown-up at a place called home...

[A Tembusu graces Singapore currency as well. The $5 note features a Tembusu of Heritage Tree status growing in the Botanic Gardens].

[The tembusu has even served as a metaphor for state-civil society relations. In an oft-quoted speech given in 1998, Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh likened the Tembusu to the role the post-1990 Singapore Government played with respect to civil society].

[Like the Tembusu, Professor Koh noted, the Government was deep-rooted, strong and protective, but that it also permitted other plants (that is, civil society) to flourish in its vicinity].

Professor Koh had also contributed an article on "The Trees of Singapore" to the "Chicken Soup for the Singapore Soul: Stories to Inspire and Uplift the Hearts of Singaporeans". An excerpt below:

Most Singaporeans have little knowledge about the trees that surround them and taken them for granted. I once asked an artist friend who often included trees in his paintings, what sort of trees they were. He confessed that he did not know. On another occasion, I was asked to sum up a conference on civil society in Singapore. A sudden inspiration led me to pick three trees to represent the colonial era, the Lee Kuan Yew era and the Goh Chok Tong era, respectively. I said that the colonial era was like a royal palm tree - tall, aloof, with a small canopy. Civil society thrived during the colonial era because the colonial government did not provide for many of the needs of the community. The Lee Kuan Yew era was like a banyan tree - a strong and much revered tree with a huge canopy. During the Lee Kuan Yew era, civil society shrank because the government took over many of the services that used to be provided by the civil society. The Goh Chok Tong era was like a tembusu tree, a magnificicent tree with a canopy, smaller than that of the banyan tree. Senior Minister Goh had wanted to expand the space for the civil society. Later, I heard from an editor at The Straits Times that the reporter covering the conference had no idea what the three trees looked like and had to go to the Singapore Botanic Gardens to find out.

...My favourite tree in the whole of Singapore is a tembusu tree in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It stands on a grassy field, near the revolving globe and overlooking the Swan Lake. It must be quite old because I have been a friend of this tree since I was a child. What is unique about this tree is that it has an artistic branch, which is about waist high and which grows parallel to the ground. Children love to climb on the branch and sit on it. This tree has been featured on one of our postage stamps. It is one of our 'heritage trees'. I love this tree and have a photograph of it in my bedroom.

Do you have a favourite tree?

Tommy Koh
Another article about trees in Singapore as an analogy by Professor Tommy Koh:

...I once described the Lee Kuan Yew era as the era of the banyan tree. Because the banyan tree has a large canopy, it did not leave much room for civil society to grow. I have described the Goh Chok Tong era as the era of the tembusu tree. Because the tembusu tree has a smaller canopy than the banyan tree, civil society has fared better during the Goh years and Singaporeans have enjoyed a large intellectual space. I have not yet decided which of our trees best represent the Lee Hsien Loong era. The tree I am looking for must be as strong and as deep rooted as the banyan tree and the tembusu tree, but it should have an even smaller canopy so that our civil society will continue to grow and Singaporeans will enjoy an even greater intellectual space. Singapore is, as the Prime Minister has said, a city of possibilities.

Source: "Impression of the Goh Chok Tong years in Singapore"
Preface by Tommy Koh, Chairman
Institute of Policy Studes
The recognition of the Tembusu heritage tree at Botanic Gardens will never miss it.

The lowest branch of the tree bough was so close to the ground without climbing on it.

The location of Tembusu Heritage Tree is located 0.1 kilometre from Sundial Garden, Botanic Gardens. Tembusu Heritage Tree is located 0.1 kilometre from Botanic Garden Trail. Tembusu Heritage Tree is located 0.2 kilometre from Swan Lake. Tembusu Heritage Tree is located 0.2 kilometre from Old Saga Tree, Botanic Gardens. Tembusu Heritage Tree is located 0.2 kilometre from Botanic Gardens bandstand.

Wei and Dad with a closed-up photo below the "Tembusu Heritage Tree". Wei's first visit to this same tree on 21 April, 1985 as a baby.

A gaping hole in the tough, weather-beaten Tembusu...

Another sign of the Tembusu tree trunk survived a major surgery...

The Tembusu heritage tree in young days. "Wooden crutches" not required.

The young ladies sitting on the young Tembusu heritage tree in 1957. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore (NAS).

Above photo taken on 19 Jun, 2010 at the lower bough of the branch tree with favourite spots for climbing. The two "wooden crutches" nowadays need support and tender, loving care to strengthen the aged Tembusu heritage tree.

A photo taken with Wei and Dad at the "Tembusu Heritage Tree", Botanic Gardens on 19 Jun, 2010.

Tembusu Quiz:

When was the first generation "Tembusu Heritage Tree" seedling planted at this location?

When will the next generation of this same Tembusu be reproduced, grafted or "cloned" as a "Citizen of Singapore" at the Botanic Gardens?

Post Related:

The most famous Tembusu tree is in the Botanic Gardens and is designated as a Heritage tree.

YG's blog about another Tembusu tree here .


"Bandstand" at Botanic Gardens

Photo Credit: Calvin Teo. This photo is used under GNU Free Documentation Licence with acknowledgement and thanks.

A bandstand was erected in the early 1860s as a focal point of the original landscape design of Singapore Botanic Gardens. The present octagonal structure was built in 1930 and staged early evening performance by military bands for many years. Though no longer used for music, the Bandstand continues to be one of the best-known features of the Gardens.

The white structure and the many Yellow Flame trees set the perfect backdrop for photos for the family album.

The "Bandstand" is simple Victorian architectural design, and withstood the times.

A journey through time in Botanic Gardens with nostalgic, fond memories. Take some time through your stack of old photo albums. With their last family visit to Botanic Gardens many years ago, it would not be surprised to discover a souvenir shot taken at the "Bandstand".

Unfortunately, most of my early photos taken at Botanic Gardens would need time to search for these 'memory aids' from the photo albums.

At the wooden bench in the "Bandstand" on 19 Jun, 2010.


Jun 20, 2010

"Swan Lake Gazebo" at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Swan Lake Gazebo

The Swan Lake Gazebo is a much more recent arrival to the Gardens, and first found her home here in 1969. Made of cast iron with a wooden roof, this shelter with wonderfully detailed etchings on her beams, stands proudly at the edge of the lake, guarding it like a centurion.

Although a recent arrival, the Gazebo was first built next to a house in Grange Road back in the 1850s. Today she plays home to visiting families who picnic under her roof, sheltered from the blazing sun.

The Garden icons: The Bandstand & Swan Lake Gazebo tranquility of Swan Lake coupled with her simplicity creates for a peaceful day in the Gardens. Her brown wooden roof gives her an air of warmth, inviting you to spend moments with her as a breeze flows through. The etched details on her rails and sturdy build have withstood much weathering from the harsh sun and pattering rain. The tranquil pale green of a bank of Nephrolepis ferns surrounds her, complimenting her serene nature. With such a graceful resident, we are confident that your visit will be most pleasant as you spend some time in her company.
Excerpt from:
Benjamin Aw, Visitor Services
"Gardenwise", Newsletter of the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Volume 32, January, 2009


A Walk to Remember @ Botanic Gardens

I received an email from Wei last week:

"Are you free this coming Saturday? I am organizing a small group father's day event, and wish to invite you to take a walk with me. I remember you had brought us to botanic gardens long long ago. It's been 20+ over years".

Sounds interesting. It would be a good chance for me to meet Wei's personal development training course classmates, trainers, friends and their families. The get-together was organised to coincide with "Father's Day" this year on 20 June.

I accepted the invitation to take a walk down memory lane. It was almost 20 years since my last visit to Botanic Gardens for our family outing. While digging through some old photos in the family album, this personal blog for rambling is a sentimental and fond memories for me.

As the program for the day's event commenced at 2:00 pm, I arrived at the Botanic Gardens about two hours earlier to recce, strolling the place alone by myself. After the stormy rain two days ago with flash flood at Orchard Road, its nice today to be bright and sunny. There were plenty of trees and green foliage under the shade. Cool...

While Wei and his friends were left to themselves to do their own devices at Botanic Gardens for preparations and stuff, I did not want to bother them.

Wei (with guitar) and his friends seen from a distance while I was on a walk to remember@Botanic Gardens. This photo was snooped :)

Botanic Gardens is another world in Singapore..."far away from the madding crowd" (borrowing Thomas Hardy's epic 1874 novel title of the same name). Located nearby Orchard Road, the tourist belt with vibrant, fun happenings.

The photo of the entrance of Botanical Gardens as hand-written on the postcard dated 10/10/1906. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Entrance to Botanic Gardens c 1900. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Entrance to Botanic Gardens c 1900. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Entrance to Botanic Gardens c 1900. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Entrance to Botanic Gardens c 1975. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Coincidentally, 2009 also marks another auspicious date, the 250th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

At the height of the Victorian era that ended in 1901, Kew was the centre of a network linking over 100 colonial gardens that spanned the globe.

The first three directors of the Singapore Gardens were appointed from Kew and our close links continue today. The evolution of the Gardens followed similar pathways. Both began as pleasure grounds, Kew as a domain for royalty and SBG for members of the Agri-Horticultural Society that established and managed the Gardens, before they were given to the public. Both Gardens evolved and developed as centres for the study and distribution of plants.

This plaque was displayed on the left side entrance of the Botanic Gardens Main Gate.

Singapore Botanic Gardens, more than 150 years "Connecting Plants and People"...through publications, horticultural and botanical displays, educational outreach, and events, provision of a key civic and recreational space, and playing a role as an international Gardens and a regional centre for botanical and horticultural research and training.

Its a breath of fresh air in the garden, a lifestyle balance for each his choice.

Grandma pointed to her young grand-daughter and said: "See how fast and tall the trees grow..."

For your inconvenience, please discover and explore by a link to the Singapore Botanic Gardens official website for more helpful information before an enjoyable visit to our heritage place of interest and a "must" itinerary for all tourists to Singapore.

Photo taken on 19 Jun, 2010. These signages are seen everywhere.

A young girl feeding monkeys at the Botanical Gardens in the 1900s. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

The 6 or 7 year-old girl most likely could no longer be around, wherever located in this world unless she lives over 100 years old; and so the lifespan of the monkeys.

If those monkeys did not migrate from the Botanic Gardens in Singapore and have given birth to the young ones there, the monkeys we find presently at the garden are from the a later generations of our Singapore-born monkeys. I don't think Botanic Gardens kept registration of birth for the monkeys though.

Photo taken on 21 Apr, 1985. Jiejie in front of the Botanic Gardens notice board.

Mum and Wei took a photo taken on 21 Apr, 1985 near Main Gate at the junction of Holland Road & Napier Road & Cluny Road. A bus along Holland Road towards Orchard Road in the background.

Photo taken on 19 Jun, 2010. The same tree had grown taller, stronger and deep-rooted on this spot over twenty years.

Photo of the same tree Mum and Wei had taken on 21 Apr, 1985.

On the reverse of the above photo with a note.

Photo taken on 19 Jun, 2010; almost the same path near the Botanic Gardens main gates as shown in the photo below.

Photo taken on 21 Apr, 1985. Behind Jiejie was Mum and Wei.

Photo of the "Swan Lake" plaque taken on 19 Jun, 2010.

The former "Lotus Pond" in 1900, renamed the "Swan Lake" at Botanic Gardens. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Holiday crowds at Botanic Gardens feeding swans at the lake. c 1968.

Feeding the swans at Botanic Garden c 1972.

The former "Lotus Pond" in 1900, renamed the "Swan Lake" at Botanic Gardens. Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore.

Photo of the "Swan Lake" taken on 19 Jun, 2010.

Are the swans on the lake in this photo taken on 21 Apr, 1985 (shown in the background of Jiejie), and the photo of the swans taken below on 19 Jun, 2010 the same swans which are now grown-up?

A pair of swans swimming graciously in the lake. Photo taken on 19 Jun, 2010.

"Flight of Swans" sculpture taken on 19 June, 2010.

The Swan Lake was added as a feature of the Botanic Gardens in 1866. Its landmark island with the big clump of elegant nibong palms has become a timeless facet of the landscape of the Gardens. The pair of mute swans was imported from Amsterdam. As well as providing scenic vistas, the lake is an important water supply for the Gardens. Spot sunbathing turtles, shoals of fishes, monitor lizards lurking at the waterbed.

Photo taken on 21 Apr, 1985, with Mum and Wei beside the "Swan Lake" at Botanic Gardens.

Photo taken on 19 Jun, 2010, with Dad and Wei beside the "Swan Lake" at Botanic Gardens. A same place at a different time...

As this blog is getting somewhat long with old photos included; the entire blog would be splitted up as a series of bit-sized portion blogs, based on the respective topics each for your reading pleasure.

Thank you for sharing my humble, personal nostalgic memories; a journey through time in Botanic Gardens. Please join our "Singapore Memories" Project and share the stories of your own.

Related Posts:

The selective, nostalgic memories of yesterday on Botanic Gardens at "One Garden For All" .

Let a thousand flowers bloom, blog to express through postage stamps at "Singapore Botanic Gardens" .

"Whatever happened to the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens" at
"Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans" .

"Our Botanic Garden – Why 150 Years And Not 187 Years?" of over a century ago at "Times Of My Life" .

Next blog topic: "Tembusu Heritage Tree" " at the Botanic Gardens".