The Roots Of A Birthday Celebration

When your birthday falls on a Saturday, there’s a good chance that you’d exercise the option of sleeping in. But the morning of Ada Loo’s birthday found her at MacRitchie Reservoir Park at the bright and early hour of 8.30 am – all geared up and ready to plant trees with her family and friends. 

With so many possible things to do on a birthday morning, why plant trees? The birthday girl’s sister, Lisa, came up with the idea after reading about the Plant-A-Tree programme in NParks’ e-newsletter. “My sister always finds something for us to do,” quipped Ada. “Something that benefits, you know?”

About the Plant-A-Tree Programme

Launched in 2007, the Plant-A-Tree programme allows you to do your part for nature by planting trees at designated areas, including parks and nature reserves.

The cost is $200 per tree. All proceeds are double tax-deductible, and will go to the Garden City Fund for tree planting activities and conservation programmes.

To find out how you can plant your own tree, and view the planting schedule for 2011, visit


A nature lover, Lisa has a great appreciation for local flora and fauna, especially the stately, old trees lining the roads from Loyang to Changi. “All along, we’ve been very interested in biodiversity and green issues,” she said. Her husband, Michael, shared his memories of a large tree that used to grow in the property adjoining their home in the Dairy Farm area. He reminisced fondly about the birds that nested and sang there: “It was like having a free transistor radio!”

And so the tree planting ‘crew’ trooped along the MacRitchie Nature Trail and into the forest, amid the joggers and hikers who were enjoying a sunny Saturday morning’s exercise. The group of ten included three generations of the same family: Ada and Lisa, their parents, and Lisa’s two teenage daughters. Also present were Lisa’s husband, parents-in-law, and best friend.

A short walk later, the group arrived at a section of secondary forest along the Nature Trail, where saplings and planting tools were waiting in a small clearing. NParks’ conservation officer Sunia Teo provided a brief demonstration of the changkul and secateurs, prompting one of the grandmothers to lament that she should have brought her own gardening tools as well.

With that, the family got started – led by the family patriarchs, who wielded their changkuls with relish. With 14 trees to plant and only ten pairs of hands, cooperation was key to the endeavour. “Teamwork! Teamwork!” exclaimed Lisa.

The two sisters bantered as they dug and planted, stopping briefly to critically assess the depth of their planting hole before digging some more. Before long, Ada’s ‘birthday tree’ was planted to her immense satisfaction: “I’m so proud of this tree!” Her niece Kathlyn carried a watering can over, giving the little sapling its first drink of water in its new home.

In less than an hour since they arrived in the clearing, Ada’s family and friends had finished planting their saplings. With jokes and promises that they would return to visit ‘their’ trees, they posed for group photos before trekking out of the forest – to head home, wash up, and prepare for the rest of the birthday celebrations.

By Germaine Ong

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