Eco-Garden and Eco-Lake
The Eco-Garden is a discovery garden of plants of economic importance through human history. The word ‘eco’ stands for both economic and ecological here. Trees, shrubs and herbs yielding a myriad of products from spices, dyes, resins and fibres to fruits and timbers are laid out across a spacious landscape.
The sinuous shores of the peaceful Eco-Lake are home to a family of elegant Black Swans, from Western Australia, as well as other important plant and animal species. A beautiful setting coupled with a soft and natural atmosphere, it is an ideal place to wind down after a long day.
What do bats, blow pipes and bicycles all have in common? The answer lies in our collection of Bamboos.
This group of grasses (in the family Poaceae) includes 30m giants and the fastest growing plants known to man, which can grow almost a metre a day! The new shoots of some species can be used as food whilst the hollow stems of others, have traditionally become blow pipes to hunt for more. Their stems and leaves can also provide an array of materials for weaving, the manufacture of canes, chopsticks, musical instruments and many more.
Bamboos have been used in construction throughout history. Some have a tensile strength 10 times stronger than steel making them ideal material for scaffolding, bridges, modern architecture and even bicycle frames.
Many species have also been selected for their ornamental value, such as the Buddha’s Belly Bamboo, a unique form of Bambusa vulgaris with bulging stems that can be found next to the
Some of the giant Bamboos in our collection are also home to the worlds' smallest species of bat! At around 3cm across, they are just small enough to squeeze into holes made in the Bamboo stems by beetles and roost between the nodes.
Above: The Timor black bamboo, Bambusa lako Photo: Lai Simin
Commonly seen decorating Singapore’s overhead bridges and road dividers, the colourful flowers of bougainvilleas make these plants very attractive.
The spectacular collection of bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea hybrids and cultivars, Nyctaginaceae) was started in the 1920s by Director R E. Holttum, as part of his programme to introduce more colour into the Gardens by hybridising and selecting plants that would flower well in the humid Singapore climate. Today, the collection boasts more than 50 cultivars, including Bougainvillea glabra ‘Pride of Singapore’ and Bougainvillea spectabilis ‘Calcutta’.
Above: A view of the Bougainvillea collection Photo: Lai Simin
Fruit and Nut Trees
The current fruit and nut trees collection is an expansion of the original Economic Garden at the historical Garage building. A variety of local favourites such as the mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) and the cempedak (Artocarpus integer) can be seen as you walk towards Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden from the Herb and Spice Garden. Also showcased are the various types of persimmons – Indian persimmon (Diospyros malabarica), and black persimmon (Diospyros digyna) as well as the the delicious pili nut (Canarium ovatum) and cocoa, from the seeds of Theobroma cacao.
Aside from these popular fruit and nut trees, our collection has expanded to include wild relatives of commercial varieties. Xerospermum laevigatum produces a smaller but equally delicious fruit as its relative – the rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum). Neesia altissima, a close relative of the durian which is native to Singapore, does not have edible fruits but is a traditional source of timber. These species are threatened by habitat loss in the wild and are part of the Gardens’ conservation efforts to preserve biodiversity.
Many trees produce fruits seasonally, generally twice a year, around July and December.
Herb and Spice Garden
This area is devoted to growing various culinary herbs and spices, commonly used in the local and regional cuisine. Herbs generally refer to the leafy parts of plants, which are usually used when fresh. Here you can smell the aromatic leaves of basil, Ocimum basilicum, ketumbar jawa or Sawtooth corriander, Eryngium foetidum, and the Mexican marigold, Tagetes lucida on your fingers. These are some herbs widely used as a garnish in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, whereas some are boiled in desserts like the pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius), or in curries like the curry leaf (Murraya koenigii). Other herbs like bunga kantan, are obtained from the unopened inflorescence of the torch ginger (Etlingera elatior).
Spices on the other hand, are mostly dried materials such as seeds, fruits, root or bark. Showcased here are traditional spices which include nutmeg and mace, derived respectively from the seed and aril of the tree Myristica fragrans; Piper nigrum, of which black, white, and green pepper are obtained depending on the processing of its fruits; and turmeric from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa. Together, these herbs and spices work to enhance the flavour and aroma of our dishes.