As some of you already know, my husband Kuan is Singaporean, so we're in Southeast Asia visiting family for a couple of weeks. And of course while here, I had to check out some of the gardens and plant life in this lush, exotic and humid part of the world!
First stop, Singapore...a very clean, modern and westernized city. Among all the skyscrapers and high rise apartments there are still some vestiges of British Colonial architecture, like the courtyard garden at the Raffles Hotel, left above, and a Presbyterian church.
The original Main Post Office has been converted to a hotel, and these colonial period administration buildings are now upscale boutiques and salons.
Even though the city is completely developed, the concrete is mitigated by the exuberant plantings everywhere... all the streets are tree-lined and even the freeways are bordered with dense plantings of Palms, Bird-of-Paradise, Bougainvillea, Cordylines, Ficus and many other tropicals unfamiliar to me. One of the most commonly seen is "Flame of the Forest" (left above) aka "Poinciana", Delonix regia. It's grown as a large street tree as well as pruned into a shrub. And I was really wowed by the huge Bird's Nest Ferns and other epiphytes that adorn almost every tree trunk!
Frangipanis are seen everywhere too, in several colors, but I think the clean white one (Plumeria alba) is the most beautiful. The fragrance isn't heavy, like a Gardenia, but light and sweet... more like an Azalea.
Orchids, Orchids everywhere... the national flower of Singapore and used as freely as we use red Geraniums back home. Mynah birds are always around too, begging for crumbs and vocalizing loudly, much like our Starlings (in fact they are related) but seem so much more exotic.
Next, on to Bangkok for a long weekend! Love of plants is universal, and people grow things wherever and however they can manage, as seen in these Thai houses along a canal.
Our time to explore gardens was limited, but we managed to visit one place on our must-see list: the Jim Thompson Museum. Thompson was an American ex-pat, a Princeton trained architect who fell in love with Thailand while stationed there in WWII. In the 1950's he assembled a group of six traditional Thai wooden houses, furnished them with a stunning collection of Asian paintings, sculpture and ceramics, and surrounded them with a lush tropical garden.
The garden is a series of courtyards enclosed by the six buildings and a high outer wall. There are few flowers to be seen... shade, greenery and water features are used to provide a sense of coolness and tranquility in this very hot climate.
Water bowls are placed throughout, with tiny fish, like minnows, to keep them free of mosquitoes. On the right, an antique Chinese post is used as a garden ornament.
Orchids in antique porcelain pots add color in the cool, open spaces beneath the raised houses.
A doorway is kept off limits with a garland of dried Gomphrena blossoms, a flower we commonly grow here as a summer annual.
Not everything in Bangkok was charming... while walking in a park we saw this HUGE Monitor Lizard slithering out of a drainpipe. Ewww. And don't even ask about the public toilets.
Small caveats aside though, I'd highly recommend a trip to Thailand... friendly people, fantastic food and lots to see... I hope we'll be returning to explore more of this beautiful and fascinating country.
That's all for now... next post: Singapore's world class Botanic Gardens!
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Welcome to Sempervivum, an opinionated, sometimes informed and completely unqualified journal of gardens, plants and plantings by artist-gardener Robert Clyde Anderson.