Conformist and non-conformist gardens

I often wonder about the garden philosophy of Singapore. The ‘garden city’ concept is a way to brand the island, and supports a valuable landscaping industry. It results in a particular image for Singapore, despite many of the prescribed vegetative species being foreign. It makes the expressways more pleasant traffic funnels. But from the perspective of the pedestrian on the footpath, urban planting is also a form of control – a barrier (similar to a fence) rather than an environment to be inhabited.

Singapore’s garden spaces are often less a representation of nature, and more a rationalised formula.

I find myself drawn to the exploration of the island’s various ‘natural’ environments to see how plants really behave in this climate. The photos that follow were taken at the Southern Ridges Forest Walk and the Venus Loop at the MacRitchie Trails. These environments have had various degrees of human intervention. As sites for nature tourism, they also have an economic dimension, as well as some connection to the garden ‘story’ of Singapore that is still being written.

What I enjoy about them is experiencing the spaces and forms that develop in them through natural processes. The photos don’t do justice to the various degrees of enclosure, openness, and light filtration created by these environments, but the ways in which vegetation layers itself is clear. So too is the way boldly shaped tropical plants can create natural focal points.

It could be nice if some day, daily Singaporean urban spaces support other types of gardens – such as food or educational gardens tended by the public. Wouldn’t it be good to grow vegies rather than hedges?

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