Tag Archives: international experience

Gardens by the Bay & HortPark

January 11, 2012 – Gardens by the Bay & HortPark, Singapore
(written by Quill Teal-Sullivan, photographs by Wonsoon Park and Sara Levin)

The past two days have been full to the brim with visits to many of Singapore’s beautiful parks and urban green spaces. Tuesday morning started at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s newest and largest garden project sitting on one-hundred and one hectares encircling Marina Bay.  We were greeted by Chris Dalzell, a former Longwood international intern who recently moved from South Africa to act as the garden’s Assistant Director of Garden Operations.  Chris and his colleagues toured us around the site, which will be completed for an official public opening in June of this year. Gardens by the Bay features two large conservatories – one that will create a cool-dry Mediterranean climate, and the other a cool-moist mountain climate.

Flower Dome of the Gardens by the Bay

We were able to tour the Flower Dome, freshly planted with remarkable specimens imported from around the world.  Most notable were the enormous baobabs planted on a cantilevered overlook, and the gnarled one-thousand-year old olive trees just in from southern Spain.  Another highlight of the gardens were the eighteen “super trees” gracefully arching overhead, clad with epiphytes and climbers.  The “super trees” are one of the spectacularly clever aspects of the garden design, acting as a venting system for the glasshouses, water catchment mechanism, solar energy receptor, as well as an aesthetic wonder.

Super Tree

After a lunch of various local delights, we met with Dan Burcham (our host with the most and LGP alumn), and his colleagues at the National Parks Board (NParks) to tour four exceptional urban greening sites. As part of Singapore’s vision of “the city in a garden”, NParks offers financial assistance to green the exterior of existing buildings.  Three of the sites we visited were vertical green walls each designed by a different firm with a unique system and design philosophy.  The end of a long and most stimulating day of garden touring culminated in a trip to the top of Marina Bay Sands Sky Park to decompress and admire the city from above.

Green wall at the F1 race track

On Wednesday we traveled to HortPark, a display garden within the NParks system that features small-scale garden exhibits aimed to inspire Singaporean residents to include gardens and horticulture in their home life.  HortPark partners with local landscape companies that rent small plots to display their design, acting as publicity for the company and inspiration for the visitors.  As Abby says, “it is the perfect collaboration between government, industry, and community”.

Vegetable Garden at HortPark

Silver Garden at HortPark

HortPark sits within the Southern Ridges region, a chain of parks, gardens and natural areas linked with ‘park connectors’.  Two knowledgeable NParks staff, Wilson and Eric, led us on an excursion through a few of the natural areas. This included a jungle accessed by a 9 km canopy bridge, home to a delinquent gang of macaque monkeys, as well as a most beautiful wooden bridge with views to the sea and the city.

Dillenia suffriticosa

The evening was capped with a barbeque accompanied by the senior staff of NParks at the Outwardbound Singapore headquarters.  We ate satay and fresh fruit in the evening heat, feeling so grateful for the generosity of our Singaporean hosts and, the incredible opportunity we have as Longwood students to experience the ‘city in a garden’.

Canopy walkway at southern ridges

Henderson Waves

Singapore Botanic Gardens and CUGE

January 9, 2012 – Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore
(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Martin Smit and Wonsoon Park )

Even though Singapore can be very hot and humid the weather was cool enough for us to forget about our jetlag and be immersed in the beauty of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Imagine vast breathtaking tropical gardens with enormous trees and extraordinary flowers, all without the need of any glasshouses or conservatories.

Tour of the orchid breeding program facilities of SBG

The SBG was established in 1859 as the very first garden in Singapore and was initially used in introducing various tropical crops to Southeast Asia. These days the SBG is conducting all the functions of a modern botanic garden. Amazingly, it is open to public from 5am to midnight daily and attracts more than 4 million visitors per year, making it one of the most publically used gardens of the world.

The national flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim

The national flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim

The Cool House for displaying orchids needing cooler conditions

After a brief meeting with the director, Dr. Nigel Taylor, and various heads of departments, we had a tour of the facilities and gardens. We ended our visit to the SBG with a Q&A session with the SBG staff.  Our last activity of the day was a quick visit to Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE). Assistant director, Chong Whye Keet, gave a quick presentation on CUGE that provided a greater insight into this unique department.

Oncidium arches in the National Orchid Garden

A strangler fig growing in the remnant rainforest in the SBG

 

Safely in Singapore

January 8, 2012 – Singapore Zoo, Singapore
(written by Martin Smit, photographs by Nate Tschaenn )

Everything went seamlessly as our group all ascended on Singapore from various corners of the earth. The drive to the hotel immediately blew us away because of the scale of landscaping everywhere and the beautiful epiphyte smothered street trees. After booking in at our hotel some of us explored the immediate surroundings while others briefly caught their breath before we headed out for our visit to the Singapore Zoo. We were warmly received by the enthusiastic staff and were quickly astonished by the amazing gardens and surroundings of this wonderful zoo. We were also informed about some of the conservation and education efforts that were undertaken at this institution. We were taken behind the scenes where we had the opportunity to interact with various staff members and of course, some animals.

A quick photo opportunity with some local zoo residents

Sara with some ring-tailed lemurs

Fellows in a section of the zoo displaying ethnobotanic plants

Our first impressions of Singapore were wonderful, not only because of the beauty of this urban paradise but also because of the extremely helpful and friendly people that we have met thus far. It already promises to be an unforgetful experience.

Travel to Singapore and Indonesia: follow us

This January the first year fellows will be traveling to Singapore and Indonesia for what promises to be an amazing International Experience 2012. Longwood staff members, Shawn Kister and Sharon Loving, will be joining for the Singapore leg of the journey while Tom Brightman and Wendy Gentry will be traveling with the fellows to Indonesia.

Inside one of the new conservatories at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. (Photo, courtesy of Chris Dalzell)

This travel opportunity will be the culmination of months of preparation in which all fellows were working diligently to make contact with and plan visits to various institutions. We will kick off our International Experience when we arrive in Singapore on the 8th of January. From Singapore we will be traveling on to the island of Bali and then on to Bogor, located on West-Java, before returning on the 21st of January. Some of the diverse sites that we will be visiting include the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay, Pulau Ubin, Bali Botanic Garden, Bogor Botanic Garden, Cibodas Botanic Garden, Taman Bunga Nusantara and the Gede-Pangrango National Park to name but a few.

We invite you all to follow us on our Blog and share in this unique experience.

The Viceregal Lodge and Botanic Gardens of Shimla

January 19 – Shimla
(written by Ashby Leavell, photos by Aubree Pack)

(One of the breathtaking views of Shimla, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas)

Today we quickly prepared for our last garden visit of the trip, to see the Viceregal Lodge and Botanic Gardens located in Shimla, a charming mountain village in the Himalayas.  It seemed fitting to finish our trip in the snow after beginning our India tour in the humid tropics.  We arrived late the night before from Chandigargh, after a flat tire on the road and a long drive from the Nek Chand rock gardens.

(The Viceregal Lodge, located within the Botanic Garden, is now the home of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study)

The Director and lead horticulturalist at the Viceregal Lodge was excited to show us around the stately former summer residence for the British viceroys.  The estate today houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, which awards fifty post-doctoral fellowships in the humanities each year to scholars from around the world.  The Institute is currently seeking advice on how to develop the historic English gardens surrounding the lodge to grow visitation.

(The Himalayas in the distance)

We had the opportunity to consult with the staff at the Institute on how to establish a self-sustaining public garden.  The research fellows and staff were keen to collaborate with our travel group to come up with original ideas for the space.  They have already begun work on an “Eco Walk” around the grounds and are instituting new training regimens for the gardeners.  We were also treated to a tour around historic Shimla and an elaborate luncheon before we had to leave early to catch our train through the Himalayan Mountains back to Chandigargh.

(The train ride out of Shimla has been high on all of our lists. Raakel demonstrates some of our excitement!)

(Our train careening down the side of the mountains, taking us back to Chandigarh)

We were excited to have our own carriage on the train, and enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains the entire way back.   It was truly a lovely end to a once in a lifetime trip.  We have taken in quite a bit of ground in both the U.A.E, Oman, and India, and experienced a dramatic range of gardens and research stations along the way.  Thank you Longwood…

New Delhi ‘Rest’ Day

January 14 – New Delhi
(written by Ashby Leavell, video by Raakel Toppila, photos by Aubree Pack)

(A common view from our travel van…)

(We’re still on the fence as to whether they are crazy-efficient here, or just plain crazy…)

Our crew was ready for the break day in New Delhi to relax, explore, and… go shopping.  A group left midmorning to look through the government emporium shops nearby, featuring shops from each region of India.  Vendors hawked colorful silk scarves and metal trinkets galore.  We tried our hand at bargaining, wandered in and out of most of the shops, and left happy.

(Matt discovers that he is ‘wanted’ in India…)

Our food expert, Longwood gardener Pandora Young, guided us to Old Delhi for lunch.  Bustling does not begin to describe the street we navigated on the way there.  Keep in mind that roughly 20 million people are estimated to live in Delhi.  The blare of car horns and shopkeepers shouting filled the air and mingled with the aromas of street food along the way.

Video Link: A street walking experience in Delhi

(Part of the group waits for a gap in the traffic so they can cross the road)

(He is making jalebis, a treat that some of the group have been able to try while eating at local restaurants)

After lunch we visited the massive Red Fort, a Mughal construction from the 17th century.  Its red sandstone walls are surrounded by a deep moat and extend for 2km in the old section of the city.  We stopped at the iconic India Gate for photographs before heading back for the evening.

(The Red Fort – a stunningly large complex!)

(India Gate – it’s a lot bigger than it looks! A picture simply can’t capture its grandeur…)

(at least SOMEONE was resting today… :D)

International Experience 2011 – a sneek peek

Photo courtesy of Dallas Stribley

The countdown is on. The first year fellows and Longwood staff members Matt Taylor and Pandora Young will be departing in January for…the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and India! Planning the trip has been a monumental task. When deciding to aim for India during our first dinner together this summer, none of us could have predicted what planning the trip would involve.

We have plumbed the depths of our contacts from prior jobs and internships and successfully connected with staff members at botanic gardens, research centers, and attractions throughout India, Oman and the U.A.E. We experienced particular difficulties in establishing connections, as Indian gardens are particular in that they follow strict parameters in terms of botanical information sharing. Partnering with other countries is rare.

The remains of an itinerary planning meeting, courtesy of Felicia Yu

We worked diligently to prioritize gardens and forge connections with each institution. At least a few times, each of us has waited until late at night to call staff at Indian gardens as they were just arriving to work. When we struggled to receive confirmation from institutions, we sent dozens of formal request letters and packets of LGP information via Fedex. James, our fearless leader, has spent countless hours with agents crafting an intricate travel plan. Our final product is complete with overnight trains, planning around kite festivals in New Delhi, meetings with officials at the U.A.E, sunrise at the Taj Mahal, and adventures into the Himalayas.

We will hit the ground running in Dubai, and make our weary way to the new Oman Botanic Garden. We will then travel to Abu Dhabi to meet with staff from Botanic Garden Conservation International, BGCI, at the Al Ain Wildlife Park.

Our first stop in India will be at Thiruvananthapuram, aka Trivandrum, to explore the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute. From there we will take planes, trains, and automobiles through Mysore, Bangalore, New Delhi, Agra, Chandigarh, and Shimla. Stay tuned.

Al Ain Wildife Park, courtesy of Arabian Travel

Shimla, India.  Located in the Northwest Himalayas and home to the Viceregal Lodge and gardens.. Photo courtesy of My Himachal. (We are hoping it doesn’t look like this in Shimla by the time we get there…)