CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN THE TROPIC!

Cherry & peach blossoms in the hot & humid island of Singapore?  Yes, no kidding about it.  It’s happening right now in the Flower Dome, even earlier than Japan and Korea.  What a treat!

This first-ever experimental blossom display – Blossom Beats – is presented by the Gardens by the Bay.

Blossom Beats celebrates the delicate nature of life.  It features a good variety of blossoms including cherry (sakura) and peach.  The overall display was designed in the setting of a Japanese garden, decorated with a Torii (a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found in Japanese Shinto shrines), kimonos and other Japanese-themed decorations.

Torii in the midst of a variety of beautiful blossoms

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IMG_2188IMG_2237Near the entrance of Flower Dome, a Japanese garden with cherry blossoms (behind the bridge).

IMG_2109Bonsai arrangement is another highlight in this two-week (only) display.

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It has been almost 9 years now since I last saw cherry blossoms and it was in South Korea.  Though I have also seen it in Japan, it was certainly a joy to have this opportunity to appreciate these beautiful blossoms again, more so for the first time here in Singapore.  I was actually hoping for another holiday in Japan later this month for a true Hanami experience in the parks but my plan could not materialise due to other commitments.  Save it for next time.

IMG_2183Prunus Accolade – pink flowering cherry

IMG_2186Prunus Yodoenis Yoshido which are white in colour

IMG_2203Peach blossom Prunus “Genpei Shidare” which is characterised by flowers of two colours – red and white

IMG_2133OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrunus Fujishidare which has pendulous branches

IMG_2159Close-up of Prunus Fujishidare

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cherry Shirotae (Prunus Shirotae) – known to flower abundantly. Flowers are white and lightly fragrant

IMG_2178Prunus “Okame”

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Later in that afternoon, we were treated with a beautiful traditional Japanese music performance – Blowing in the Sakura Wind : Sounds from Japan – by two renowned musicians from Japan.

Mother & son pair : Kaho Irie, Koto (Japanese stringed music instrument) Grandmaster and Yosuke Irie, Shaku Hachi (Japanese end-blow flute) artiste from Japan

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis performance was a joint collaboration between Japan Creative Centre Singapore and Gardens by the Bay, held in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of The Great East Japan Earthquake (11 March 2011) and also in celebration of SJ50 (50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic relationship) in 2016.

I was glad that hubby could finally take a breather from his furious work schedule for many weeks now, and joined me in this special experience in the Gardens by the Bay.  I think our government should do more to enforce work-life balance in private corporations and take action against companies that make their employees work like headless chickens!!

Blossom Beats is surely one unique event not to be missed especially for those who have not seen cherry blossoms before.  I imagine it involved massive efforts from many to make it happen.  Beautiful blossoms aside, a visit to the Flower Dome is educational too, as I always find it.  There is always something new to discover, and new knowledge to bring home too.  All we need is just to pay a little bit more attention to what’s being displayed together with the flowers, like these ones below.

IMG_2129 IMG_2161IMG_2224Should there be future cherry blossom displays planned, I think it will great if the designers could consider creating a better Hanami experience like organising the trees more closely in rows and allowing visitors to walk under the trees.

This time, while the blossoms are beautiful, I find the overall display too cluttered with irrelevant decorations such as the huge artificial rocks and wood-carved monkeys from the past display (Dahlia Dreams) that was held over the Chinese New Year period.  These don’t seem to fit into the theme, and the huge artificial rocks are too overwhelming and distracting.  Perhaps there was not enough time to clear them since Dahlia Dreams had just ended on 8 March and the people had only 3 days to put up this new display.

If time permits, I may make my way down to the Flower Dome again for another round of visit before the display ends on 27 March. 🙂

More photos here

CELEBRATION OF CHRYSANTHEMUMS

For the first time since last Monday (28 Sep), I woke up seeing the sunlight today!  I was able to see the tall building and even the ships again from my window!  What a nice way to kick off my Sunday!

For the past week when the haze was bad and the PSI readings remained mostly at unhealthy or very unhealthy levels, I stayed at home most of the time.  It was definitely not wise for me to go out unnecessarily, especially given my nose and ear conditions.  No thanks to the haze, one visit to the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor a few days ago has made me almost S$500 poorer!

So I was really glad that I was able to make a visit to my favourite place – the Flower Dome @ Gardens by the Bay – on 25 Sep when the air quality was much better that afternoon, for its new floral display named The Celebration of Chrysanthemums which started just the day before. I always like to go to the new floral display in the Flower Dome when most of the flowers are still fresh and at their best.  This latest display is the fifth of the six chapters in the Gardens by the Bay’s storytelling journey in 2015.  I went to all the past four chapters (even though I didn’t write about them all), and I won’t want to miss this and the next ones too. 🙂

Celebration of Chrysanthemums : 24 Sep – 10 Nov 2015 @ Flower Dome

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Oops, this shot was photobombed by a man and a woman (behind the wood sculpture)!  It was not easy to snap without being photobombed even though I patiently wait to have my shots.

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This is the first time the Flower Dome is holding a chrysanthemum-themed display.  The flowers are mainly from China, Japan and Malaysia.  Chrysanthemums are largely in the familiar white and yellow blooms.  They also come in a spectrum of reds, pinks, purples and ambers.  Though not as colourful as the tulips, they are equally attractive.  The chrysanthemum is one of the “Four Gentlemen” (四君子) of China and it represents autumn.  The other three being plum blossom, orchid and bamboo.

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Together with the chrysanthemums, there are also maple and bonsai trees.  As I read from newspapers, the 8 majestic bonsai trees are on loan from ChengTai Nursery, and they are all above 100 years old!  The maples (not so outstanding though) are from New Zealand.

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Beside appreciating the beautiful floral display, I always find my visit to the Flower Dome educational too, as I get to learn more about flowers, their varieties, characteristics etc. etc. – something which I had never appreciated when I was a student. I did a module on Botany during my tertiary education but unfortunately, it was a drag then!

Do you know that these daily-like flowers with a centre disk and one or more rows of ray florets (petals) are actually chrysanthemums?  This is new to me.

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Pompon – small, globular blooms

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Irregular Curve – the florets loosely incurve and make fully closed centres

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Rare Spiders – long, tube-like ray florets which may coil or hook at the end.  The florets may be very fine to coarse

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Other variety of chrysanthemums

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These are chrysanthemums too!

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It was slightly past 6pm when I walked out of the Flower Dome.  The haze had thickened a little by then and the PSI reading was climbing back to above 100 but I was in good spirits.  Thanks to the chrysanthemums!  It was nice to be able take a breather from the haze that afternoon, and soak up the autumn atmosphere in the comfortable, cool Flower Dome.

This was not all for the day.  To be continued.

TULIPMANIA 2015

Tulipmania is back again, for the third consecutive year.  I thought it was just not that long ago that I wrote about Tulipmania 2014.  So, time really flies!!

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Tulipmania 2015 is on for a longer duration this time, from 20 March to 10 May, in the Flower Dome of Gardens by the Bay.  In the past, it lasted about 3 weeks to a month.

This year’s Tulipmania uses the theme of magical fairy tales featuring Snow Queen, Cinderella, Rapunzel etc.

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New batch of tulips in this section – most of them have not bloomed yet at the time of my visit on 2 April afternoon

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Flower Field with a huge gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel, surrounded by a variety of tulips and a tall Rapunzel’s tower on the right.

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Due to the large gingerbread house structure and also other fairy tales designs and plants, the overall display did not impress me this time as it seems a little bit messy, and has somehow diluted the focus on tulips.  Though it is said that there are over 40 varieties of tulips on display this year, the quantities seem to have lessened as compared to previous years, and the flowers seem a little loosely planted too.

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In my opinion, this tower with the long “hair” of Rapunzel could be more appealing if it were decorated with colourful array of tulips in vertical planting!  But of course, this is just a thought since I am not a floral designer.

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The Cinderella’s carriage seemed very popular

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There were also Little Mermaid (not so little, actually) and The Ugly Duckling (the swan, actually) surrounded by blue (called Blue Pearl) and purple (called Purple Sensation) hyacinths.  I suppose these hyacinths were to symbolise pond/water but too bad, they did not bring out the effect.  There was just too much green.

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The Windmill with a variety of tulips and hyacinths

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If I had to pick a display that I like most, The Snow Queen would be my choice.

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The “Snow Queen” section is planted with many white hyacinths (White Pearl), white and cream tulips.  White tulips represent purity and forgiveness while cream tulips signify love forever.   Too bad, most of them were either over-bloomed or already fading at the time of my visit.

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Many tulips in other segments were also over-bloomed or fading. I think the timing of my visit was not very right as it had already been about two weeks since the event started.  Tulip flowers have a relatively short life span of just a few days to a week, as I understand.

Fading Bright Parrots

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Although I was a little disappointed with the overall display/design and also the condition of the flowers, I always find the vivid, colourful tulips a delight to look at.  They simply attract me.  This is partly the reason why I have been going to this annual event since 2013.

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By paying a bit of attention to the brochure, and the small signboards on display, the event can be educational too.

Do you know that tulips are the third most popular flowers after roses and chrysanthemums?  And do you know that tulips are believed to have originated from Central Asia and brought to Turkey by nomadic tribes?  Interesting, isn’t it?  I always thought that they originated from Europe, if not Netherlands.

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Now, my dream is to go to the Netherlands to see the tulip fields.  I imagine that would be fantastic!

ASIAN TALES @ FLOWER DOME – USHERING IN THE YEAR OF THE GOAT (2015)

Last Sunday (18 Jan), hubby and I made another visit to the Flower Dome at the Gardens by the Bay.  It was my fourth visit in the short span of less than two months. Ah, it looks like I am well suited to be an ambassador for the Flower Dome! 😀 😀

The Asian Tales floral display in celebration of the Year of the Goat, started on 16 January.  The floral display ends on 8 March.  I always prefer to visit the Flower Dome as soon as I could whenever there is a new display, as the flowers are still fresh and at their best. 🙂

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I like this year’s Chinese New Year (CNY) floral display much better.  I didn’t make it last year (Year of the Horse)  but I remember the one two years ago (Year of the Snake) did not impress me at all.

Setting against the backdrop of scenic landscape of mountains and valley, the theme this year showcases three stunning goats sculpted out of wood perching on the ridge, and many goats made out of flowers (mainly chrysanthemums) grazing in field, along with an array of vibrant dahlias specially cultivated for this festivity (some of these descriptions taken from the brochures).

Entrance area

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San Yang Kai Tai (三阳开泰) is a Chinese idiom that refers to the bestowing of good fortune on everything under the sun, with the onset of Spring

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Central Floral Display Field with the 12 Chinese Zodiac (十二生肖) signs, and CNY decorations.

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Can you recognise these Chinese Zodiac?

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Were you born in the Year of the Goat?

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An interesting legend about Chinese Zodiac which is a bit different from what I knew from young

Legend of Chinese Zodiac

These three wood-sculpted goats are simply a delight to look at. Kudos to the sculptor(s)!

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There are nine basic flower forms of dahlias.  If you do visit the Flower Dome for the Asian Tales, don’t forget to pick up a copy of the brochure to learn more about dahlias

Dahlias

Beside floral displays, visitors to the Flower Dome are also treated with various activities held in there, in conjunction with this Chinese festival.  There are Rainbow calligraphy, New Year calligraphy (春联), oriental paper-cutting and mask-painting.

Rainbow Calligraphy Shifus from China.

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Instead of name painting which most people choose, I requested the Shifu to write me four Chinese words with one of them having the same pronunciation as Goat in Chinese, ie Yang.

Huan Le Yang Yi meaning overflowing joy – one of my wishes for the Year of the Goat

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These two Chinese calligraphy Shifus are from China too

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Another phrase with words having the pronunciation of Yang.  Xi Qi Yang Yang meaning full of joy.  I have pasted it near the entrance of my home.

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Since it was not crowded at the time of my visit, and I could afford some time, I decided to have some fun in oriental paper-cutting and mask-painting which I had never done before.

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Paper-cutting of Chinese Eternity Knot, the easiest of all

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My ugly painting.  The instructor said I have very bold strokes in my painting but my hands were not stable enough.  This mask which has red as its main colour, represents loyalty and braveness.

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Another 3 big Yuan Bao (“gold” ingots), a symbol of fortune and prosperity, near the exit of the Flower Dome

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Here’s a video that I have put together, with nostalgic CNY songs.

26 days to CNY.  CNY light-up in Chinatown will start next weekend (31 January).  I am planning to go check it up next, before I travel. 🙂

CHRISTMAS @ GARDENS BY THE BAY

I visited the Gardens by the Bay again yesterday evening, with DS this time.  I was keen to see the lighting of Yuletide in Flower Dome after dark, and also the Luminarie in Christmas Wonderland which is said to be the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.

It was raining cats and dogs when we were on our way to the Gardens by the Bay in a taxi after 5pm.  We thought we could only settle with the Yuletide in Flower Dome which is held indoor, given the poor weather condition.  Very fortunately, the rain stopped around 7pm or I knew I would be very disappointed.

The rain has subsided a little when this shot was taken.  This giant Christmas tree with Cloud Forest at the background, bears the logo of Gardens by the Bay on top, and is decorated with lots of artificial dragonflies

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Yuletide in Flower Dome, after dark

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Reflection on the glass ceiling

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Obviously the heavy rain earlier did not stop many from visiting the Gardens by the Bay.  The outdoor Christmas Wonderland event was packed with even more visitors which was not unexpected since there was no entrance fees required.  I saw that many of them were foreigners.  Many also went as a family, young and old, or with their groups of friends, and were busy snapping away with their cameras or smartphones.  The mood was just great!  I would say this is one event not to be missed in Singapore this Christmas, especially for those who have yet to see a Luminarie like this.

Christmas Wonderland

Mini Frontone of 14.4m at the entrance to Supertree Grove

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4 Arches of 10m leading into Supertree Grove

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Solo pieces of 9m each

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Supertree with OCBC Skywalk.  The lighting was simply enchanting!CW04

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Marina Bay Sands seen from Supertree Grove area where the Luminarie is heldCW06

Cassa Armonica, a mini capola of 7.5m wide and 9m tall.  Choirs etc. are held here but we didn’t manage to catch any when we were there

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Spalliera, a crown of lights, is the masterpiece in Christmas Wonderland.  It is some 17m tall and 31m wide.  Very impressive piece of work!CW08

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Blizzard Time is held 3 or 4 times a day at the Spalliera.  I managed to catch the one at 9:05pm from outside the Spalliera (see video below).  Many entered into the Spalliera to have a more up-close view of this magnificent luminarie, and also to be soaked in the fun during the Blizzard Time.  We had decided not to do so.  The ground was still wet, soft and muddy, and we did not want to dirty our shoes.   It would have been better if the ground was temporary paved before building the Spalliera, considering that year-end is a rainy season in Singapore.  This is one thing the organiser can improve on if a similar event will be planned in future.

Many people were still arriving when DS and I made our way out after 10pm.

Frontone, the Arrival Arches consisting of 1 Frontone of 15.65m & 6 arches

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Thanks to Gardens by the Bay!  The events make this Christmas a little bit special for me because it was my first time seeing such Luminarie!

I have yet to see the Christmas lighting on Orchard Road.  With only 4 days to go before Christmas, I still can’t make up my mind to go.

YULETIDE IN FLOWER DOME

We are on the last page of the calender for year 2014.  Time seems to slip away at such a blinding speed!  And, 2015 is already quietly making its way in!

I still have no plans for this Christmas yet.  I would like to have DS joining me on outings to enjoy the Christmas decorations, and be soaked in the mood of this festive season which is my favourite time of the year.  It is just too bad that DS has been so bogged down by his work this year, even at this year-end.  I just can’t wait for him to get over the current project!  So much said about work-life balance in Singapore but I have not heard of any employers that actually care about and practise this, from people I know!

I visited the Gardens by the Bay recently. This time for the Christmas floral display themed “Yuletide in the Flower Dome“.

Yuletide in the Flower Dome

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I have already lost count on the number of times I have visited the Flower Dome.  It is one attraction in Singapore that I have visited most.  Unlike other attractions, the seasonable or thematic floral displays and the beautiful blooms from the permanent display, make it interesting to visit the Flower Dome over and over again, and without getting sick of it!  There aren’t many such attractions in Singapore.

This year’s Christmas floral display in the Flower Dome is definitely much better than last year’s.  The wooden Christmas trees found both outside and inside the Flower Dome, are an eye-catcher.  Although looking plain and simple, they stand out amongst the other typical Christmas trees.  They are a piece of art.

Centre decorations after the entrance of the Flower Dome

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Lots of bears are used for this year’s decorations.  Surely this will be an attraction for the the little ones and also the bear-lovers!

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Bear Santa

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Bears, Christmas trees and poinsettias aside, the decoration is set in a little snowy, western town with building, cathedral, snowmen etc.  There is also a candy factory (but no candy sales!).  Very Christmasty feel!

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The tall tower which is recycled from the Orchid Extravaganza event a few months ago, lights up every evening, from 6:30pm.

This shot was taken towards the end of my visit.  The sky was dark, the reindeer were all lighted up but not the lights on the tower

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I was so hoping that the lights would come on earlier, given the dark sky but they didn’t.  That was a little disappointment.  So, I reckon I will have to make another trip to the Flower Dome one of these evenings in order to see the lighting.  I think I also should not miss the Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay event which is an outdoor event that started on 29 November.  I have read that the Luminarie light sculptures in Christmas Wonderland were specially constructed and flown in from Europe, for the first time. I just hope for a good weather on the day I go!

Photo from Gardens by the Bay website

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Flower Dome never fails to surprise me every time I visit.  This time it was this new installation.

La Famille de Voyageurs, Sculpture in Bronze (2014) by Bruno Catalano.  It is a gift from Singapore Changi Airport to Gardens by the Bay that embodies the strategic collaboration between the two organisations

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It was pouring at the time I left Gardens by the Bay.  Thanks to the very thoughtful driver of the shuttle tram between the garden and Bayfront MRT station.  Instead of dropping us in the usual drop-off point which a walking-distance away from the station, he actually drove us all the way to the sheltered lift-landing area of the station and spared us from getting wet!  Thanks Mr Driver!  This is one very good example of a GEM (Go the Extra Mile) service which I would say unusual in Singapore!

19 days to Christmas!

SINGAPORE GARDEN FESTIVAL 2014 (1)

Now, back to the topic of Singapore Garden Festival 2014 (SGF 2014) that was held at the Gardens by the Bay (GBB), 16-24 August, 2014.

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In my previous postings, I have written about how I have enjoyed the Orchid Extravaganza, part of the SGF 2014 which was held in the Flower Dome.

Singapore Garden Festival 2014 – Orchid Extravaganza

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But the feel was very different in the rest of the exhibits that were held at the Meadow of GBB, both outdoor and indoor.  The two air-conditioned pavilions (temporarily built for this event) housed mainly Fantasy Gardens, Floral Windows to the World, Miniature Gardens, Floral Designing Competition and Floral Table Series.

The Meadow Map

For the whole afternoon I was at the Meadow, I spent most of my time in the two pavilions.  In my opinion, the scorching August sun, coupled with the hot and humid weather conditions were not very ideal for the event to be held outdoor.  It was worse for a “puteri lilin” (Malay words referring to one who can not endure the hot sun) like me!  The hot sun was way too unbearable and I was perspiring. So, I was unable to enjoy the outdoor exhibits much as I had wanted to, but to rush through them, and even gave some sections a miss.  Ideally I would like to cover every part of the event.

Here are some shots on the outdoor exhibits.

Landscape Gardens (8 of them)

Sacred Grove by Andrew Wilson & Gavin McWilliam (UK) – Best of Show

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Layered Spaces by Joe Palimeno (USA)

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Heaven on Earth by Vincent Chia (Singapore).  See that LKY (Lee Kuan Yew, first PM of Singapore) book on the coffee table, on the left?  A symbol of the identity of the designer or a fan of LKY?

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Vertical by Brendan Moar (Australia) – Best Construction Award

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Full Circle? by Andy Sturgeon (UK) – Best Outdoor Lighting Award

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Full Circle? caught my attention amongst all the landscape gardens.  Quite different from the designer’s concept, looking into these huge cylinders somehow gave me the feeling of “there is light at the end of the tunnels”!

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I was not particularly impressed with the Balcony Garden exhibits this time.  Perhaps such a comment is not very fair for the designers since I know nothing about floral and garden designs.  I can only say my liking is very much based on my feelings.  If I have to pick one, it would be this one below which is a Gold award winner.   It gave me a sense of serenity and comfort.  I imagine it would be very nice to spend time in this balcony; relax in lovely music, immerse in a book or even sip a cup of afternoon tea and watch the time passing by!

Rock Paradise by Alan Wong

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From the Community In Bloom/Gardeners’ Cup 2014 category, Touch Our Hearts, winner of the Best Theme Award, stood out amongst the rest.

“Our ability to touch makes us alive, whilst our ability to feel makes us people.  Through these experiences, we celebrate all that make us society” – by The Gardeners’ Cup “Touch” Team

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Carnival by the Bay won the Best Innovation Award

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Taste Fiesta – Gardeners’ Cup Champion

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 Various parts of the Meadow were well decorated too, but it was just too unfortunate that the hot weather made it uncomfortable for me  (and perhaps many others too) to fully enjoy the event.

The bandstand with life performance

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Nice colourful carnival-like decorations but somehow couldn’t feel the mood.  There were actually not that many visitors.

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Skylab Terrarium by Hamzah Osman which won Most Creative Display and Best Container Garden awards.  Created using bulbs, pipes, wood and magnifying glasses and it symbolizes earth, air and sun coming together as one

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Designed by Alan Tan, Creative Director of SGF and installed by Singapore Botanic Gardens

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I will share more photos from the two Pavilions in my next postings.