From now till 29 March, you can view cherry blossoms in Singapore at Gardens by the Bay. The Sakura Matsuri is back with 500 stunning cherry and peach blossom trees in over 20 varieties. Here is a video postcard from me, which gives you a taste of what you can expect.
This year I had planned to visit Japan to experience my first autumn and cherry blossom festival, but with the pandemic, this will have to wait. The next best thing is to see the plants at the Sakura Matsuri.
I love these miniature Gassho-style farmhouses with the thatched roofs. These traditional roofs are a more sustainable option and offer good insulation against heat and cold.
Lots of people love the Blue Pea flower and grow the plant on their corridors, in community gardens and home gardens. Once the plant dies, its vines are off to the compost heap or trash bin, which is such a waste. It can be turned into a tray, basket, screening, and a barrier for the garden. Grape vines, grasses, fruit tree stems, and banana leaves can also be used.
My Blue Pea plant was lush and grew against my (hideous) chain-linked fence for some months, I was quite sad when it died but I also knew that I could give it a second life as a tray for garden harvests. I was inspired by this video on Gardening Australia. Subsequently, I had a look on YouTube for other basket weaving ideas.
A familiar haunt for Singaporeans, Pulau Ubin is a green idyllic space a hop and a skip from the mainland. I was there a few weeks ago with my artist/curator friend, Jacquelyn Soo, to view its vegetable, herb and spice garden and other nature spaces as inspiration for our upcoming joint exhibition project for Sum > Parts: When Artists Meet the Public.
There’s a carefree vibe on the island, and the sensible pace of life there made time seem slower, giving us time to appreciate each moment we had. There are more bicycles than cars and people, and the dogs here are so friendly and seem so happy, they look like they are smiling.
There’s greenery everywhere, and even on the roof of boats.
The island recently began test bedding a microgrid of solar panels and generators using biofuel, meaning lower and cleaner emissions. Solar panels can be seen on a few buildings.
We leased a couple of bicycles from the bicycle kiosk and got on our way. For $5, you get a bicycle for the day.
Our first stop was the Artists’ Village rental kampung (or village) house. We put down some of our non essentials to take the weight off our backs.
It’s a cool space with its own veggie garden and a jackfruit tree. This is my first time inside a kampung house, and it was good to see and experience how people used to live in Singapore. It’s very basic, and all we need, really. Although it could do with some mosquito nets on the windows, as mosquitoes were feasting on us inside the house.
Fortunately, there was mosquito repellent on the dining table – Wormwood Essence! This worked pretty well, I didn’t get bitten on the areas that I had applied it to. I’d missed some spots like my lower shoulder and upper leg, and got bitten there. Incidentally, The Artist’s Village have Wormwood growing in their garden. I have a lot growing in my Singapore garden too, but we don’t do much with it. Through our research, we found that we can steep its leaves in apple cider vinegar using a 1:1 ratio, and upon straining, it can be used as a bug repellent. I’m now keen to give this a try.
Cute birds’ nest near the front entrance.
We were soon back on our bicycles, hunting for wild plants, and doing some nature spotting and sticky-beaking. We found this. It’s a type of ground cover, and it looks like a mini Orchid, or a much whiter version of the Australian Violet. We also saw some Mimosa and Lalang, which we are hoping to feature as part of our art project.
We came across a relaxing cafe, and an incredible Lotus and Lily pond. We spent some time by the pond, admiring its flowers, and mainly feeling Lotus flower (and root) envy. I have a lotus plant in Australia which has not bloomed yet. Dan and I are hoping it will finally flower in Spring this year, now that it is around two years old.
Our last stop of exploration was the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden, which is part of the Sensory Trail, a 1.5km track developed for the visually impaired, as a means for them to experience Pulau Ubin using smell, sound, taste and touch.
The entrance of the garden featured some Winged-Bean plants, which had attracted lots of red ants. The rest of the garden featured a mix of vegetables and herbs commonly used in Asian cuisine, and also medicinal plants, which many might not know about.
It was nice to see their veggie patch, where they are growing Ceylon Spinach, Soybean (edamame), Sweet Potatoes, Sawtooth Coriander, as well as some herbs.
I love their Aloe Vera patch. I am pretty envious of the whole space, really.
My Singapore garden is full of Elephant’s Foot, which I had regarded as a weed. but no longer now. I found out that it can can be used to treat indigestion, swollen legs, and a loss of appetite.
A little fella on the fence.
Outside the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden was a fruit orchard. Trees included Musa Bananas, Starfruit and and Jackfruit.
There was more to see, but by this point I felt that it was getting late and had to begin heading back to the mainland, although Jacquelyn was happy to just be. I was also getting pretty tired, admittedly, it’s been awhile since I did a bit of exercise. I will have to come back again soon, to see the mangroves and more.
As we were cycling, Jacquelyn spotted a hornbill. We had to stop and watch. It’s too beautiful not to. Can you spot it in the tree?
Before we left, we enjoyed some chilled coconuts at the coffee shop. After riding past so many coconut trees along the way, I had to have one. We also paid a visit to the talking parrot in the convenience store. The snacks that they sold and the way it displayed its wares was a blast from the past for me. It reminded me of when I was in secondary school.
If you haven’t visited in a while, please do! Take a break from city life, and bring your friends and/or family over for a day trip, or even camping (or glamping). Don’t forget your hat(s), sunscreen, and most of all, mosquito repellent! For those who haven’t yet been, it costs $2.50 per person each way, and the boat departs from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each boat needs 12 to travel, so expect a slight wait each way.
See if you can spot this bicycle while you are there!
The plan is to have a garden apothecary and to go outside and get medicated naturally, rather than buying pharmaceutical products in a box. Since medication is mostly derived from plants, we might as well go straight to the source!
When I had first watched an episode of River Cottage where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visits a herbalist of sorts, and she draws a bath for him using flowers and herbs from her garden, I was smitten with the idea of one day having a romantic looking garden full of magical plants and know-how. It wasn’t until I’d watched Grow Your Own Drugs by James Wong, that I had grown to realise how within reach that dream was; as long as I did proper research and tried not to be too ambitious immediately, that I would get there. It wasn’t as painful and clinical as I had always thought it to be; it’s kind of like cooking, isn’t it?