Designed by Ramboll Studio Dreseitl, it features a meandering pathway snaking down a hill that connects various simulated montane zones.
As one descends topographically, climatically the environments shift in an inverse manner from low to high elevation: one is taken through the lowland forests of Singapore and Malaysia, mid-elevation forests featuring neotropical plants like wispy bromeliads and pineapples from South and Central America, and even a secret forest ravine shrouded in mists when the rain falls.
The Pathway Through Many Places
I visited the Orchidetum on a quiet, breezy weekday afternoon with the dedicated landscape architects who led this project to its completion, Chum Jia Xin and Cathy Hang from Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl. Our journey began at the Burkill Hall, an Anglo-Malayan plantation-style residence that served as the residence of the Gardens’ superintendents and Directors for more than a hundred years.
Surrounding the house is a charming VIP Orchid Garden showcasing hybrid orchids named after famous politicians and personalities, including the famed Vanda Miss Joaquim. Here, the brick pathway has been sculpted to flow and diverge around pockets of elegantly composed shrubs and flowers, eventually converging into a single walkway that leads into the constructed wilds of the Tropical Montane Orchidetum.
The contrast between the British-style garden surrounding the colonial residence and the naturalistic greenery of the subsequent pathway reminded of the times of Raffles and Kew-trained British botanists documenting wild jungle flora, our botanical history intertwined with our colonial past.
As we entered the Tropical Montane Orchidetum, the first zone simulates the lowland habitats of Singapore and Malaysia that we are familiar with – moist, humid forests. The single pathway we walked on wove through the complex topography of the site, avoiding existing mature trees, difficult slopes, and invisible services underground.