National Orchid Garden

Singapore Infopedia

by Nureza Ahmad


The National Orchid Garden (NOG) is located in the Central Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens at 1 Cluny Road. Officially opened on 20 October 1995 by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, it has one of the largest and most comprehensive orchid displays in Asia. Its attractions include colour-themed orchid displays, a cool house simulating a tropical montane environment, a bromeliad collection, and a specially created hybrids collection named after visiting Heads of State, dignitaries, VIPs, organisations and occasions.

Orchids have been synonymous with the Singapore Botanic Gardens from its establishment in 1859. Records show that orchids were first cultivated in the Gardens in the mid-1870s by Superintendent H. J. Murton. In 1888, Henry Ridley, Director of the Gardens, began an orchid collection programme that resulted in the opening of an Orchid House in 1899. Subsequent directors such as I. H. Burkill and R. E. Holttum further expanded the programme.

Holttum was instrumental in pioneering the orchid-breeding programme with his creation of the Botanic Gardens’ first hybrid in 1929, the Spathoglottis Primrose (Spathoglottis aurea x Spathoglottis plicata). The orchid-breeding programme has gained momentum and produced award-winning hybrids since then.

In 1988, a grant of S$51 million was awarded to the Singapore Botanic Gardens Redevelopment Masterplan to transform the Gardens into a globally significant equatorial botanic garden within a projected span of 20 years. The Masterplan was drawn up jointly by the National Parks Board, Public Works Department, and Jones & Jones, an American andscape design consultancy based in Seattle, Washington. The plan produced two major site modifications to the Gardens. Firstly, the Napier Road and Bukit Timah portions were integrated, and secondly, the site was configured into a three-core structure: the Tanglin Core, Bukit Timah Core and Central Core. Within the Central Core, a new and enlarged orchid attraction was constructed next to the Palm Valley.

The new orchid attraction was named the National Orchid Garden after an island-wide, attraction-naming contest that garnered many entries and one student winner. The aim of the NOG was to accommodate the growing orchid collection of the Botanic Gardens and orchid-breeding programme, as well as to relieve congestion caused by the increasing number of visitors (up to 1.5 million visitors a year) to the existing Orchid Enclosure attraction.

Taking three years to build, NOG was opened on 20 October 1995. Purported to have the biggest and most comprehensive orchid display in Asia, NOG covers 3ha within the Botanic Gardens and was built at a cost of S$5 million. Larger than the former 1ha Orchid Enclosure, it can accommodate 2,000 people at any one time. There are more than 60,000 orchids on display, with a total of more than 150,000 plants. By 2010, NOG’s orchid collection consisted of more than 1,000 orchid species and more than 2,000 hybrids. The orchid species are mainly tropical and sub-tropical species, of which the majority are epiphytes.

The most distinctive feature of the NOG is the design of its orchid display. The orchids are organised and displayed based on a colour scheme that reflects the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. They are set amid a backdrop of contrasting foliage and trees. The spring display is represented by yellow, cream and golden orchid flowers, the summer display by pink and red orchids, the autumn display by rich reds and purples, and the winter display by represented by white flowers.

Another highlight of the NOG is Burkill Hall. The former residence of the directors of the Botanic Gardens, it is situated at the highest point of the Gardens. It houses the “VIP orchids” or hybrid orchids named in honour of local and international dignitaries, celebrities, organisations and occasions. This colonial style, black-and-white bungalow is the setting for various functions such as the VIP orchid-naming ceremonies. Some notable VIP hybrids include Asocenda Kwa Geok Choo (wife of Lee Kuan Yew), Asocenda Shah Rukh Khan, Dendrobium Memoria Princess Diana, Dendrobium Jackie Chan, Renantanda Akihito, Paravanda (previously known as Vandaenopsis) Nelson Mandela, Dendrobium National Parks, and Dendrobium World Peace (named to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations in 1995).

The Orchidarium, which simulates the natural habitat of tropical rainforests, showcases rare, wild orchid species such as Slipper, Rat’s Tail and Elephant’s Ear orchids. Entering the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House, visitors encounter periodic fine misting or spraying that provides a tropical atmosphere for the hybrid collection. The mist house contains a Fragrant Orchid Display collection with over 20 flowers bred for their fragrance. The collection was funded by an American donor who donated S$10,000 in his will to support its development.

Next to the mist house is another special collection, the Yuen-Peng McNeice Bromeliad Collection, which showcases more than 800 kinds of Bromeliads belonging to the pineapple family of plants. Lady Yuen-Peng McNeice donated the collection, which took over 20 years to assemble and has an estimated value of S$250,000.

In 2004, NOG underwent a further S$4.1 million upgrade with the opening of Cool House, a 600m2 glasshouse that recreates a tropical montane climate. The temperature in the glasshouse, ranging from 15 to 29 degrees Celsius, is controlled by a combination of computer-controlled chillers and high pressure fogging. Cool House harbours more than 450 orchid species, of which many are almost extinct in their natural habitats.

Today, the National Orchid Garden is internationally recognised for its hybrids as well as orchid species collection acquired through collection trips, exchange programmes and donations.

Nureza Ahmad

Botanic Gardens opens cool glasshouse and orchid exhibits. (2004, June 28). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from Factiva.

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How, P. (2010). Revisiting the Gardens masterplan. Gardenwise, 35, 18-23. Singapore: Botanic Gardens. (Call No.: RSING 580.7445957 G issue Jul20)

Kiew, R. & Turner, I. M. (2001). Singapore Botanic Gardens: a souvenir guide. Singapore : Landmark Books. (Call No.: RSING 580.735957 KIE)

Lim, R. (1995, October 21). Four seasons of orchids in the tropics. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Lim, R. (1995, October 23). Blooming beauties captured in new 152-page book. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

‘National Orchid Garden’ is the winning name. (1994, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Tan, A. (2004, July 17). Cold mountain. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Tinsley, B. (1989). Visions of delight: the Singapore Botanic Gardens through the ages. Singapore: the Gardens. (Call No.:RSING 580.74459597 TIN)

Tinsley, B. ( (2009). Gardens of perpetual summer: The Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens. (Call No.: RSING 580.735957 TIN)

Yam, W. T. (3rd ed.) (2007). Orchids of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Singapore: National Parks Board, Singapore Botanic Gardens. (Call No.: RSING 584.4095957 YAM)

Yeo, H. Y. (1993, May 29). $4m orchid garden to be built at the Botanic Gardens. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Further resources
Laws, N. (2009). February 2009: orchid breeding at Singapore Botanic Gardens. American Orchid Society. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from

Singapore Botanic Gardens. (2007). SBG - Attractions - (Central Core) National Orchid Garden. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from

The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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