Whenever I needed to brave the neon-drenched chaos of Orchard Road, I timed my visit for around 4pm, when thousands of myna birds settled into the trees for the night, filling the air with their high-pitched calls. Orchard Road earned its name because there was once a nutmeg orchard there. Today, the nutmeg trees might be gone but there was still plenty of greenery: vertical gardens exploded from the sides of office buildings and flowering shrubs added splashes of colour while making Singapore’s infamously hot, sticky humidity slightly more bearable.
Explosions of greenery
In Singapore, there’s clearly an awareness than plant power goes well beyond the vegetation’s ability to sequester carbon. Today, it has over 300 parks and nature reserves. Its fauna includes 80 mammal species, 300 native bird species and 110 reptile species, and its flora includes sprawling mangrove forests, countless orchid species and numerous pockets of primary forest – pretty impressive for a country that is slightly smaller than the city of Memphis, Tennessee.
These explosions of greenery aren’t just restricted to nature reserves, either. At the Marina Bay Sands hotel, where 700 rooftop trees help to reduce solar heat gain, I signed up for the property’s fantastic sustainability tour, visiting the sprawling herb garden and discovering that there’s more to many of the hotel’s sculptures than first meets the eye. I learned that the ‘Tipping Wall’, an enormous water feature designed by American environmental artist Ned Kahn (you’ll find it near the base of Tower Three), is actually the façade of a cooling tower, and that the 10,000 hinged metal channels help capture and recirculate rainwater. My own hotel was the Oasia Hotel Downtown, where I lounged in the open-air gardens found on multiple levels and watched the insects, birds and squirrels drawn here by the climbing plants that covered (and cooled) the building’s exterior.