A Walk Down Memory Lane

venue NATIONAL PARKS BOARD www.nparks.gov.sg/weddings text SUMMER LEE

If not for a group of “public-spirited citizens”, affectionately dubbed by The Straits Times in 1859, who took it upon themselves to create a pleasure park for the people, we would not have today the 63.7-hectare green paradise called the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Almost every nook and cranny of the scrupulously tended Gardens looks fresh and new. But on the manicured lawns and among the halcyon modern sculptures, towering trees with ponderous limbs and chapped trunks have quietly thrived for more than a century.

Over the years, the Gardens has grown from its original 23-hectare tract to nearly triple the size. Much of its flora is cultivated but a 6-hectare virgin Rain Forest is virtually left untouched with 314 plant species – including herbs, fruit trees and shrubs – many of which rarely seen in Singapore.

Couples have always found this dear oasis in the heart of the bustling city a picturesque backdrop for pre-wedding portraits. It is also a centrally located and convenient place to hold weddings and solemnisations.

The Gardens is divided into three zones, namely the Tanglin Core, Central Core and Bukit Timah Core.

On the fringe of the Tanglin Core where the Gardens first sank its roots stands the newly renovated Main Gate, or Tanglin Gate, at the junction of Cluny Road and Napier Road. Inspired by the orangey-red trailing Bauhinia kockiana, a flower species originating from the Malay Peninsula and Borneo, the classic aluminium gate has been a favourite photo-taking backdrop for generations.

The Bandstand of Tanglin Core was among the earliest features established on the Gardens. Constructed in 1860, it embarked on a decades-long career hosting band performances. Today, it is surrounded by a necklace of yellow rain trees whose leaves lack much of the green chlorophyll found in regular trees. This is a rare mutant as only a few out of thousands of seeds produced by regular trees would engender the golden foliage.

Over in the Central Core and nestled within the National Orchid Garden – where the world’s largest display of tropical orchids can be found – is the Burkill Hall. It is a two-storey British colonial house designed in the classic “black-and-white” style.

Built in 1866 and completed two years later, it was home to two former Gardens directors, Isaac Henry Burkill and his son, Humphrey Morrison Burkill, who was born in the house. The Burkills oversaw this lush sanctuary until 1969. Today it is an aristocratic setting fronted by a kempt and fresh-smelling lawn ideal for romantic ceremonies.

From the balcony, the Burkill Hall provides a spectacular view of the orchid garden, Palm Valley, and the Rain Forest yonder. This is the only place in the Gardens where couples can hold their wedding functions.

The dining area on the second floor of the Burkill Hall was expanded last year to allow long tables and accommodate more guests from 100 to 140. With no pillars blocking the view, guests can enjoy the arresting vista of the surrounding woods. The VIP/bridal room and attached bathroom have also been renovated and furnished with antique furniture to provide a comfortable resting area for wedding couples and an exclusive space for VIP guests.

The Burkill Hall, a vestige of the British colonial days, has been named a Singapore monument of architectural and historical interest by the Preservation of Monuments Board.

Up north, in the Bukit Timah Core, the placid Eco-Lake is a wondrous scene for wedding photo shoots where wild birds roam. Also found across the Gardens are five bronze and stone sculptures representing love, life and laughter. Namely Girl on a Bicycle, Lady on a Hammock, Girl on a Swing, Swing Me Mama, and Joy, these evocative pieces of art add an instant vivid touch to pre-wedding shots.

To help couples move around the Gardens easily, chauffeured buggy services are available at an hourly rate of $20 for a four-seater buggy and $30 for an eight-seater ride. Tying the knot is a real walk in the park at this tropical wonderland.