Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Singapore Garden Festival Orchid Show 2018

Apr 21, 2018 12:00

Welcome all of you to the Botanic Gardens and to this inaugural edition of the Singapore Garden Festival Orchid Show. We are very honoured Madam President to be able to welcome and host you here. Thank you very much for your support of the work of NParks and also the Orchid Society, and for joining us this morning.  

The Singapore Garden Festival is a home-grown success story. It started in 2006, and it has since grown in scope, depth, and reputation with every iteration.  Today, it is one of the top three flower shows in the world.  

Of course, we don’t rest on our laurels here in Singapore. We always look for ways to keep improving, and we have expanded the Singapore Garden Festival this time into three signature shows. We have this inaugural Orchid Show which we are doing for the first time, the Main Show will be held at Gardens by the Bay in July, and there will be a Horticulture Show taking place next year. We have expanded the format so that more visitors will be able to participate in the various shows at different times.  

This Orchid Show is a very good way to start the new format for the Garden Festival, because orchids are an integral part of the Singaporean identity. Take Vanda Miss Joaquim for example. It was bred 125 years ago, and it was selected to be our national flower because of its vibrant colours, hardiness, and resilience, including its ability to bloom all year-round. I like to think that these are the qualities that very much reflect our Singaporean spirit too.

Orchids are one of the most diverse plant families in the world. This diversity stems from a series of evolutionary developments. For example, orchids have evolved specialised pollination mechanisms, as well as adaptations to grow on trees. The result has been the increased ability to grow in different environments, and eventually, this led to more species. 

Over the next 9 days, as part of the show, you can marvel at this diversity. There are more than 100 orchid varieties on display at the Botanic Gardens. At the Orchid Plaza, you will see 17 themed displays put together by growers from Singapore and all over the region. There is also a special showcase of native ASEAN orchids which is to commemorate Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year. And you can admire over 700 of the region’s best orchid plants and landscaped orchid displays.  

In addition, visitors can learn more about the Botanic Garden’s role in the orchid industry. The Botanic Gardens itself has been a centre for orchid breeding and hybridisation since the 1920s. New techniques were developed here, and the work done in Singapore in fact helped to set the foundation for the orchid industry all over the region. 

We have also been very successful in the conservation of native orchids. We have re-introduced more than 30 native orchid species, comprising over 20,000 plants, across Singapore. All this would not have been possible without all of you who have contributed to NParks’ Garden City Fund which is chaired by Professor Leo Tan. Thank you to Professor Leo for your chairmanship and a big thank you to all of you for your support as well!

The work we do continues, and we want to keep improving. This morning I am glad to announce that NParks will be setting up Singapore’s first seed bank in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. A seed bank is to bank and save the seed species we have today because the biodiversity of ecosystems around the world are diminishing at an unprecedented rate. Which means that decades from now, some of the plants species that we are familiar with today may not even be available because of this diminishing in biodiversity due to climate change, disease and all sorts of reasons. 

Seed banking is a form of insurance for plant biodiversity. It ensures that seeds will be available in the future for research and restoration projects. The seed bank will enable the Botanic Gardens to support species reintroduction efforts throughout the region. When it is ready next year, the seed bank will store seeds from up to 25,000 plant species which amounts to about half of the plant species in Southeast Asia! I would like to thank HSBC for their generous donation to kick start the seed bank. Moving forward, we will also explore ways for members of the public to contribute to the seed bank as well.  

Finally, let me end by expressing my appreciation once again to Madam President for gracing the occasion, and to all of you who have helped put the Orchid Show together. This event marks another milestone in Singapore’s City in a Garden journey. I hope that you will enjoy the show and tell your friends and families about it. Apart from orchid viewing, there will be a variety of talks, demonstrations, tours, and plants for sale. So take full advantage of these few days and enjoy the show, and all the elements that are in it. Thank you everyone for being here and enjoy the weekend.