Looking Glass Worlds

Felix Loh, CEO of the Gardens by the Bay, discusses the delicate ecosystem of people, plants and practice that makes a great garden.

Text by Charlene Chan 
Photography by Juliana Tan 

We are at the base of the Cloud Mountain—a wall of moss, ferns, and flowering shrubs rising 35 meters above the ground—and Felix is pointing out the various species of begonia that grow on its surface. He notes their shades of copper-red and green, and describes the flowers that will bloom from some of them. A horticulturist by training, Felix peppers our conversation with the occasional snippet of information about plants, their quirks and behaviour an ever-shifting puzzle to his team of designers and landscapers.

The flower displays in the Flower Dome are switched out every two months. With each change, tiny tweaks to the environment must be made to accommodate different growth patterns, as well as soil, temperature and humidity conditions. To help their wind-pollinated olive trees thrive, for example, his team has taken to bringing in giant fans each morning to circulate the air. The temperature within the dome is also adjusted seasonally to facilitate periods of rest and rejuvenation in the flora. “Nobody can work against nature…but using a little creativity, we can make better decisions and give nature a helping hand,” Felix explains.

Read excerpts from Design Dialogue Document here