Connecting Dots Across Asia's Tech and Urban Landscape
Connecting Dots Across Asia's Tech and Urban Landscape

New Therapeutic Garden At Telok Blangah Hill Park

The National Parks Board (NParks) announced a new therapeutic garden at Telok Blangah Hill Park, the fifth in the growing network of therapeutic gardens by NParks in Singapore.

The new therapeutic garden features several new elements that leverage Telok Blangah Hill Park’s natural forest setting. Some of these elements include fruit tree espaliers, planting of lesser-known forest species with therapeutic effects and a 40m long viewing deck which offers an unobstructed, mid-canopy view of the forest. This therapeutic garden is one of the 30 therapeutic gardens which NParks will establish across Singapore by 2030, as we work towards transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, bringing forth benefits to health and well-being through greenery. Its development and programmes are supported by a contribution of around $500,000 in total from Tote Board and Mr Peter Lim through the Garden City Fund.

Incorporating a therapeutic space near the forest

Visitors to the therapeutic garden at Telok Blangah Hill Park can enjoy the tranquillity of the forest while they interact with the different therapeutic elements offered in the garden. In order to create a seamless transition between the forest space and the therapeutic garden, the planting within the therapeutic garden was designed to mimic the natural forest structure. Undergrowth, mid-canopy and emergent species typical of our native forests have been strategically planted among the existing mature trees. The therapeutic garden, including its viewing deck, was also designed to retain and incorporate these shade-providing mature trees.

The therapeutic garden is designed using science-based principles, deliberately planned to facilitate people’s interactions with nature and improve the mental well-being of its visitors. Plants which evoke strong memories and engage the senses have been planted including those which are fragrant, edible or medicinal, coloured or textured as well as those which attract birds and butterflies. Some native plants which hark back to Telok Blangah Hill Park’s rich natural and historical heritage include the less common Singapore Kopsia (Kopsia Singapurensis) and Kulim (Scorodocarpus borneensis) which are native forest species, and Coffee (Coffea liberica) which is a nod to the Alkaff family’s spice trading business. The Alkaff Mansion is located opposite the therapeutic garden.

An inclusive space for all

The therapeutic garden has also been designed to be wheelchair user-friendly and caters to a wide range of users including seniors and those with conditions such as ADHD and dementia. Espaliers have been introduced, where Coffee, Starfruit and Lime trees are trained to grow on a flat surface. This allows seniors and wheelchair users to learn how to prune and harvest the fruits easily, as part of therapeutic horticulture programmes. There are also raised planters which are more ergonomically designed to enhance accessibility for wheelchair users.

The garden will offer therapeutic horticulture programmes targeting beneficiaries located in the vicinity, such as St Andrew’s Nursing Home and Active Global Specialised Caregivers. Customised to the needs of seniors at each eldercare centre or senior activity centre, these programmes help to increase social interaction and aim to address the physical and mental health of participants. More than 130 sessions of the therapeutic horticulture programmes have been conducted at the therapeutic gardens at HortPark, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tiong Bahru Park, and Choa Chu Kang Park since December 2016, benefitting over 1000 participants. Details of the therapeutic horticulture programmes at Telok Blangah Hill Park will be released when ready.

Research on health benefits of interaction with greenery

NParks has been partnering healthcare research institutions to investigate and quantify the health and well-being benefits of urban greenery on Singaporeans.  There are currently two completed and four ongoing studies. An ongoing study with the National University of Singapore’s Department of Psychological Medicine and Institute for Health Innovation and Technology aims to provide insights on the types of landscape design which optimise restorative effects for the individual. Interim findings suggest that exposure to green spaces induces positive emotions as compared to urban spaces without greenery, and that green spaces with features including landscape layers, diverse vegetation and character of tranquillity, such as the Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark, tend to induce more pronounced positive effects. This supports the science behind therapeutic gardens which bring health and well-being benefits to visitors.

Expanding the reach of therapeutic horticulture and therapeutic gardens into the community

NParks’ Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE) offers a variety of courses and workshops to train both its staff and industry partners in topics related to therapeutic gardens and therapeutic horticulture. These include an introduction to therapeutic horticulture and therapeutic gardens, developing goals and activities in therapeutic horticulture programming, design of therapeutic gardens (for dementia-specific aged care) and a Certificate in Therapeutic Horticulture. More than 300 NParks staff and over 200 industry professionals have participated in these courses to date.

Lastly, NParks continues to develop strong working relationships with agencies and NGOs, hospitals, nursing homes and tertiary institutions. Apart from providing therapeutic garden design guidelines as a resource for external organisations, NParks works with them in the development of therapeutic gardens and therapeutic horticulture programmes at their premises. For example, NParks has collaborated with South West Community Development Council to implement therapeutic horticulture elements within their community gardens, and to train their gardeners as community therapeutic horticulture volunteers. In 2018, Hong Kah North Constituency opened its first therapeutic garden with NParks’ guidance.

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