Therapeutic garden opens at Telok Blangah Hill Park

Terese Teoh

SINGAPORE (THE STRAITS TIMES/ANN) – A new therapeutic garden has opened at Telok Blangah Hill Park, the fifth in a growing network of such gardens created by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Nestled in the park’s natural forest setting, the garden features mature trees as well as lesser-known forest species with therapeutic effects, such as the Singapore Kopsia. It also boasts a 40m-long viewing deck that offers an unobstructed, mid-canopy view of the forest.

The loud chirping of cicadas complements the garden’s tranquil feel.

One distinctive feature of the garden is the fruit tree espaliers – a horticultural treatment where trees are made to grow flat on a wired frame instead of branching out.

Espaliers make it easy for seniors and wheelchair users, who participate in programmes run by NParks, to harvest the fruits. Trees successfully grown in the garden this way include coffee, starfruit and lime.

Park users practising taiji at the new therapeutic garden in Telok Blangah Hill Park. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES/ANN

The therapeutic garden is based on science-based principles that promote interaction with nature and improve the mental well-being of visitors by helping them to destress, said NParks.

This is achieved through plants with different leaf textures, scents and colours that appeal to all five senses. The garden welcomes all visitors but is designed with the nearby eldercare centres and senior activity centres in mind. They include St Andrew’s Nursing Home and Active Global Specialised Caregivers. “Activities here help them interact with nature, unlike the four walls in the daycare centre they are otherwise confined to,” said NParks group Director of Parks Chuah Hock Seong during a media visit to the new garden.

NParks will also run therapeutic horticulture programmes at the new park which are designed to stimulate participants’ senses and memories as well as encourage motor and hand-eye coordination.

Details about these programmes will be released at a later date.

More than 130 sessions of similar programmes have been conducted at the other therapeutic gardens located in HortPark, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, Tiong Bahru Park and Choa Chu Kang Park since December 2016, benefitting more than 1,000 participants.

Some of these sessions included the propagation of edible plants and scent bag-making using herbs from the gardens.

NParks is working with various healthcare research institutions to understand the impact of urban greenery. Interim findings from studies with the National University Health System show that exposure to urban greenery results in an uptick in the level of happiness among participants.

Past studies also showed that therapeutic horticulture programmes boost immunity.

Among those who visited the park yesterday was a retiree who practises taiji with his friend daily. “Last time, it was filled with vegetation… Now, with the decking, it is easier to walk around to look at the plants,” said Tan, 76, who declined to give his full name.

He also said the labelling of the plants in the garden was very educational. NParks aims to have therapeutic gardens at six more parks by this year.

They are Sembawang Park, Yishun Pond Park, Punggol Waterway Park, Pasir Ris Park, Bedok Reservoir Park and Jurong Lake Gardens. It hopes to raise the number to 30 by 2030. The therapeutic garden at Telok Blangah Hill Park received support from the Tote Board and Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, who together contributed SGD500,000 through the Garden City Fund.