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New volunteer gardening initiative to make Istana grounds more accessible

SINGAPORE – Gardening enthusiasts will now get a chance to help shape the gardens at the Istana under a new Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programme.


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SINGAPORE – Gardening enthusiasts will now get a chance to help shape the gardens at the Istana under a new Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programme.

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Launched by President Halimah Yacob on Thursday (Dec 14), the programme will provide opportunities for the gardening community in Singapore to come together to maintain the greenery and landscape of the Istana.

Madam Halimah said: “The purpose (of the programme) is basically to encourage Singaporeans who are interested in community gardening to come and contribute their ideas and experiences, and also help to shape the gardens at the Istana.”

“The whole idea is also to engage and reach out to Singaporeans so that they feel that there is a part they can play in the Istanta garden,” she added.

She also said that this programme was a chance for volunteers to “develop collective memories” of the Istana.

Madam Halimah had previously said she wants to make the Istana more accessible to ordinary Singaporeans. The Volunter Gardeners@Istana programme is the second of such initiatives, with the first being the Picnic@Istana programme — which will see four picnics held a year — launched in November.

So far, about 50 people - from as young as 9 to 79-years-old - have signed up as volunteer gardeners, with the majority being in their 50s.

Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

Volunteers will be involved in activities such as planting, pruning and harvesting of fruits, and will work in seven to eight areas within the Istana grounds including the Spice Garden, Japanese Garden and the front lawn of the Istana.

The sessions are set to begin in January next year, and will run for three days – Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays – on a chosen week each month. Each gardening session will last three hours, from 9am to 12pm.

At the launch on Thursday, Madam Halimah interacted with over 20 volunteer gardeners at the Spice Gardens. She said she is also hopeful that volunteers would develop memories of the Istana through the volunteer programme,

Volunteer gardener Ms Jean Tsai, who is in her 60s, said she was excited to be a part of this programme, which brings together “like-minded people interested in history and nature”.

The freelance editor said she has always had a keen interest in the flora and fauna since she was first exposed to horticulture in secondary school. Her flexible work hours make it easy for her to volunteer. “So as long as I can do the work, bend over (and plant the flowers), and my old bones don’t creak, I foresee myself volunteering for a very long time,” she said.

Depending on response, NParks group director at the Istana Mr Wong Tuan Wah said: “We are more than willing to accept as many volunteers as possible, and if there is overwhelming response we will definitely expand it to more days.”

Before the introduction of Picnic@Istana and Volunteer Gardeners@Istana programmes, the public could only visit the Istana during five open houses each year – during Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Labour Day and National Day.

Those interested to be a volunteer gardener can send enquiries to nparks_public_affairs [at]

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