Singapore

Istana open to volunteer gardeners for three days a month

From next month, ordinary Singaporeans will get to prune, water, grow and harvest plants in the Istana.

They can do so at seven to eight areas inside the Istana, including the Spice Garden, Japanese Garden and the front lawn.

The move to open up the Istana gates is to help meet President Halimah Yacob's desire to make the Istana more accessible to ordinary Singaporeans.

She intends to achieve it through various programmes, and yesterday she launched the second: Volunteer Gardeners@Istana.

About 50 people have signed up. Experience is not needed, and they will be guided by officers from the National Parks' Board, which will also provide the gardening tools.

They can volunteer on any of three days each month, from 9am to noon. These are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week of each month except January, when the open days are in the second week.

Yesterday, Mr Ho Et Wan, 70, a retiree who worked in the marine sector, and his wife were among more than 20 volunteers who worked at the Spice Garden. The couple, who said they will volunteer once a month, helped plant chillies.

"It is the atmosphere, the volunteers working together and having a good time, that I love," said Mr Ho.

Madam Halimah, who chatted with the volunteers for an hour, told reporters: "The purpose is to encourage Singaporeans who have been doing or are interested in community gardening to contribute their ideas and experiences, and help shape the gardens in the Istana."

In engaging Singaporeans, she hopes people will feel they have a part to play in developing the Istana gardens.

Those interested can contact the coordinators at nparks_public_affairs@nparks.gov.sg

Environment