Sturdy Roots

By : Daniel Lim
04 November 2012

I’m no green thumb. That much I have to admit.


The furthest I’ve been moved to exercising my fingers in a green way was to build a terrarium – mainly because it is easier and less of a hassle.


So when I first heard of a national Tree Planting Day, I gave no second thought to it, thinking that it was just “another one of those civic activities” that others participated in.


But when I dug deeper (no pun intended), I discovered the roots that go back a long way.


Singapore’s island-wide verdant greenery started with a long-term vision to make this young nation a garden city. Back in 1963, Singapore’s then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew had set his sights on a clean and green Singapore. And on 16 June that year, he planted the very first tree, a little Mempat tree, in Farrer Circus, signalling the beginning of Singapore’s green dream. 


In his 2000 memoir, From Third World to First, Mr Lee said that to distinguish Singapore from other Third World countries, he searched for a “dramatic way…and settled for a clean and green Singapore”.


These days, the year-long Clean and Green Singapore campaign comprises many elements, but it continues to include the familiar tree planting activities which are traditionally held island-wide in early November.


For his part, Mr Lee has also continued with the practice of planting a tree each November. At a community-cum-Tree Planting Day event today, Mr Lee planted a Java almond tree (Canarium vulgare) in the new HDB precinct of Havelock View. This tree can grow to an impressive, sturdy height of 45 metres, and its seeds can be used as a substitute for almonds.


Mr Lee also spoke about the evolution of flats and the greening up of Singapore and his determination to ensure the full delivery of both:


Today, Singapore is moving from a Garden City to being a City in a Garden – because of the green roots that were planted decades ago.


And while the celebrated new Gardens by the Bay is an absolute wonder, if you aren’t looking to travel to town, one of the best ways to enjoy greenery is to just explore your own backyard!


Here’s proof:

Linear Green@Bedok Central

Homes in Bishan set amid a landscaped park

Greenwood Sanctuary@Admiralty

Treelodge@Punggol – A befitting precinct name indeed

Balancing Surrealism with all things sylvan – The Pinnacle@Duxton

Today nearly 50 percent of the island is covered with greenery, and you’d be hard press to find a corner without some green life. In each HDB town, green space is set aside for parks and open fields, available for one and all to enjoy. And to really see how the green vision has taken shape, you just need to give yourself some vantage and enjoy the view.

A nation housed in a garden – View from atop The Pinnacle@Duxton

Mr Lee was a champion of extending the greenery to the heartlands.  For him, he saw greenery as a way to help lift morale and to instil pride in people.


And boy, looking down from a height of 50 storeys, seeing Singapore as a city housed in a garden, I can’t argue with that.



Guess where was this tree planted?

Since that first symbolic tree in 1963, Mr Lee has faithfully planted a tree every year. In particular, in 2008, he planted a Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) symbolic for its striking flowers which complemented an award-winning housing development famous for its sky gardens.


If you know, do tell us at!






Watch Videos


Latest Video


Don't miss out on the Formula 1 action going on in the heartlands!