Dr Easaw Thomas’ amazing garden was featured in the Business Times about two weeks ago and thanks to Cheow Kheng, I now got a copy of the article where I am now able to share with those gardeners who are keen in planting trees in their gardens.
Read on to find out what inspired Dr Thomas to plant 200 forest trees in his garden…
Article originally published on the Business Times Weekend
Saturday/Sunday, September 6 to 7, 2008
by Cheah Ui-Hoon
Why pay for a sculpted Japanese garden when you can DIY with local greenery?
When you’re rebuilding or renovating your home, the question of what to do with your garden is usually answered by the landscape architect you hire. Sculpted trees. Check. Exotic plantings. Check. Weekly visits by gardener. Check. Do it yourself. What?
Easaw Thomas’ decision to DIY has turned his home in Wilby Road – dotted with good class bungalows turned into palatial homes – into a tropical jungle, and is a lush testament to his green thumb as well as one person’s effort to address global warming and conserve local, indigenous plants. Today, he wakes up to a low maintenance, equatorial rainforest garden that’s has been left to grow pretty much on its own.
“The burning of forests in Sumatra was a wake-up call which made me want to do something about the environment,” shares Dr Thomas, 63. To him, this was the only way to create an environment that would reduce the greenhouse effects – because of the great volume of carbon dioxide that rainforest trees absorb from the atmosphere.
“Singapore is also losing a lot of its native plants and trees,” he adds, so he makes it a point to pick plant varieties which are indigenous like syzygiums with its colour leaves (the red jambu tree belongs to this family, for example). “You have to take the context in which we live – we can’t be having Japanese gardens or temperate ones,” he points out. “Out context is one that favours an equatorial rainforest-like garden because the plant themselves grow better and they blend in with the surroundings.”
With these ideas in mind, Dr Thomas drew up his own design for his Wilby Road garden in the late 90’s that would be created around his existing 1930s house, open courtyard and pond. When the garden was done, some 200 forest trees towered around the 26.000 sq ft compound, layered with shorter fruit or flowering trees, followed by ground plants like ginger flower plants. “The other thing I wanted to have was some fragrance in the garden so I picked trees like the Michelia chempaca,” he rattles off, before showing you the variety of wild plants he picked from the jungle rather than commercial nurseries.
The garden is less than 10 years old, but it looks like the house was built within a decades’ old tropical forest. The house adds to the credibility – a 30’s style single-storey original wing and a newer, curved bedroom block that was virtually carved out of a hill on his land. The top of the hill slope serves as its roof – way before rooftop gardens became vogue. The rooftop garden has tea leaf bushes and flowering trees, and giant yam plants with their elephant ear-shaped leaves – which birds had seeded, says Dr Thomas, since he doesn’t recall planting them. The garden gets weekly visits from a few hornbills, in fact, a stamp of approval, if you wil;, for the natural rain forest eco-system he has created.