Greenhouses are integral part of any botanical garden, the highlight of the garden horticultural here are two independent climate-controlled bio-domes, world’s largest (as of 2012) cooled conservatories spanning the footprint of four football fields. These two conservatories, namely the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are situated along the edge of the Marina Reservoir and are reminiscent of the man-made greenhouses seen in the Eden project in Sweden. In temperature countries, these large climate controlled greenhouses allow lush tropical climates to be simulated (including humidity) in an enclosed environment. The opposite is true here, where the conservatories serve as a control boundary, allowing the non-tropical plants to flourish in our harsh and humid tropical climate.
Your visit to the conservatories start with a short walk through the heritage gardens through the Super tree grove to the conservatory visitor center. The visitor center has an open air concept spanning a single floor and a basement. The area is lined with open seating areas and a number of eateries and cafes. The ticketing booth. Unlike the outdoor heritage gardens with free admission as a state park, both the conservatories have an entrance fee priced at $20 and $28 for non-locals. A single conservatory entrance fee (any of the two) costs $12.
The Flower Dome conservatory
The first conservatory is a 2.8 hectare Flower Dome which replicates the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean and semi-arid sub-tropical regions of South Africa and Europe. It employs sustainable energy sources to create new micro-climates housing over 220,000 plants of high conservation value from almost every continent. It is an energy efficient showcase of ground-breaking sustainable building technologies and all-weather edutainment space within the Gardens.
Most of the plants here were cultivated 2-3 years beforehand in “Hort park” at Hyperbad road, a $7 million research facility built 8km away from the gardens and operated by National Parks Singapore (NParks). Hort park served as an horticulture research facility and incubator allowing formulation and cultivation of rare plants in need of conservation as well as formulating efficient methods in getting non-native plants to thrive and flowers to bloom. This was done using controlled prototype greenhouses incubating over 3,000 plant varieties in simulated various climatic conditions over the period of construction before being transplanted throughout the Gardens by the Bay, with most within this Flower Dome itself.
The Flower Dome is an expansive structure spanning over two distinct floors housing a climate controlled park and indoor event spaces. It can be identified as the shorter and wider conservatory of the two with views of the Marina bay reservoir. The conservatory’s non-conventional centralized district cooling systems reduces dependency on the electrical grid, and consumes 30% less energy than similarly sized conventional climate-controlled conservatories. Dynamic computer-assisted systems balances plant solar exposure for photosynthesis and conservatory solar heat gain through internal air circulation and sunlight lux regulation using 3,300 sensor-operated automatically retractable spectrally-selective glass window shades.
The distinct dry cool climate allows a variety of desert plants and cacti to flourish on the upper floors. The highlight of this conservatory are the flower fields located on the lower ground floor, featuring several ordered planters laid in an expansive flower bed. Both floor levels are served by lifts and are wheelchair and mobility scooter friendly.
The best time of the day to visit the flower dome is mid-day to late afternoon (latest about 5.30pm) with the natural light accurately illuminating the flowers where you will be able to fully appreciate the myriad of flowers in their own natural colours. The flower conservatory at night, however, will be artificially lit with coloured RGB spot lights saturating many of the flower’s natural colours, giving an inaccurate false impression of colours. This will be something to take note if you wish to view or photograph the flowers in their most accurate form or not risk your photos artificially over-saturated.
The flower dome is a nice chill-out place in general if you do not mind the entrance fees. There are plenty of seating areas around the walkways as well as a number of vantage viewing points offering dominating views of the conservatory. The conservatory is also home to the celebrity Pollen restaurant, Helmed by renowned Chef Jason Atherton, offering Mediterranean-influenced, modern European cuisines.
The flow of the flower dome exhibits is rather intuitive and guides visitors through a logical flow of visitation right to the exit to the next conservatory. The exit area just before the turnstiles is lined with an array of informative touch screens beckoning information to users about the native flora and fauna of the natural habitats the conservatory aims to recreate.
If it is not not near closing time, you can request a re-entry stamp upon exiting the flower dome, just ask a member of staff there. This will grant you unlimited reentry for the calendar day. Upon exit, you will be brought right to the basement level of the visitor center, where the attraction gift shop and children play area reside. A seafood restaurant and a number of food kiosks are located here too, offering visitors the opportunity for a quick bite while jumping between conservatories. The entrance of the cloud forest is convenient located here too, allow you to continue on your horticulture journey.
Next up, the Cloud Forest Conservatory »