Royal battle of roses and thorns

Gardens By The Bay has unveiled its latest attraction, the Sun Pavilion, and has more than 100 different species of cacti and succulents.

Everything's coming up roses - and cacti - at Gardens by the Bay.

A War of the Roses display at the gardens' Flower Dome is competing for eyeballs, and nostrils, even as the prickly desert plants at the newly unveiled Sun Pavilion look set to make visitorship spike.

Unveiled on Tuesday, the free attraction at Sun Pavilion houses more than 1,000 desert plants of almost 100 species and varieties, and forms one of the largest cactus and succulent collections in South-east Asia.

Assistant director of the Flower Dome Chad Daniel Davis, 39, says cacti and succulents that originated from semi-arid regions, such as

Madagascar, Mexico and Kenya, were chosen to ensure that the plants can survive outdoors in Singapore's climate.

None of the plants were taken from the wild, but from nurseries in places such as Thailand, the Canary Islands and Florida, he adds.

The 800 sq m sheltered pavilion also keeps out rain, preventing excess water from reaching the plants. Loose soil is also used to prevent ponding or waterlogging, says Mr Davis.

Mr Clive Attard, 66, a retiree from England who was visiting with his wife, says: "It's amazing. We're really impressed by the variety of cacti and there are a lot that we haven't seen before. I'm particularly impressed by the Turk's Cap. It's really lovely."

On Wednesday, the gardens also opened its new War of the Roses floral display at the Flower Dome, which will run until April 6.

Transporting visitors to mediaeval times, the display features two armoured knights on wooden horses, as well as 60 varieties of England's national flower, the Tudor rose.

Other flowers are also on display, such as hydrangeas, pansies and bellis, as well as topiaries.

The historical War of the Roses was a series of civil wars between the House of Lancaster and House of York in the 15th century. The war lasted 30 years and Lancastrian Henry Tudor eventually won and became King Henry VII.

The war got its name from the roses on the heraldic badges of the two Houses - the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York.

Visitors to the Flower Dome are given a trail map for a self-guided tour to learn about the history and significance of the roses.

Singapore student Kelvin Ng Jun Yao, 18, felt that the experience was educational for him and he learnt what the different colours of roses symbolise.

He adds: "It will be boring if it's always the same thing at the Flower Dome, so it's cool that they're bringing in different cultures and flowers to make the place livelier."

Prickly paradise

Turk's Cap (Melocactus spp)

This Brazilian cactus starts as a green spiny ball. When it matures and starts to flower, it develops a special structure called a cephalium, that resembles a fez or red cylindrical hat worn during the late Ottoman era, hence the name.

The cap produces small flowers that are pollinated by hummingbirds. After its flowers are pollinated, small pink, magenta and red fruits emerge from the cap.

Brain Cactus (Mammillaria elongata "Monstruosa")

The shape of this cactus is due to a genetic anomaly that caused it to lose its ability to grow in length and grow sideways instead. As such, they are cultivated and rare in the wild.

Succulent Euphorbias

Like cacti, large succulent Euphorbias from Africa can survive in an arid environment, but are less spiny.

They also produce latex to protect themselves from predators. Unlike the large tubular flower of cacti, Euphorbias produce small, greenish flowers.

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