Community In Bloom is a programme by the National Parks Board (NParks) to promote a gardening culture and a greater sense of civic ownership and participation among Singaporeans by encouraging and facilitating community gardening.
The therapeutic effects of gardens are well documented. Gardens relieve stress and stimulate the senses, making them ideal features in public housing communities. In addition, gardening provides a form of expression, physical activity and release that helps people heal mentally and physically and stay active, particularly in their senior years. An NParks survey showed that at least one in two respondents grows plants and a significant proportion (53%) is keen to participate in Singapore's greening efforts, for example, through planting, maintenance upkeep, volunteering and funding.
Community In Bloom brings together public and private sector organisations, as well as volunteer groups to promote gardening among residents, students and workers, with NParks providing guidance and advice. Gardening interest groups collaborate to provide opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to come together and share their gardening knowledge, forming a self-help network among residents, schools and organisations in maintaining the gardens. The gardens are safe outdoor spaces on public or private lands, where neighbours meet to grow and care for ornamental and flowering plants, vegetables, herbs/spices and other plant species. The gardeners take initiative and responsibility for organising, maintaining and managing the garden area.
COMMUNITY GARDENING, FRUITFUL RESULTS
The response towards Community In Bloom has been encouraging. Since its inception in 2004, communities that participated in the programme have witnessed a number of positive changes: neighbours returning to outdoor green spaces; school teachers using gardens as outdoor classrooms; daycare providers integrating outdoor play with indoor activities; and senior citizens gathering and socialising in the gardens.
These are the testaments of an enhanced living environment, increased community involvement and better neighbourhoods. Communities involved in the programme have grown closer and are collectively proud of what they have created. It is the sense of joy and spirit of togetherness in gardening that will help to transform our Garden City into a "City In A Garden."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Longman is Director, Streetscape Division, Operations Department at the National Parks Board. For more information, visit www.nparks.gov.sg