The Landscape

Situated in the heart of the city, the Istana domain is a green lung amid the arteries of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. Standing on what used to be Charles Robert Prinsep’s nutmeg plantation, the estate is a treasure trove of flora and fauna. Since 1960, the Istana has been open to the public a few days every year so that Singaporeans and visitors can enjoy the beautiful grounds.

 

The Senior Curator from National Parks takes care of the Istana grounds. He and his team of curators and gardeners not only maintain the grounds, but are also involved in landscaping works required for functions held at the Istana.

  • Scouts feeding the swans during the Scouts Job Week in March 2018.

The Swan Pond

The Swan Pond is the largest among the four ponds on the Istana grounds. The idea of a Swan Pond was first mooted by Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who wanted a “lake” installed in the Istana for aesthetics and gardening purposes. The tradition of having a pair of swans in the pond began in 1968 when the Zoological Society of London gifted a pair of mute swans (Cygnus olor) to Singapore. These large birds are recognisable by their pure-white plumage, orange bills, and are distinguished by their ‘S’-shaped curved necks. They are also known for their commitment as they pair for life.

 

The vicinity of the Swan Pond houses an interesting variety of plant life including the Foxtail Palm, the Australian Ivy Palm, the Alstonia, the Rubber Tree and the Scented Coconut. In the evenings, swifts skim the calm surface of the water, which is home to Grass Carp, Koi, waterhens and turtles.

The Grove

This deeply wooded area behind the Swan Pond is a reminder of the jungle that once stood here. Some of the Grand Old Tembusu trees that can be seen date back to more than a century old and are probably the last survivors of the jungle. The shorter-lived Saraca and Jelutong here were planted as seedlings and have thrived since then.

The Centre Gate

Rain Trees lining both sides of Edinburgh Road shade the half-kilometre walk from the Main Gate to the Centre Gate. The intricate cast iron Centre Gate was built in 1931 as a receiving post for visitors. Today, the Centre Gate serves as a welcoming symbol, beckoning visitors to the Istana’s grounds.

Japanese Garden

Situated alongside the Centre Gate of the Istana is a tranquil Japanese Garden. This garden was first introduced to the Istana by Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had an affinity with Japanese landscape. Featuring an irregularly-shaped pond with rocks rising statuesquely above the calm waters, the garden is also adorned with stone lanterns, wooden bridges, as well as pine trees and weeping trees – features that add a distinctive Japanese touch to the miniature garden.

The Gun Terrace

The Gun Terrace is marked by a 105mm Japanese cannon, a symbol of the liberation of Singapore after the Japanese Occupation. Sited along the Military Guard Room, the Gun Terrace commands a panoramic view of the Istana grounds and the city's skyline.

The Spice Terrace and Spice Garden

The Spice Terrace serves as a walk down memory lane for visitors as mature nutmeg trees and clove trees can be seen here. The scrawny Nibong palms also found at this location are a sharp contrast to the full-foliaged spice trees.

 

Situated next to the Spice Terrace is the Spice Garden. The garden houses a wide variety of spices and herbs such as curry leaves, chilli, lemongrass, roselle, holy basil, chinchau, rosemary, ginger, coriander, pandan and mint. Inspired by the spices in the Garden, the “Istana Harvest” was created using ingredients found in the Garden and is served as a refreshing welcome drink to foreign dignitaries and guests of the Istana.

The Lawn

The Istana Front Lawn stretches from the Istana building to just before the Centre Gate. During Colonial times, garden parties were held on the Front Lawn, where stately Yellow Flames planted by the Duchess of Kent and her son, the Duke, in 1952 added to its grandeur.

 

In the centre of this picturesque garden is a circular fountain. From this spot, one can get a good view of the Istana Main Building and the President's Standard flying from the highest point of the building.

 

The Lawn is used to host several functions a year. Its beautiful landscaping provides visitors with many wonderful photo moments.

  • Benches @ the Istana

The Istana received 14 benches from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2015. The 14 benches were fabricated from timber planks recycled from the former National Stadium, as part of the URA’s efforts to commemorate the national icon. The designs for these benches were selected from a public design competition as well as submissions by local designers from various fields. The largest collection of these benches is now in the Istana grounds. For more information, visit http://ura.sg/pickabench.