Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Secret Garden of 1 Utama compared with best roof gardens in the world

1 Utama has been rated the largest shopping mall in Malaysia and fourth largest in the world. How does the Secret Garden on its roof rate against roof gardens worldwide? In an attempt to find out, I searched the Internet and was initially overwhelmed by the number of roof gardens in the world. However, after imposing just four criteria, the number of gardens that qualify as ‘best roof garden’ was narrowed down to just three.

The four criteria were:

(1) The garden has to be on the roof of a building, at least one floor above ground level.

(2) The garden has to be recognizable as a landscaped ornamental garden.

(3) The planted area must be above a minimum size of 5000 sq ft.

(4) The garden has to be fully open to the public on a regular basis.

Most roof gardens do not qualify because they are private or semi-private, with restricted access.

Here is how the three roof gardens compare with each other. If I have missed any gardens that qualify, please let me know.

Kaiser Center Roof Garden, Oakland, California, USA
Designer: Theodore Osmundson
Year of Opening: 1960
Size and features: 150,000 sq ft park with fountains and ornamental ponds; lunchtime concerts on Fridays in summer.
Open on weekdays 8 am to 5 pm. Closed on weekends. Free entrance.

New Lanark Roof Garden, Lanark, Scotland
Designer: Douglas Coltart
Year of opening: 2011?
Size and features: 9,000 sq ft temperate garden with fountains, sculptures; over 70 species of ornamental plants.
Open daily, 11 am to 5 pm. Entrance by ticket.

Secret Garden of 1 Utama, Malaysia
Designers: Francis Ng & Alfred Cheong
Year of opening: 2009
Size and features: 30,000 sq ft tropical evergreen ever-flowering garden with over 500 species of trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, epiphytes; water features, shade houses, pergolas.
Open on weekends and public holidays, 10 am to 10 pm. Closed on working weekdays. Free entrance.


Gabriel Wu said...

Dear Dr Francis Ng, I would like to say, i truly enjoyed the Secret Garden at 1U! I will take every opportunity I have to be there on the weekends just to walk around the garden.
There are some really amazing plants. I would like to add some to my own garden especially the fragrant type. Could you please tell me where i can buy Buddleia?

Thank you .

leepp said...

when i learnt about the garden, i had to visit it...and i truly enjoyed it. now,hoping to gather some ideas how I can incorporate a part of this unto my balcony.. :-)

Dr Francis Ng said...

The plants in the Secret Garden were obtained over a period of 10 years, mostly from Sungei Buloh nurseries. The nurseries turn over their stocks frequently and we cannot predict what they will have at any time. Once I placed an order for a plant not in stock but the nursery managed to get the plant for me. If you have a photo to show, it would help.

leepp said...

Dr Ng
Would be kindly enough to write a thread on how one can DIY a flowerbed (as can be seen in the Secret Garden)on a tiled balcony? I am very impressed with the willow tree growing on such low depth of flowerbed (or am i missing what's goes on underneath?)...hoping to create a flowerbed on my own on my balcony to grow cannas....also thinking of growing a willow tree on a container pot on my balcony as the main feature which i have no idea whether it is practical? i was told by my building manager that weight is not an issue because my balcony is part of the building structure...any guide here whether i should try this out?...willow trees are just so beautiful....

Anonymous said...

Dr Ng,
Your blog is indeed very enlightening. I have been following it for sometime.

I am desperate to look for some fruit seedlings to grow in my new house where I have a big garden but I can't find any nursery selling them - rambutans, mangoes etc. Where can I buy such plants? Sorry I have to ask here.

Dr Francis Ng said...

Angie, there is a floral expo at Putra Jaya Prescint 2 right now (5 July)and for the next few days. There are fruit trees of all types being sold there. You should be able to find what you need.

David de la Harpe said...

Wow!!! i was totally amazed with the collection , landscaping of the garden... Truly beautiful . I would love to visit it in the evenings next time to smell the fragrance from the plants that have been planted for this purpose .
David de la Harpe
Kota Kinabalu

Dr Francis Ng said...

Leepp, In the Secret Garden of 1 Utama, what you see is what it is. The 'soil' is 8 to 12 inches deep and consists mostly of small pieces of charcoal or what I call granulated carbon. We now have a problem getting new supplies because the manufacturer has moved his operations to Cambodia. We are now experimenting with mixtures of burnt soil with commercial peat-like compost. The idea is to get a soil that allows water to drain easily. One good test of a good soil is that when you pull out a weed, the whole whole weed comes out with its entire root system. You should also be able to dig into the soil with your fingers. With a free-draining soil you will need to keep it moist all the time by watering twice a day, morning and evening.

Jackson Mangan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackson Mangan said...

Hi Dr. Ng,

Mine could be “out of topic”. Anyway, do you remember any of the ye-olde book title on tropical climbers, vines and lianas?

I’ve seen one in the UPM Library long time ago; forgot about the book already… The book contained beautiful illustrations on tropical climbers, vines and lianas.

Dr Francis Ng said...

Perhaps you saw Edwin A Menninger's book Flowering Vines of the World published in 1970

Jade said...

I was fascinated to learn about the Secret Garden after reading your blog and so made a trip to PJ recently. Being able to reach 1U only after dark, it was difficult to appreciate the 600 species at night as the only sources of light were a lamp and the moon! This seems to defeat the purpose of opening the garden till 10 pm. Asking around the shop tenants, not many are aware of the rooftop garden as they mainly directed me to the rain forest. Having said this, I will plan another trip in the day next time.

Dr Francis Ng said...

Jade, we are planning to install LED coloured lights to make the garden prettier but it will be the effect of the lights, not the flowers. To appreciate the flowers the garden has to be seen in the day.

A proper night garden using flowers and foliage that stand out at night does not exist yet. I am thinking about it. The flowers will have to exude night perfumes and the plants will have to be silvery or white to reflect light. I have started to propagate such plants and hope the effect will not be SCARY.

Jade said...

Dr Ng, thank you for your kind response! It appears that I will need to revisit Secret Garden by day as well as by night after the LED lights are in place. I hope your novel idea of an actual night garden comes to fruition. To be honest, Secret Garden by night is kind of eerie as it is, even without light-reflecting plants and foliage. Luckily, my son was by my side. Incidentally, I am enjoying reading your book on Tropical Horticulture borrowed from a friend who was gifted with a copy by you.