As loyal martayaki readers may recall, back in our hotel quarantine days my new friend Karmen stopped by our hotel to drop off some candy and wave up from the sidewalk. It was especially kind of her to come by, considering that we had not met in person at that point; Mark’s cousin Sarah introduced Karmen and I online, and we traded messages only via Messenger until that point.
So once we were sprung from hotel jail and settled in, I asked Karmen about meeting in person, or IRL as the kids say (though they probably haven’t said that for at least five years now. Anyway!). After sharing soup dumplings one afternoon, Karmen asked if I was interested in joining her at an orchid farm that she heard about. I immediately said yes. And that’s how we found ourselves at Toh Garden a few days later.
Here’s the thing about me and orchids. I love them and think they are beautiful, because I am not a savage. But any time I received one as a gift I always felt a pang of regret. I would graciously accept the orchid gift, admire its beauty, then whisper my apologies to the orchid for its upcoming/withering demise under my care. Me and orchids just don’t gel.
That said I was eager to hang out with a cool new friend and look at pretty flowers.
Karmen arrived via public transit at Toh Garden, while I arrived via taxi at Toh Orchids. Which we quickly learned are not the same place. Apparently the Toh brothers have two orchid businesses 500m apart, because of course they do. So I started walking toward Toh Garden and passed some rather desolate looking scenery. I firmly stuck to the paved road, never stepped off the macadam onto the vegetation at its edges, and tried not to think about the monitor lizards, estuarine crocodiles, and other terrifying, carnivorous critters that call swampy Singapore home.
Karmen and I met up and started wandering. I wish the following photos could capture just how huge this place is. Toh Garden covers 5.4 hectares/13 acres, and they cater to clients ranging from the Singapore Botanic Gardens, to hotels and other hospitality clients, and to individuals like me.
A gardener named Ropikul started following us around and offered invaluable advice as we started eyeing plants that we considered buying. I showed photos of our walled in patio space and its filtered light, and he started suggesting varieties that would thrive there. Once I chose a color or type that I liked, Ropikul would dash off and find the best specimen available. He pointed out how to look for stems with buds about to open, and the nubs that indicated new stems about to grow. He steered me away from finicky varieties and suggested easier alternatives instead.
Karmen had great success growing orchids in the US and lamented the plants she had to give away when moving from Texas to Singapore. She marveled over the huge variety available versus the rather limited selection typically available in the US. And most importantly, she shared the simple way to water orchids: every two weeks fill a sink with water and soak the orchid for 15 minutes, then let it drain. That’s it.
I showed great restraint and only bought two plants, while Karmen showed even more and picked up only one. Then we took our plants to lunch, because that’s what you do. Obviously.
I came home buzzing with excitement and told Mark how much he would enjoy a visit as well. Mark’s not exactly an orchid guy either, but he was interested in getting some plants for our front and back yards. So last weekend we headed out. Because does it get any more exciting than a married couple plant shopping together on the weekend? I think not.
Mark found the garden as inspiring as I did, and we quickly wandered off in different directions. The same gardener Ropikul from my last visit found us, and he continued to provide excellent guidance on plants that would suit our space. He also did his best at upselling, and I will admit to picking up a few of his suggestions.
Mark and I started making our selections, choosing more orchids, air plants, a poinsettia, and green plants to adorn the top ledge of our front garden’s fish pond. Our purchase rated free delivery, so we said our goodbyes to the staff and set off on foot for a nearby aquarium supply shop. Stay tuned for a future post about our visit there.
Toh Garden is located at 11 Lor Pasu, Singapore 699191, and is open Monday to Saturday 9AM to 6PM and Sundays 9AM to 3PM. Public transit gets you about a kilometer away, so drive or take a taxi. That said prepare for a long walk to the bus in case you can’t will the taxi gods to send you a ride when you’re ready to leave the Garden. Purchases of S$200 or more rate free delivery islandwide.