Cover Dubbed the House of Trees , this project designed by L Architects in Singapore features as many as 12 trees nestled among lush planting on the facade. Photography: Finbarr Fallon

From green walls, rooftop gardens to landscaped areas edible plants, experts offer homeowners some tips on how to create green features that thrive and grow well in our tropical climate

In the House of Trees designed by L Architects, there are 12 trees nestled among lush planting on the facade. They form a passive barrier against the bustle of the heavily trafficked road outside the house, as well as lower the ambient temperature indoors.  

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“Generally, the post-pandemic world has led people to have a greater appreciation for nature, as they realise how impactful it is,” says L Architects’ founder Lim Shing Hui on her client’s openness to the concept. Confined in their homes during lockdowns, homeowners around the world found increasing respite in nature, be it in their gardens, or via potted plants on their balconies and throughout their interior. 

But creating an environment for plants to thrive requires work and understanding of suitable conditions. Here, architects highlight a few key features of note.

1. Water Works

Work closing with your architect and landscaping firm on a self-irrigation system for more complex home gardens, such as the design featured in House of Trees, to ensure that your plants get sufficient water throughout the week.

“You need to plan for a good water-feeding system. For example, a self-irrigation system via a timer because you might not have the time to feed the plants water manually. In fact, the drip line system helps to save more water compared to self-watering,” Lim of L Architects explains.   

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2. Choose the Right Plants

Lim also advises selecting plants not just based on their looks. For clients who desire less maintenance, she suggests getting species that do not shed as much or species with larger leaves.

“Most flowering trees actually do not do well in partial light conditions such as within buildings. So choosing the right plant or tree is important if you want them looking healthy and thriving,” she says, adding that slow-release fertilisers can last for months, hence reducing the need for weekly fertilising.

3. Grow Upwards

Vertical gardens are nice to have indoors, functioning as feature walls that offer residents a pleasant internal view while improving the general living experience, says Victor Lee, co-founder of Plystudio Architects.

Courtyards are potential locations, as these green walls need sufficient sunlight and ventilation to flourish. Orienting adjacent spaces toward a green wall is also a good way of creating connections between spaces, he suggests.    

Growing plants vertically doesn’t necessarily have to involve a full-length wall either—vines and plants draping from the terrace can add a verdant layer and soften the look of a concrete facade, as seen in the L House by Plystudio Architects.

4. Grow an Edible Garden

Meanwhile, edible gardens have also been on the rising trend. Of course, homeowners have been growing edible plants such as papaya and banana trees, as well as pandan for the longest time, but homeowners have become more experimental with growing a variety of spices and other edible plants. 

“Many homeowners want to enjoy the fruits of their labour, and are excited to harvest homegrown herbs and vegetables for use in the kitchen,” affirms Sarah Rodriguez, head of marketing at Edible Garden City. The social enterprise promotes the “Grow Your Own Food” movement in cities worldwide to improve food sustainability and resilience through building gardens for residences and hospitality sectors, supplying vegetables and edible plants to restaurants and conducting farming workshops

There are many types of edible plants, but the selection boils down to how much sunlight the planting space receives, as well as the time and effort the gardener is willing to provide to nurture the plants.

“Homeowners who are able to give their plants ample light and who prefer to be more hands-on could opt for fruiting and flowering varieties like blue butterfly pea, eggplants and lady’s fingers. Those who only have the option of semi-shaded areas, and who might be too busy to check on their plants daily or every other day can opt for hardier versions like pandan, aloe vera or Brazilian spinach,” Rodriguez suggests.

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There are many types of edible plants, but the selection boils down to how much sunlight the planting space receives, as well as the time and effort the gardener is willing to provide to nurture the plants.

“Homeowners who are able to give their plants ample light and who prefer to be more hands-on could opt for fruiting and flowering varieties like blue butterfly pea, eggplants and lady’s fingers. Those who only have the option of semi-shaded areas, and who might be too busy to check on their plants daily or every other day can opt for hardier versions like pandan, aloe vera or Brazilian spinach,” Rodriguez suggests.

Essentially, home gardeners should grow what is suitable for the conditions of the space, varieties that they enjoy eating and not give up when faced with obstacles. “Keep at it and continue to experiment with different plants and growing conditions,” she adds.

Agrees Rene Tan, co-founder of RT+Q Architects, who incorporated a spice garden in his family home, which terraces up in the air well along the staircase. “One should have a willingness for trial-and-error as some plants and spices thrive and others don’t,” he says.  

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