Sharifah Yasmeen Binte Osman nurtures the plants
under her care in her role as an Assistant Manager
(Gardens Operations). She is a recipient of the
Gardens by the Bay Undergraduate Scholarship,
and holds a Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture
from the University of Queensland, Australia.
T he iconic Gardens by the Bay is definitely a place to visit if you’re a plant enthusiast or a visitor to Singapore. As a proud showcase of plants from all around the world, it is no wonder the Gardens has lured 60 million visitors to date. The striking domes made of glass and steel are visible from afar. These “hightech biomes”, together with the Supertree structures, make for an enticing and insightful visit even if you’re new to plants. Since its conceptualisation in 2004 and opening in 2012, this landmark destination has grown into an international horticultural attraction and epitomises the nation’s vision of a “City in a Garden”.
BrightSparks was fortunate to speak with Gardens by the Bay scholar 23-year-old Sharifah Yasmeen Binte Osman, who professes her love for nursery management. It involves a wide range of work from tree inspections and plant quality control to injecting creativity into the display of plants for the public to enjoy.
What are your thoughts about Singapore being a “City in a Garden”?
I very much appreciate the whole concept of transforming Singapore into a City in a Garden, both on a macro and micro scale. As a nation, Singapore has greatly benefitted environmentally, aesthetically and commercially in its focus to uphold the concept of a City in a Garden, and we have over the years become an international icon that is a cut above other cityscapes. This is something that I am inherently proud of as a Singaporean. Personally, greenery has positively impacted my well-being. It is well known that plants have a positive psychological effect on humans.
How did your love of greenery start, and did it influence your decision to take on the scholarship from Gardens by the Bay?
My interest in plants began not long ago when I started my diploma in Landscape Design and Horticulture in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. However, I had an underlying curiosity about plants from a very young age. My grandfather is an avid gardener, and he grew many edibles for cooking. He even grew exotic fruit trees in his home country of Pakistan.
I grew up with my grandparents as my parents were busy working most days, hence I was always surrounded by plants then. When I was seven, I discovered the name of a flower I adored for a while – the Hibiscus. My parents, who had no green fingers got me the seeds to plant, but the plant didn’t germinate well and died after its seedling stage. This was my first real hands-on experience with plants.
I was curious about the fruits I ate, such as the water apple which my family loves. Plants also inspired me in my henna art when I was 13 years old. Even the Red Lipstick Palm inspired me to pick up botanical illustration. Hence, I chose to further my studies in the horticulture field after polytechnic and took up the scholarship from Gardens by the Bay. Here in Gardens by the Bay, I get the opportunity to work with many plants from different parts of the world to curate landscapes. We also experiment with floral displays to showcase and interpret plants in an innovative way. I was even given the opportunity to illustrate six botanical illustrations through mixed media – watercolour and drawing pens – to interpret some of the many plants in our latest attraction, Floral Fantasy.
What kind of must-have traits does one need to have in your work?
The three must-have traits that you’ll need are passion, patience and the willingness to learn. Gardens by the Bay is a multidisciplinary and dynamic company that combines horticulture, innovation and tourism. In my work, every experience is an opportunity to learn something new every day. Passion is also an important trait to have. It drives you to want to learn more about the plants you’re working with. If you’re passionate about something, you will be constantly thinking of new ideas and concepts to incorporate into the gardens so that visitors can enjoy a better experience and hopefully develop a love for plants.
When working with plants, patience is important because plants take time to grow. Sometimes, your plants may get infected and it can take weeks to nurse them back to optimal health. Some plants take months to propagate as their seeds may take weeks before they germinate. Nothing is instant when it comes to plants; we can speed up certain processes to an extent but ultimately, it will still take time before your plants reach the stage you desire.
What is the most challenging aspect of doing nursery management?
In nursery management, different challenges arise every day. Gardens by the Bay is home to various plant species that come from all over the world. Hence, the most challenging aspect of nursery management is that different plants require different growing conditions to thrive. There are a lot of factors to consider when growing a specific plant, so imagine growing hundreds of different species in one space!
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I would like to see myself as someone who inspires others to appreciate nature more, through the use of different mediums such as landscape design, botanical art and plant interpretation.
What are your thoughts about climate change in relation to your work?
When we think about climate change in this generation, sustainability is the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, the whole concept behind Gardens by the Bay was built around sustainability. We have various avenues where we are able to showcase and promote sustainable energy modes, from using solar-powered energy to light up our Supertrees at night, to using chilled underground pipes to cool our conservatories selectively. I feel blessed to be part of a company that prioritises assimilating sustainable efforts in its operations, and when carrying out projects or events within the gardens.