The world’s first inverted tree display in a garden show, ‘Upturned Splendour’ was showcased in the Singapore Garden Festival 2012. What is even more impressive is that it went from attaining a Silver award from the judges to winning the People’s Choice Award. Hailing from Singapore, Nyee Phoe Flower Garden’s Principal Designer, Mr Eliam Eng, is the man behind the game-changing project.

Amidst the lush greenery of the various Fantasy gardens at the show, stand towering trees with their roots facing the sky. To understand this intriguing display, one has to get into the mind of its creator.

“Many, especially the younger generations, are taking the garden city for granted and putting additional pressure on Nature’s limited landscape to be ruined to give way to urban development.” Eliam explained.

Contending as a designer in this competition for the first time, he wanted to take the opportunity to send out a strong message: appreciate the beauty of Nature and learn to work in harmony with it.

His inspiration roots from his experience in Alaska, where he witnessed the dreadful aftereffects of floods and earthquakes; houses were devastated and trees uprooted. Where then, did the upturned trees come from? True to his beliefs, he made sure “no trees were harmed in the making of this project”. Since trees are uprooted every day for development of land, Eliam saw this as an opportunity to give them new life by featuring them as the main component of the exhibit.

Eliam materialized the concept of Nature rejuvenating itself in his exhibit by means of dramatization, a rarity in garden shows. The theatric quality of Eliam’s work drew huge crowds of visitors to the exhibit every time the show comes on. For 3 minutes, mechanics shift the devastated grounds to simulate plate tectonic movements, light displays transport viewers from season to season while music sets the mood for the transition from a scene of devastation to one of calm and tranquility.

At the show, it was not only the matured audiences who were captivated. “As the children spot the topsy-turvy elements, I expect to spark off their excitement to look for the next and fill their minds with new imagination of the world.”

Aaron Ng, 15, won a two-night weekend stay at Sentosa in the lucky draw contest for the People’s Choice Award. “Upturned Splendour stood out amongst all the gardens because it contained a lot of action. The mini light show makes it very attractive. Also, I could identify with the garden theme. We’re currently studying global warming in Geography class; hence the garden is meaningful and close to my heart.”

Upturned Splendour’s unusual and provocative concept looks like it came straight out of a doomsday movie, a stark contrast to what you would expect from a typical garden. Perhaps the appeal of the underdog is what makes us appreciate the magic of Nature regaining its full glory in front of one’s eyes. The words ‘People’s Choice’ have never been truer.

About Eliam Eng

Eliam Eng is the director of Nyee Phoe Flower Garden, a landscape architecture company that celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. With 30 years of experience, Eliam’s portfolio today includes local and international projects ranging from residential and commercial spaces to urban development. Eliam is an Affiliate Member of the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects (SILA) who is recognised by London’s The Institute of Professional Designers (APID). Some recent awards to his name are a Gold for his Roof Garden presented by the Singapore Bloom Awards, and a Gold and a Silver by the Landscape Association (Singapore) LIAS for his work on two residences in prime locations.

About Nyee Phoe Flower Garden

Established in 1911, Nyee Phoe is one of Singapore’s oldest garden nurseries. Starting out as a nursery, the company developed itself to keep up with changing times, delving into landscape architecture. With support from its clients, many of whom are friends today, Nyee Phoe now stands complete with a floral arm and an events company; all three companies are collectively known as the Nyee Phoe Group. Nyee Phoe marries natural beauty with modern aesthetics to evoke a sense of peace and beauty of nature. The company’s pride and joy are the holistic works and experiences designed exquisitely to touch appeal to one’s senses.