As many as 500 species of rare tropical and temperate plants are flourishing in a secret corner of 1 Utama shopping centre, Petaling Jaya.
Fondly named the Secret Garden, the 2,787-sq metre rooftop garden is certainly a convenient and cost-free respite if you happen to be weary and dreary of the daily hustle and bustle.
Leaves swaying in the wind and flowers blooming in various hues fill the otherwise concrete platform in a harmonious order. Foot paths meander through the garden’s seven themed sections, leading visitors on to a therapeutic excursion through calming sights and scents.
It is a magical corner where desert and highland plants co-exist while climbers, herbs, spices, fruit trees, flowering shrubs and even a mini-padi field beckon. Pergolas, waterfalls and ponds made to classical elegance complete the experience.
Together with the shopping centre’s popular rainforest enclave, the Secret Garden is also cultivated by botanist Dr Francis Ng who was recently awarded the prestigious David Fairchild Medal 2009 (Plant Exploration) by the National Tropical Botanical Garden of the United States.
“The garden took eight years of research and nurturing to reach the maturity today by thriving naturally. Through novel experimental technologies we now house 500 species; some aren’t found in other parts of the world,” said the shopping centre’s director Datuk Teo Chiang Kok.
He said the garden, which could be the largest rooftop and experimental garden in South-East Asia, had been kept a secret. Even staff members did not know its existence.
“With today’s rising concerns to reduce carbon footprint, green roof is the latest antidote to climate change. Once considered a waste of space, rooftops are presenting countless opportunities not only to go green but to save energy cost, improve insulation and air quality and for water management,” he said.
The garden adopts recycling technologies such as chilled water irrigation sourced from the shopping centre’s air conditioning system to grow temperate plants and a rainwater harvesting system for general irrigation.
The plants are grown on a soil mix based on granulated horticultural carbon, Ng’s breakthrough creation said to have been adopted worldwide. The mix is made from sawdust that has been compacted and carbonised. It also deters pests, so fewer pesticides are used.
“The Secret Garden’s vast amount of carbon is sufficient to replace an entire rainforest of equivalent area and reduce the shopping centre’s carbon footprint. We have in a way contributed positively towards amelioration of climate change,” he said.
The Secret Garden is open to visitors from 10am to 6pm every Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free but the number of visitors at any one time is limited to maintain its serenity. Tickets to the garden can be obtained at the Customer Service Centre on the ground floor Highstreet. – By YIP YOKE TENG, Photos by AZMAN GHANI