(Photo: The Straits Times)

More Housing Board community gardening projects are sprouting up, with 213 community gardens in public housing estates participating this year in the biennial Community in Bloom (CIB) Awards organised by the National Parks Board (NParks).

This compares with 174 public housing gardens that took part in 2014, and accounts for almost half the record 436 community gardens taking part in this year's awards.

A public housing garden — the Tampines Greenvale Residents' Committee (RC) Community Garden — was one of 14 gardens to win a Diamond Award, the top accolade. This was in recognition of its third Platinum Award this year.

The garden was established in 2008 and won Platinum Awards in 2012 and 2010. The RC's chairman, Mr Raymond Tan, said gardening helped foster community spirit.

"Unlike occasional events organised by RCs, a community garden is a constant place for residents to meet, catch up and socialise. As more people come down, we get to know each other better," he said.

Mr Tan, 52, noted that there is no age restriction in community gardening. He often sees students, housewives and senior citizens cleaning and tending to the garden.

In an ongoing study that began in June last year, National University Health System and NParks researchers found that gardening has psychological and social benefits for the elderly, including dementia patients. Preliminary results of the study were released in May.

Mr Tan feels that space constraint is not an obstacle to creating a thriving gardening scene. Residents of public housing estates could practise rooftop or vertical gardening, and place potted plants along corridors and in their balconies, he said.

Mr Tan Jiew Hoe, chief judge of the 2016 awards and president of the Singapore Gardening Society, said: "I am heartened to see that the gardeners' love for gardening has brought them closer."

Besides public housing estates, gardens from schools, organisations and private housing estates also took part in this year's CIB Awards. Entries closed on Jan 22 and judging was completed in May. The judges comprised six people from government agencies, professional bodies and interest groups.

The awards and achievement bandings will be presented during the Singapore Garden Festival at Gardens by the Bay on July 31.

Diamond Award winners will receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a gardening gift pack of the same value. Platinum Award winners get $300 and a gift pack worth $500.

Mr Ng Cheow Kheng, NParks' Group Director of Horticulture and Community Gardening, said: "NParks will continue to facilitate the setting up of community gardens because they bring people together and enable them to contribute towards the realisation of our City in a Garden Vision."


Written by Rei Kurohi and Malavika Menon for The Straits Times