John Laycock, the British founder of the Orchid Society of Southeast Asia, began the Mandai garden in 1951 to house his own collection. Now owned and operated by Singapore Orchids Pte. Ltd, Mandai breeds and cultivates hybrids for international export, and the gardens double as an STB tourist attraction. Some of Mr. Laycock's original collection survives, though many were lost in World War II. Arranged in English garden style, orchid varieties are separated in beds that are surrounded by grassy lawn. Tree-growing varieties prefer the shade of the covered canopy. On display is Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim, a natural hybrid in shades of light purple. Behind the gift shop is the Water Garden, where a stroll will reveal many houseplants common to the West, as you would find them in the wild.
The Vanilla Pod restaurant gets many of its ingredients from its own herb and spice gardens, and the specialty crabmeat salad uses the garden's orchid as an ingredient (daily noon-10pm; tel. 65/6368-0672).