For us, when we think of Singapore as a City in a Garden, it extends beyond our lush greenery, beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens, and the stunning Gardens by the Bay to…street names in Singapore. The majority of Singapore’s roads were named during the colonial period, but post-1965, the Government had intentionally promoted usage of Malay names to place Singapore in the Malayan context and strengthen links to the region. This explains the fascinating hotchpotch of both English and Malay flower names found in streets around Singapore.
At Macpherson, there is a whole cluster with road names inspired by flowers – Jalan Anggerek (Orchid), Jalan Melati (Jasmine), Jalan Jermin (Geranium), Jalan Melor (Indian Jasmine), Jalan Belangkas (Chinese rice flower)…and more!
In one of the estates in the Upper Thomson area, lies yet another cluster of floral road names. Carnation Drive, Daffodil Drive, Gladiola Drive, Jasmine Road – all in English flower names as compared to those in the Macpherson cluster. We wonder if this has got to do with Thomson Road being named after John Turnbull Thomson, a Scotsman who was the Government Surveyor and Chief Engineer of the Straits Settlement from 1841 to 1853 and who built many roads in Singapore.
We also find it intriguing to have some streets named after flowers unique to the Southeast Asian region.
Native to Southeast Asia, it is no wonder that the Chempaka flower has inspired the names of several streets in Singapore in several of its varieties too – Jalan Chempah, Jalan Chempaka Kuning (yellow chempaka), Jalan Chempaka Puteh (white chempaka), and Chempaka Avenue. In fact, you can still spot blooming chempakas along some of these streets today. Part of the magnolia family, these flowers stand out distinctly in its bright yellow / orange colours and its lovely fragrance that is commonly used in perfume making. They are also used as natural herbs in traditional medicine to treat stomach irritation, reduce fever and even helping with kidney stones.
Bunga means flower and rampai means assortment. Bunga Rampai is an assorted local potpourri of petals of various fragrant flowers and shredded pandan leaves, mixed with essential oils to give off a charming scent. Flowers often used include jasmine, chempakas (white and yellow versions of the local magnolia flowers, frangipani, kesidang (bread flower, also known as Tikar Seladang or Kerak Nasi) and roses. Traditionally, it is commonly seen in Peranakan and Malay weddings and special occasions. In Peranakan weddings, they are often placed in the bridal chamber or given to wedding guests in potpourri pouches as tokens of appreciation.