The Dendrobium hybrid orchid

Singapore has a long history of orchid cultivation dating back to the mid 19th century when prominent Chinese merchant and orchid collector, Hoo Ah Kay (also known as Whampoa) donated 60 acres of land in the Tanglin area for the establishment of the Botanic Gardens (now the Singapore Botanic Gardens). The Gardens initiated an orchid exchange programme with other botanical institutions and began experimenting with the breeding of orchid hybrids. Private individuals also began cultivating their own hybrids, one of the earliest being the Vanda Miss Joaquim (later designated as Singapore’s national flower) orchid that was successfully bred by Agnes Joaquim and registered in 1893. The private cultivation of orchid hybrids was boosted by the establishment of the Malayan Orchid Society (renamed the Orchid Society of Southeast Asia in 1965) in 1928 by then Director of the Botanic Gardens Eric Holttum, prominent lawyer John Laycock, and horticulturist Émile Galistan. In 1957, the Gardens began a tradition of naming their hybrid orchids after important foreign visitors such as then Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, then Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko of Japan, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji.