riverine parks in Singapore

the department of architecture at the National University of Singapore is not only headed by a German but almost a third of its faculty members are either Germans, Swiss or Austrian nationals. their contributions, especially in respect to environmental awareness and more sustainable approaches to building and managing public buildings and – parks in Singapore, and the wider region, are substantial.

one of the most impressive recent transformation has been achieved by NParks ,  PUB and Atelier Dreiseitl (Germans, across Lake Constance with perfect view of Switzerland… hence the creativity and affinity to water?) with the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Riverside park in the center of Singapore.

the former huge and unsightly concrete water canal (drain) for the  Kallang River,  separating older HDBs and the open greenery,  has been replaced with a naturalized, meandering river bed. it finally allows direct access for the housing board residents adjacent to the park – at least when it’s fairly dry – and creates an openness and vast view rarely achieved in such a dense, flat urban area.


the 62 h park is one of the largest in Singapore and the transformation of the canal involved a host of bio-engineering techniques as well as selective plant material which completely maintains the water quality in cleansing biotopes without any chemicals required.

Matthias and I regularly visit the park to see its progress – and take visitors to this as well as other green lungs (parks, nature reserves and reservoirs ): there is an alternative to shopping malls!

for more information and lots of images visit


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Baha’i Gardens Haifa

what a trip… Israel!

not having travelled abroad for a longer distance than to Penang in  the last 3 years, the chance to travel to the Middle East  I could not pass up and  accompanied  Matthias on a biz trip to Israel over Chinese New Year.

we spent a few days on our own and visited an old friend from Hong Kong who moved to Jerusalem 3 years ago.

the images are from the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, smack in the center of the City, starting from the German Quarters right up the Carmel Mountain. they are beautiful, but for the most part not accessible for non-believers.

but the memory of the gardens, indeed almost all parts of the country  we traveled through, pale in comparison to the lingering and deep impression Jerusalem left us with!

what a remarkable place of shared human history, the gateway from the origin of us, emigrating from the African continent on to Europe and Asia, birthplace of quiet some man-made gods, lost cultures and empires – a place fought over for thousand and thousand of years and ongoing still…

our brilliant guide, the historian Eran Tearosh, ended his day tour for us in Jerusalem’s Old City with these wise words:  “in neither the Bible, the Koran, the Torah  or any other religious book or historical document have we ever found proof that any of these gods ever existed. but today, we have walked many hours  over and through the living history of what really matters – the believe!”

now I am revisiting  the book: “a people’s history of the world” by Chris Harman and my interest in history of all kind is revived…




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happy new year everybody!

a caring message of hope,  joy and community  survival – “a subversive plot” TED-story worth watching

best wishes for your “growing success” and a great future of personal gastronomy!


                                           es guets Neuis!


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grow your own

tiny kitchen gardens and small scale food production in planters are gaining increasing popularity,  which spurs on a variety of inventions  in and around planting tools and methods.

I have patented my own planting system (a huge improvement in keeping plants healthy and alive!) and designed an entire plant pot series for in- and outdoor use around it.

my conviction and resolve to only consider producing on demand, in a fully sustainable manner and with natural and recyclable materials has not allowed me to find a manufacturer so far.

I found quiet a few potential buyers/customer (commercial nurseries in Europe and the USA) and lots of clients and friends supporting the idea… but attempting a similar approach like Ritta and friends might really be a good idea!

contact me to know more and to collaborate!

here the link to Ritta’s ted-talk


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ok, I admit, this time I can’t claim that beautiful sunny weather has kept me away from my computer and blog writing…it’s monsoon season and an exceptionally wet one at that.

Matthias and I spent last Sunday afternoon in the Sungei Buloh Wetland and were forced to take shelter from a massive downpour in one of the observation huts – which turned out to be a fantastically rewarding wait!

two otters swam up close, waddled up and underneath the floorboards of the hut, presenting us with a unique and beautiful close-up encounter: we watched them through the spacing in the floor and they looked straight up at us! they were cute (and smelly) and seemed not all disturbed by us!


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our brains

it turned out to be a rather wet month, and the weather forecast for the upcoming “monsoon” season predicts a lot more rain than usual and a longer period on top of that, too. we live on top of the hill – it’s great exercise to get up and down to catch public transport on the main roads but has the added benefit of remaining floods free.

occasionally, accessing the main road needs to be postponed for an hour or two and meetings and errands simply have to be cancelled or re-schedulded…which is really fine with me –  in fact, I love the “slow life”, the freedom to adjust daily activities to nature’s rhythm.

it allows me to read (a lot!), learn and discover new things every day, explore and understand issues and connections. the National Library has a spectacular selection on just about everything , online news platforms and forums and the occasional TV documentary make being held hostage by bad weather a really interesting time!

watched two interesting, informative and worthwhile Ted videos on our brains today :



now, it just started to pour again –  time to go back to reading…

if you need to be sure your imminent trip is a dry one… a good site to check up on the weather in Singapore and Johor:


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Tom DeBaggio


unless you are a plant lover, especially herbs such as rosemary, lavender and basil, you might not have heard of this great herb grower and man.

he died early this year, aged 69. In 1999, he was diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, he was only 57 then.

he was once called the best “rosemaryologist” in the US. he dedicated a gold-edged leave variety to his wife, Joyce DeBaggio, but he could suddenly not remember the name of the plant he grew so successfully and loved the most.

he has written books on his love and knowledge of plants: “Growing herbs from seed, cutting and root”, “Basil, an herb lover’s guide” and with Arthur Tucker “The big book of Herbs”.


but he also wrote incredibly touching and educational books on his disease: “Loosing my mind – an Intimate look at life with Alzheimer’s” and “When it get’s dark”.

I recently read “Loosing my mind” where he goes back and forth between his past memories, the painful present and add lots of information on the disease and medical research.



The diagnosis, with little or no workable therapies to stop it, was a sentence of death as surely as birth, but more immediate.

I am running after thoughts all day. Ideas evaporate like snowflakes on a hot tin roof. A few years ago I felt as normal and was as sharp mentally as my thirty-five year old son. Now, I can’t remember his age or do the math in my head to figure it out. My mind is starting to break down. I have to wait like a hunter to capture a thought, it is tough work all day but it often flits away before I can put it on paper.

I want to cry and I do, but it is a peculiar sound, like a man choking to death. I want to scream but it won’t come. Where did my voice go?

As I sit in the waiting room for the doctor, I realize I am here at the edge of failure and of hope.

I have grown plants, herbs, and vegetables mostly, since I was six and for the last twenty –five years commercially. As a job, this activity allowed me a close look at the life and death of other species.

My prolonged contact with plant life has provided me with an insight on the similar life and death of my own.

We scream louder.


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carrot city

in continuation on the subject of community gardens and small scale food production,  “gardendesignonline.com” just published the following book review :



“”This book definitely has it all: edible walls, rooftop gardens, imaginative containers, veg gardening in window boxes, hydroponic systems, small back yards and community gardens.

In Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture (Monacelli Press, 2011), authors Mark Gorgolewski, June Komisar and Joe Nasr clearly demonstrate that you don’t have to go way outside the city to grow and/or find excellent local produce.

It’s likely the most comprehensive survey to date of the “locavore movement” that’s persuading chefs, educators, designers and homeowners that there are benefits to growing food close to home — it promotes good health and also reduces the carbon footprint.

The book features ongoing projects that are visually striking and that promote the concept of “everyday urban agriculture.”

As the authors put it, “For urban agriculture to gain wide acceptance and generate enthusiasm, the design of buildings and the garden spaces around them that incorporate edible landscaping and space for small livestock must be aesthetically pleasing.”

Designers, they argue, “are uniquely positioned to make a difference.”

What’s truly exciting is the idea that blighted urban areas can be transformed into productive and attractive sites.

You’ll be convinced when you read about the Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson Community Garden in the borough of Queens in New York or the Edible Schoolyard in Brooklyn.

The Carrot Green Roof in Toronto includes space for community activities as well as vegetable and herb gardens, rainwater harvesting and composting systems, and a community kitchen where cooking demonstrations are held.

Atop the Gary Corner Youth Center on Chicago’s South Side, there an 8000+ square foot green roof where education and food production go hand in hand.

At the back of the book, there’s a how-to section illustrating some of the techniques and systems you might want to consider for urban agriculture.

When you see the “plans” for redesigning the urban home, for entire urban communities that are self-supporting, you’ll want to get on board as well.”"


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trying, waiting times…

maybe the best we can do.. sit back, watch and hope for the best – and that of course is as varied as we and our life circumstances are.

following  the news on the “not so free” markets (as if a free market had ever existed) is a rather “unsettling  read”, to say the least.

I waiver between a fatalistic “acceptance” of the unavoidable bankruptcies and national defaults and a frantic analysis and search for “escape options and solutions”.

and admittedly, the equally absurd hope that it will simply “solve itself” – nothing unifies people more than shared misery, and this prospect seems the most certain of them all.

having grown up and into the most prosperous time in human evolution (according to most economists and politicians) poverty and hunger are as abstract to me as most financial products  invented in recent gilded times.


the one thing we can do is getting off the bench and start producing part of our own food to supplement our daily diets.

working the soil and tending the plants will not eliminate worries  but calm the mind and refresh perspectives.

A few herbs in beautiful containers, a bean producing, colorful flowering vine along a sunny corridor, joining a community garden project and putting in a few hours every week maintaining the plot are just a few options to consider.

gardening is relaxing and a simple, pure pastime. it teaches us respect for weather and its impact (since we are also the very ones dramatically influencing it to great dismay and destruction).

it should also make us acutely  aware of the most influential resource for any life on earth: water!

and who knows, there might be a time in not such a distant future, when food production is not an option to spend your spare time with but an existential one.


in reference to the image above (from “The Leichtag Family Healing Garden” at the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California, USA) resting on a bench and reading is way up there on my most favorite list of enjoyments.

“Small is Beautiful – Economics as if people mattered” by E.F.  Schumacher and “The Age of Absurdity” by Michael Foley  - both worth  re-reading in times like these (and any other, frankly).



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edible & ornamental

It’s been a rather eventful summer, politically, economically (no surprise there, though) and personally (my sister’s first visit in Singapore and her second in 22 years living in Asia).

I have again read very interesting and disturbing books… “When the rivers run dry – water, the defining crisis of the 21st century” by Fred Pearce (the author of “Confessions of an eco-sinner” and “The last Generation” amongst others) and “annoying – the science of what bugs us” – a greatly enlightening read about my own irritability…so much for bio-chemical reactions…

I am truly happy to see that so many neighborhood gardens spring up all over the Island, in housing estates, in between built up areas and in our little corner of Singapore, every available space on the sidewalks is converted into ornamental and, to my great pleasure, edible kitchen gardens!

People start producing their own food, from planting simple herbs to smaller fruit trees and vegetable vines, this truly is fantastic to see – whether the reason are the steadily increasing food prices or simply the joy of seeing plants grow, tending to them and harvesting their own fruits of love and labour, is unsubstantial.

Working the soil, turning non-descript walkways and front yards into blooming, colorful and productive spaces is a truly positive development!

A movement all over the world which has clearly caught on here, too!

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summer break

it’s been hot here lately;  sunny clear sky, steady breeze… summer they way I love it!

enjoying the beautiful weather, my sister’s visit (the second in my 22 years of living abroad) and taking care of my small garden space kept me off my computer and writing… and I will extend that and make the most of the ample sunshine but promise to use the next “bad” weather spell to catch up a bit on activities indoors…

in the meantime:

happy summer holidays!

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new hardware

I apologize for the long silence – no news to read, no image to enjoy…

for quiet some time now, Matthias and I considered switching to apple computers, and over the Eastern break, we finally went ahead and did it.  after gazillions of error messages respective alerts that I exceed my hosting capacity, we also switched providers…

none of the above went as smooth, as fast or as painless as we hoped it would  (but then, does it ever?)

it slowly starts to be less painful, but we still encounter way too many error messages to be comfortable with.   please bear with me a little longer ..

for all of you who are leaving Singapore for extended summer holidays:

enjoy and have a great time!

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writing…and cyberspace

I redesigned the look of my website – adding the big yellow “news” button on the intro page – with two goals  in mind:, firstly, to entice people to check out the news/blog and be entertained anew while revisiting the site, and secondly, starting to write a lot more, hence producing the news!

Expressing what I think about, what I care about, what I worry about …what I read about and believe to be valuable enough to be shared with my readers, too.

It was the repetitive mantra of quiet many friends who told me to write:  you have an opinion on anything, so much to share and say and you are hugely entertaining, you make us laugh And think!

But I learned pretty fast that it is much harder to write well than to speak eloquently -sharing a great conversation, where one retort spurs another and stories are spun and woven naturally,  is considerably easier to pull off entertainingly than my attempts in capturing respectively conveying some sort of spontaneity and flow while writing!

I decided to adhere to my friend Deepa’s advice: just write, don’t censor yourself while doing it and give yourself some time to practice; you may get better at it (and if not, I can always simply stop, right?)

 I believe the main reason to be the “unknown” audience; not knowing whom I address, what this person who pressed the news button is searching for and expecting, why she or he arrived at the site: looking for landscape service, a table fountain, an article, the pink luminescent color “Tropical Sexy Pink”… or …me (by far the most uncomfortable reason I can think of)?

Frankly,  I think it’s a lot more fun and intellectually challenging to have an interactive conversation than a monologue with an unidentified human with access to technology…

Which brings me to the subject of my pondering of today: the anonymity of the gazillion numbers of “friends” people have on face book… and the anxiety this cyber “competition” seems to elicit.

I recently read an article in a Swiss paper (such is the convenience of the internet, it allows me to follow up on my fellow Swiss’ worries and sorrows half a globe apart) that the fake, made-up and highly over-extended, over- polished, over-exciting lives of their facebook friends renders their own real lives boring, mundane and utterly not worth living!

 It was reported that more and more (especially young women!) seek the help of psychotherapists as they feel wholly inadequate and therefore extremely lonely: not enough friends, not good enough looking, no adequate career, no boyfriend or husband, and so on…

Which made we really wonder: how can they not be aware that people may assume completely made up identities in the cyber space? How can they believe what they read (and see for that matter!) and compare this to their very real lives?

Harry G. Frankfurt, philosopher,  wrote an essay “On Bullshit” (because there is SOOO much of it) and then followed up with an equally well written and argued essay on “Truth” .

Quote   – If there were no such facts or truths, if the world invariably and unresistingly became whatever we might like or wish it to be, we would be unable to distinguish ourselves from what is other than ourselves and we would have no sense of what in particular we ourselves are. It is only through our recognition of a world of stubbornly independent reality, fact and truth that we come both to recognize ourselves as beings distinct from others and to articulate the specific nature of our own identities. How, then, can we fail to take the imprtance of factuality and of reality seriously? How can we fail to care about truth?   We cannot.  -   Unquote

To all the internet induced depression sufferers: read the book and re-evaluate your position on both issues!

I am not very interested in the cyber world of “avatars” and “youtube”- glory and I always wonder, when and how people actually get anything resembling real work or real life done, with all this twittering, facebooking, sms-ing etc going on…

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enlightened & entertaining statistics


if you have never seen Hans Roesling in action, watch and listen to some of his TED speeches – he makes data exceptional fun;  actually almost magical!

he is an incredibly informative, captivating and entertaining statistician  – and a wonderful man!




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we all have our personal struggles and though times… but disasters like the one ongoing in Japan, on several fronts, sets these in graphic perspective.

I am a bit puzzled why the supply chain of water, food, medical supplies and fuel in Japan itself to the affected areas seems to be very slow and insufficient. Japan is one of the best organized, stocked and logistically managed countries on earth – and most certainly one of the best prepared to deal with natural calamities. 

I understand that it is difficult to be prepared, though, for these three occurences at once;  an earth quake of epic intensity, an ensuing immensly forceful Tsunami and the afflicted damage, with uncertain future impact, to the nuclear plant at Fukushima.

either one on its own would stretch emergency and relief operations, but it’s combination simply has to.  the cold weather and snow fall are adding to the troubles and so does the sketchy public announcements regarding the nuclear fall out.

my heart goes out to all the people affected and bereaved by these natural events  – and wish for speedy and plentiful supply of life’s necessecities, strenght and hope and determination to rebuild their communities

our worries are insignificant and mundane in comparison…

I wish you all contentment and a peaceful weekend

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a cousin in the woods

by coincidence, we discovered this beautiful “wilde” cousin of the Tacca chantrieri whilst hiking trough the Bukit Timah Hills last Sunday…

our thoughts and deep sympathy are with the many Japanese who lost loved ones in Friday’s immense natural phenomena, a seismic event nobody can and ever will be really prepared for

we wish Japan and its people strenghts and endurance and an unwavering drive to restore their communities, villages and landscape

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the final act


e voila!   a stunning natural beauty, to be admired for a few more days…

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when Matthias and I traveled around the world,  almost 30 years ago – about the same time National Geographic predicted that we are heading into the next Ice Age –we were still able to discover and experience  distinct,  authentic and unique cultures and  traditions in the continents and the many countries we visited.

 it was incredibly interesting, beautiful, fascinating and immensely enriching!


now,  our god children and nephews are in their early twenties and do on occasion travel to far away, “exotic” places.

and what do they find,  starting right at the airports,  which more often than not resemble shopping malls with air access?

well,  mostly, the b… same things they find right at home…

Starbucks, Gaps, McDonalds  and lots of other boringly predictable branded stuff

if they are really adventurous, they can try local food… at least this either remained or  underwent recent revival,  thanks to all the food channels and programs on TV worldwide.


The “Americanization” of planet earth, the stripping and destruction of individual ethnicity and culture, traditions and values and “replacing” it with ? what really ? is really tragic!

I believe these “values”-  especially economically (the shortest path to profit) are at the source of all our  problems: the corruption of capitalism and the subsequent destruction of habitat, communities and biodiversity.

I welcome your comments and input – but even more helpful and interesting would be  any suggestions of how to counteract and, at best , reverse these effects.


thank you and have a happy weekend!

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Tacca chantrieri


our potted garden in the hallway has a success story to report:

the Tacca chantrieri produced her very first flower “in captivity”!

it’s highly unusual to flower in a pot, exposed to strong winds and more sun than she really should have…

but maybe another “proof” that my fertilizer-free and minimal maintenance approach to plants is right?

happy, pest-free and reproductive – a great partnership!

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sunny weekend

hiked in Bukit Timah with a friend yesterday,  a splendid, beautiful day with clear blue skies, a gentle but refreshing breeze and lots and lots of fellow walkers on the trails!

the picutre of this Hibiscus flower conveys the beauty and joy of days like that!

happy weekend – enjoy your walks!

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