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With our national day and SG50 fast approaching, it’s time to take a deeper look into our national flower, the ubiquitous (in Singapore!) yet uniquely beautiful Vanda Miss Joaquim, to learn more about its origins and why it won the honour of being Singapore’s national bloom.

How did our national flower get its name?
The Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ orchid is named after its breeder, Ashkhen Hovakimian, (Agnes Joaquim b. 7 April 1854, – d. 2 July 1899), an Armenian horticulturist, who lived in Singapore. An avid gardener like her mother, she specialized in breeding orchids.

Also known as the Singapore Orchid or the Princess Aloha Orchid, the Vanda Miss Joaquim is a hybrid of two orchids – the Burmese Vanda teres (now called Papilionanthe teres) and the Malayan Vanda hookeriana (now called Papilionanthe hookeriana). It won the prize for the rarest orchid at the 1899 annual flower show, and as the first prize, it was named after her.

Did you know?
Agnes Joaquim’s maternal grandfather, Isaiah Zachariah, was one of the first members of Singapore’s Chamber of Commerce.

How did it become our national flower?
On 15 April 1981, the Vanda Miss Joaquim was selected from 40 contenders to be our national flower for its resilence and year round blooming quality, to represent Singapore’s uniqueness and hybrid culture. Of the 40 contenders, 30 of them were orchids.

Orchids in general are rich in symbolism. Some of its associations are luxury, elegance, fertility, with different shades bringing with them different connotations.

CT-1005_Vanda_Miss_Joaquim

How do I identify the Vanda Miss Joaquim?
An orchid that is only found and grown in Singapore, each stem can bear up to 12 buds, and usually 4 flower blossoms at a time; each flower measures 5 cm across and 6 cm tall. The petals are twisted such that the back surface faces the front like its parents. Rosy violet top petals and pale mauve side petals are characteristic of the Vanda Miss Joaquim; the large and broad lip of the orchid is violet-rose, and merges into a contrasting fiery orange that’s finely spotted with dark purple center.

How do I care for the Vanda Miss Joaquim?
Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ is a robust sun loving plant that requires heavy fertilizing and a vertical support to enable it to grow straight and tall along with free air movement and high humidity. It starts blossoming after its stem rises 40 to 50 cm above the support.

Orchids in general are wonderfully versatile. Elegant and regal, they are a great addition to any floral arrangement – both as houseplants or a touch of beauty to any event.

Photo credit: Thai Flower Art

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