Friday, November 06, 2009

Armenian (part 1 of 2) - Vanda Miss Joaquim (卓锦万黛兰)

Last year I wrote a short article about Armenian community in Singapore. About eight months later, my NMS MD friend Evelyn (若琳) continued with more research and presented a series of well written articles. These articles are archived in the NMS MD websites:

In year 1880 where the local Armenian’s population reached the peak, Singapore had about 100 Armenian families. The Armenian were loyal to the British and paid for the price of imprisonment by the Japanese forces during World War II. During post war period, many Armenian chose to migrate to Australia. At present there are about 20 Armenian still staying in Singapore.

(1917. Note: all the Armenian group photos are obtained from )



Friends asked me where did I obtain the latest magic figure of 20. As the article was not meant for deep research purpose, I was not serious enough to capture all sources of information then. I could only relate based on what I read, who I spoke to when I stepped on the site of Armenian Church and what struck me in my own memory.

Now we can access to more information through the website titled “Armenian Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator Singapore”. The Armenian always reminded us how a small community could create an impact on Singapore.



The website has been updated with group photos of Singapore Armenian community spanned between 1917 and 2009. For those who could understand the Armenian language, there is an article originally published in Նունե Կարապետյան (It takes life to know how to live). The blog is owned by Aljbucit, an Armenian grew up in Yerevan (Armenia) and now staying in the Netherlands.

When I first found out that the Singapore’s national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim (卓锦万黛兰) was named after an Armenian horticulturist, it struck me to learn more about Armenia.

Ashkhen Hovakimian, (Agnes Joaquim) hybridised the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid. In April 1899, Agnes showed her hybrid orchid and won a first prize in the annual flower show. But within three months she passed away at 45 years old due to illness.

In 1981, the orchid was chosen as the national flower of Singapore. However, whether Agnes Joaquim actually spent effort to hybridise the hybrid orchid or merely through natural discovery had created some controversies.

Justice was restored thank to a year 1893 document and the ex-director of the Singapore Botanic Garden.

After producing her orchid by crossing the Burmese Vanda teres with the Malayan Vanda hookeriana, Agnes Joaquim showed the hybrid to Henry Ridley, the director of the Singapore Botanic Garden. Ridley examined it, had it sketched and sent a description to the Gardeners' Chronicle writing that:

‘A few years ago Miss Joaquim, a lady residing in Singapore, well-known for her success as a horticulturist, succeeded in crossing Vanda Hookeriana Rchb. f., and V. teres, two plants cultivated in almost every garden in Singapore.’ (Gardeners' Chronicle 24 June 1893, p.740).

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