( Note: The above pix is taken from the 1961 Bintulu Centenary Celebrations souvenier programme book, pg.50)
Clocking back 50 years today, we found that Bintulu had its first public park planted with trees and shrubs from Singapore. I remember as a kid I used to frequent the only public park in tiny Bintulu of the 60's. The plants I could remember well were the bougainvilleas and the mussaendas( mussaenda philippica) which were planted not only in the park but also in a strip of green corridor between the river and the town shophouses , a distance of about 200 meters.
Fast forward 20 years since the establishment of the park, Bintulu employed a Singaporean by the name of Arthur George Alphonso as its horticultural consultant in its early attempts to put Bintulu's landscaping on a more professional footing comparabe to the like of Singapore.
( Ref: Bonnie, Tinsley (1983) Singapore Green,Times Book International, Singapore. pg.47)
The above picture is taken in 1982 and depicted how George looked when he paid the many visits to Bintulu then, a handsome and tall man. George was a Kew-trained horticulturalist who became the Chief Administrator of the Botanic Gardens from 1970-1976. Upon retirement he set up a private horticultural consulting firm. From 1980-1993, George Alphonso paid regular bi-monthly and sometimes monthly visits to advise on the choice of plants and preparation of landscaping plans for the many major landscaping projects of the 80's. Among them were the following:
a) The Bintulu Golf Course - 1st Nine Hole
b) The Bintulu Divisional Mosque
c) The Taman Tumbina ( previously called The Bird's Park/Bintulu Wildlife Park)
d) The Roadside Tree Planting programmes of Bintulu and Kidurong new townships ( 25 km long) esopecially the protocol roads and roundabouts/ traffic islands.
In the above picture , George is seen standing at the far right joining others in a conversation with the Chief Minister of Sarawak during a short official visit to the new nursery at Sungei Plan, Bintulu that he helpled planned and advised. This picture is taken in the very early 80's.
On this visit the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud had a chat with George whose face is partly hidden by the large and spherical sea grapes leaves ( cocoloba uvifera) which he sent earlier from Singapore for propagation at the nusery.
During his stint with the Bintulu Development Authority ( BDA) George delivered papers to JKR Road conferences and BDA's own seminars on landscaping for other smaller councils in Sarawak and Sabah on the topics of Roadside Trees, Parks and Gardens Planning and Planting Maintenance.
Beside that, George played a meaningful reciprocal role in receiving BDA's key officers for occassional educational trips to Singapore's Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo and Sentosa Island Golf Courses to gain better insights and practical knowledge on Singapore's landscaping success and working models.
Tabebuia alba ( white flowers)
To me however the most memorable contribution of George to the landscaping of Bintulu is in a little brown envelope he sent me in July 1985 which contained the seeds of Tabebuia rosea/alba. From this envelope came the thousands of beautiful trumpet trees that we see flowering twice yearly in Bintulu nowadays.
Tabebuia rosea ( pink flowers)
To think that all these large and beautiful trees came in a envelope from George is indeed a treasured memory of him for me and the Singapore connection.
( P.S. These pictures of the trumpet trees in heavy flowering were taken last month in Bintulu.)