Veteran orchid cultivator among four to be recognised for preserving culture, passing down skills

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SINGAPORE - An orchid cultivator who has been involved in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ orchid programme since the 1960s is among four individuals or groups who will be recognised by the National Heritage Board (NHB) next Tuesday for promoting and passing on their skills and traditions.

They will receive the Stewards of Intangible Cultural Heritage Award, which lauds practitioners who have made outstanding contributions in their field, and passed on their knowledge “by nurturing youth practitioners; reaching out to contemporary audiences and the wider public; and bringing practitioners and communities together”, said the NHB.

This is the third edition of the award, which was launched in October 2019. Each winner will receive a trophy, certificate and a $5,000 cash prize. They can also apply for a grant of up to $20,000 to further fund their work.

Nominees each must have had at least 10 years of experience in their practice and be a respected member of their community, among other criteria.

Here are the four award winners.

Cultivator who registered more than 200 orchid hybrids

Mr Syed Yusof Alsagoff, 88, has cultivated and registered more than 200 orchid hybrids in a career that spanned over six decades.

“Living near the Botanic Gardens as a child, I used to play there with my siblings,” he recounted.

“Being among the flowers, I got interested and tried my hand at cultivating roses.”

His attempts did not bear much fruit, as roses were difficult to grow in Singapore’s climate. He then turned his attention to orchids.

The self-taught orchid breeder served on the Orchid Society of South East Asia (Ossea) committee from 1964 to 1997, including 14 years as its president.

He helped the National Parks Board and Singapore Botanic Gardens train new staff in orchid breeding, and played a key role in developing the National Orchid Garden.

“What I love about orchids is how you are able to breed new varieties. There are currently over 24,000 known species, and a lo...

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