Amasked band of stealthy visitors swoop into the periphery of the District 10 good class bungalow. They take what they want from the house, then leave, only to return three hours later to repeat the process.
That’s how welcome the thrushes feel in Victor Ow’s abode, which has been seamlessly worked into the surrounding landscape by means of large swathes of garden, and a conscientious effort to green every nook and cranny. The 61-year-old finds calm and joy in landscaping, a self-taught skill that he picked up from books and in consultation with botanists and suppliers. He is able to recite offhand the height of certain saplings, and detail how their maximum height affects the choice of placement in his properties.
“Harmony with the surroundings (is the goal),” says the chairman and CEO of Clydesbuilt Group, which specialises in real-estate development and investment. He attributes his hobby to a deep love of nature; he’s gone as far as to plant over dozens of fruit-bearing trees near his home so that the wildlife can flourish. “For me, it is wonderful to be in tune with the great nature… animals are part of that big picture. It is a good sign that my house is overflowing with blessings, and that they should visit.”
Ow’s domestic helpers are instructed to leave bird feed out for the white-crested thrushes that have become part of the Ows’ daily life. They’re a favourite of guests to the bungalow, within which sits a greenhouse-like patio that houses a trellis of hanging petunias. “I specified that this batch of petunias be in shades of red only, and at the right timing for Chinese New Year. I’ve learnt how to control the bloom over the years.”
The systematic aspect of landscaping is congruent with Ow’s discipline as a civil engineer and, later, a property developer. “I’m a regimented person,” says Ow, who had humble beginnings as a child in a cramped HDB flat. He eventually scrimped enough from his first apprenticeship for a bachelor’s degree in the United Kingdom. “I would stand no farther than a few metres from where my men were drilling, to make sure everything was done to a tee.”
It was that dedication and attention to detail that earned Ow numerous contracts when he eventually founded his own company in 1983, at the age of 28. Even for its latest project, the $320 million Eleven @ Holland, Ow picked out the greenery that would daub every corridor, and went on-site to educate the gardeners on how long to water each group of trees. “Two minutes, no less,” says Ow. “They need that much water, else they will dry out.”
Despite his vast list of achievements, being close to nature is his greatest contentment. He says: “We need so little to be happy. When you work so hard in business, you need some form of therapy to bring you back to earth, to appreciate your loved ones. This is mine. And once there’s balance in your life, when the hard knocks come along, you will keep your calm, and deal with it well.”