Meet three local gardeners with wonderfully luscious lawns
Time Out Dubai Staff
What are the top tips for maintaining a lush, green garden in the desert? We asked three green-fingered Dubai residents for their secrets to keeping their plants and flowers blooming all-year-round. To start the gallery click here.
Carole Binbrek, 66, Scottish Lives: Arabian Ranches ‘Our garden is our outdoor home,’ explains retiree Carole Binbret. ‘We really feel like it’s ours, because we designed it. We started by laying interlocking tiles, which I bought cheaply at DragonMart. Then we planted local trees and bougainvillea.’ However, Carole says planting local trees such as the neem tree was a mistake. ‘The trees have very long roots that grow underground like a carpet. We had to replace the grass twice, but it didn’t work, so now we have artificial grass! It’s from The Green People (www.greenpeopleme.com) and, while it was expensive, it will pay for itself in a few years – in summer we used to have to water the old lawn three times a day.’
Carole now focuses on her pot plants. ‘I have 150 pots in the garden: bougainvillea and ferns grow very well. I’ve also found that colius works well around the border, with very little labour. ‘My top tip? Don’t be in a hurry to plant. This year I was silly and planted petunias around my fountain in late October – I should have waited until mid-December as they’ve mostly died.’ Carole admits she has invested a lot of time and money in her garden – she even has speakers set up so she can listen to soft classical music while gardening. However, she says it’s all well worth the effort. ‘My husband and I eat every meal out here in the winter and we love it.’
Mike Sands, 56, English Lives: The Springs Since moving into his Springs villa in July 2007, Mike Sands, a creative director at independent advertising agency Face to Face, has worked hard to transform his back garden. ‘It wasn’t really a garden when I moved in – it was a rectangular expanse of parched “grass” with a token aloe vera plant and a fledgling bougainvillea. I didn’t have a master plan for the garden – instead, I bought pots and plants on trips to Warsan Nurseries near Academic City and slowly shaped the garden around the things I bought.’ Mike says he initially focused on plants which supported his passion for cooking, experimenting with a variety of tomatoes, herbs and chilli plants.
Over the years he has introduced a wide variety of fauna. Some, such as his aloe vera, fuchsia bougainvillea, frangipani and banana tree (now plural) have been more successful than others. ‘A couple of the plants struggle in the midst of summer. The banana tree, which is more suited to the tropics, needs a lot of watering.’ Mike’s olive bush also survived for three years, but ultimately failed to flourish. ‘I think the heat of summer and my radical pruning got the better of it,’ he explains. Potted plants such as desert rose and bamboo have proved successful, adding yet more colour and texture to this intriguingly diverse patch. ‘For me, the garden is all about having a space to relax and enjoy the sound of the birds,’ he notes. ‘I also love sitting out in the evenings with the sprinkler on and listening to the sound of my own manufactured rain. Coming from Manchester in the UK, it really makes me feel at home.’
Lynne Vowles, 63, English Lives: Barsha When most people move house, they don’t normally uproot their garden and take it with them. However, that’s exactly what Lynne and Keith Vowles have done. ‘We’ve lived in our current Barsha 3 villa for almost a year,’ says Lynne. ‘Before that we lived in Barsha 2 for 18 months, and before that in a villa in Umm Suqeim for 13 years. Unfortunately we were forced to leave our last two homes, but each time, at much expense, we’ve taken our entire garden and moved it with us.’
Lynne keeps her garden close because it holds special value for her. ‘It’s a memory garden. My son was killed on Dubai’s roads and, to mark his memory, two of his friends, who were landscape gardeners, wanted to build a garden for us.’ Upon moving from Umm Suqeim, Lynne then used the various aspects of that initial garden and designed the next two herself. ‘I buy most of the plants from flower shops behind Choithrams and Spinneys on Al Wasl Road, or the big nurseries beyond DragonMart. Little bedding plants, such as petunias, are about Dhs10 for 12, while bougainvillea might cost Dhs30, and trees Dhs100.’
Lynne makes the very most of her garden, even growing coriander, lettuces, mint, cucumbers, aubergines and tomatoes in winter, and basil, which has survived the summer too. ‘My top tip for beginner gardeners is to make sure your base is fertile: ensure you have a good mix of sweet sand and manure. When you dig a hole for planting, mix in more manure and pour water into it first, so whatever you’re planting receives moisture to the root straight away.’