Dubai is no stranger to impressive landscaping – just look at the city’s golf courses and hotel gardens. The city’s new Miracle Garden, however, trumps them all, looking like a set piece from Tim Burton’s 2010 take on Alice In Wonderland.
The garden is located just behind the Dubailand sales centre, a well-known landmark with its model rollercoaster and motocross rider on the E311 Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (formerly Emirates Road).
Multicoloured mounds are visible as I make my way across from Umm Suqeim Road. With a Dhs20 entry fee for everyone over the age of three, it’s much more expensive than most of Dubai’s parks, but when you step inside, it’s clear that this isn’t a park – it’s more a work of art. And you’re expected to treat it as such.
It’s a striking visual display: there are large mounds planted with petunias and calendulas, cars covered with turf and (curiouser and curiouser) given facial expressions, and displays made from Hannah Montana umbrellas. There are even small walkways with upside-down flowers suspended overhead. And, like any art exhibition, you are free to marvel at the beauty – and madness – of it all, but not to touch.
As I stroll between the garden’s alleged 45 million flowers, wondering which poor soul was assigned the task of counting, I become aware that I’m being followed. As I take a step off the path and onto the grass for a closer look at some petunias, my suspicions are confirmed when the shouting starts. Looking up, I spot another group having a whistle blown at them for standing what is apparently deemed too close to the flowers. Indeed, the garden’s website features nine rules, including that sitting is permitted only in ‘the designated areas’, which appear to be a handful of benches around the edge of the garden, and tables and chairs near the makeshift café. Unless you fancy having a whistle blown at you, it’s probably best to stick to their rules. Given the garden’s relatively removed location, it’s worth noting that the café does a good range of refreshments at reasonable prices – including frozen yoghurt for a mere Dhs5 – so there’s no real need to come armed with supplies.
As a visual spectacle, the Miracle Garden is impressive, if slightly barmy, but as I pass under heart-shaped archways groaning with flowers, I can’t help noticing the scent isn’t as strong as you might expect. ‘With flowers like petunias, the best time to visit is in the evening or early morning, because that’s when their scent is strongest,’ explains Anne Love, author of Gardening in Oman and the UAE.
Whether or not you make it to the Miracle Garden when it’s at its most aromatic, it’s certainly still worth the short drive (it’s only ten minutes from Mall of the Emirates). For now at least, it’s the closest most of us will get to Wonderland. Dhs20 per person, free for under threes.
Open Sun-Thu 9am-9pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm. From Mall of the Emirates on Umm Suqeim Road towards E311, signposted right, www.the-miracle-garden.com.
Create your own Miracle Garden at home
Local gardening expert Anne Love shares her top ways to bring colour to a garden or balcony.
Flower towers ‘Available either as free-standing columns or wall-mounted, these can either be bought flat-packed to fill with soil and colourful plants, or ready-constructed and planted with petunias. For the most striking, Miracle Garden-style look, buy several and use a different colour flower in each.’
Bougainvillea ‘This hardy, fast-growing plant flowers throughout the year, and comes in a range of colours. The creepers are best for creating archways or filling a back wall with colour, while bush versions in pots are good for injecting colour on a balcony.’
Archways ‘An iron-woven archway will help give your garden dimension, and make sure your flower theme isn’t just lining the edges. Bougainvillea and tristellateia are both good: the latter has small yellow flowers and no thorns, unlike the former. You don’t need to start from scratch – ready-potted options are available.’
Vinca hanging baskets ‘This flower comes in a variety of colours, and can withstand high temperatures. Mount a few hanging baskets together and you’ll soon have a wall filled with colour. Vary the levels to make the area you’re working with feel fuller.
All items mentioned, as well as Anne Love’s gardening book, are available at Dubai Garden Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 340 0006).