Gardening in Dubai

The first International Garden Competition sprouts up

Area Guides
Area Guides

The first International Garden Competition is sprouting up in the emirate this week. Benita Adesuyan catches up with the organiser who has set his sights squarely on helping the city turn a new leaf in horticultural pursuits.

The first Dubai International Garden Competition is aiming to give the emirate a green makeover. From Thursday April 3 to Sunday 6, 13 landscaped, creative gardens will be taking root in Downtown Dubai, creating an oasis of flora and fauna among the city’s high rises.

The competition is organised by Pure Life, which has challenged some of Dubai’s best landscape gardening companies to put their designs to the test in this event. Nadeem Abbas, Director of Pure Life, who is in charge of the competition and has overseen the design entries, says he is encouraged by the strength of the designs that have been submitted that Dubai’s gardening future is positively blossoming.

In a city that generally doesn’t garden for personal leisure or fun, Dubai’s landscapers certainly have some grand designs. A sneak peak at some of the submitted designs for this year’s competition show that visitors to the event will be in for a treat, with gardens that show that there’s much more to gardening in Dubai than an infinity pool and the odd smattering of some well-placed bougainvillea.

‘The designs that have been selected for the competition reflect imagination and creativity, the whole point is to show what people can do,’ says Abbas. ‘From the designs that have been submitted and shortlisted so far only a few have been practical, the rest are just very imaginative. Imagination is very important in this field because you want to create a wow.’

Toscana Landscaping and Pools, is just one of the shortlisted gardens exhibiting in the competition, and has been creating landscaped gardens in Dubai since 2008. It is creating one of the 12,150 square metre gardens, and Marketing Manager Firas Alsayed hopes that by entering the competition it will be a platform to show what landscape gardening is all about. ‘This competition takes a lot of commitment. We believe we have the best crew in design, so first of all it’s not about the money, but about participating and participating is a privilege, especially at this level – after that, may the best player win.’

The standard of the competition is decidedly high, and the shortlisted designs have been selected by representatives from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the UK, the organisation that hosts the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Chelsea Flower Show in London is considered to be the biggest and best flower show on the planet, and has provided the inspiration for this event. CEO of Pure Life, Nasser Khan, wanted to see a similar event
in Dubai, believing climate and location should not be a barrier to the event’s success, but can Dubai really rival that?

Abbas seems to think so. ‘We are already planning for 2015, and it will be called the Dubai International Gardening Festival and we will acquire at least ten times more space and have similar sections like Chelsea, where there is not only a gardening competition, but also a flower competition, fruits and vegetables, and equipment suppliers – and that will run year-on-year.

‘If you compare the designs that RHS see, our designs are no shorter than that and RHS were surprised by the quality, they didn’t think Dubai was that far ahead in landscape design. We’re going to give Chelsea a hard time!’

A delegation from RHS will be attending the event to monitor its progress, and will be part of the judging panel. There will also be a People’s Choice Award, so everyone who comes to the event will have the chance to vote for their personal favourites.

Unlike the Chelsea Flower Show, there won’t be a ‘sell-off’ day after the judging, but all the designers and landscapers are consciously trying to minimise waste wherever possible. Green-fingered visitors are able to talk to the designers about elements of the garden that they might wish to add to their homes. Firas Alsayed of Toscana feels that the right garden can not only improve the look and feel of your home, but it can add instant value. ‘One of our clients made a general profit on his villa straight after he had the landscaping done – the value of the house increased so much he got the profit plus the cost of the landscaping back.’

Abbas hopes that the event will change the gardening landscape in Dubai and get more people involved in the process. ‘Gardening is not a hobby here, because gardening is so cheap, you can hire a gardener for Dhs1,000 a month. But we want to change the mentality – yes get a gardener to maintain it, but involve yourself in it as well.’
Dubai International Garden Competition. Free. Thursday April 3-Sunday April 6. Downtown Dubai, (04 421 5959).

Top tips for gardening around the city
• Choose plants that thrive in warm climates, such as hibiscus, cacti, palms, and natal plum.

• Don’t have outdoor space? Bring the outdoors in and invest in potted plants. Be sure not to over-water them and remember they still need plenty of light.

• Be a balcony gardener. You can grow fruit, herbs and vegetables in pots on a small balcony space. Check the information on the seed packs for the right positioning each plant needs. Tomatoes are a fun and tasty plant to try for novices.

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