I’d seen the sign in the corner of my eye while driving home from work last week: Dubai Miracle Garden. Hmm, I’d thought, I wonder what on earth THAT is?
You spot signposts laden with superlatives all the time in Dubai. On the last stretch of main road on my way home, you’re directed to an incongruous-sounding place known as Endurance City, and as you wind through the desert to our compound there’s a mysterious sign for somewhere called Lifestyle City – pointing, quite literally, to the barren middle of nowhere.
Judging by all the construction activity, I presume this ‘city’ of gym-loving, organically self-sufficient lifestyle disciples will soon rise from the sand, like the rest of Dubai.
The promise of a ‘miracle garden’, however, conjured up fleeting images of a children’s crystal garden chemistry experiment that were promptly erased from my mind in my rush to get home.
Then, the garden, which has sprouted just five minutes from our house, was featured on one of my favourite blogs. “By amazing garden, I don’t mean that Fatima round the corner has planted some new geraniums,” the author promised. She was talking about a site that claims to be “the most beautiful and biggest natural flower garden in the world.”
We were intrigued enough to pay the garden a visit this morning. My parents are staying and long-time readers will know my mum’s a gardener – I’d go so far as to say she’s a horticulturalist. “It won’t be like England, Mum,” I warned. “But this could be interesting.” And who wants to see the Burj when you’ve seen it hundreds of times already.
Opened on Valentine’s Day, Dubai Miracle Garden contains an incredible 45 million flowers, growing on land that was previously parched desert. The 72,000-square-metre site is a mass of colour, with traditional flowerbeds and topiary-style displays fashioned into hearts, pyramids, maypoles, igloos, birds and stars. In true UAE-style, there are cars with petunias and marigolds growing out of them, as well as a huge falcon covered in red and white blooms.
I’ve quite honestly never witnessed anything quite like it. If you’ve been to the UAE, you’ll have seen the pretty roadside displays of flowers that adorn the city’s junctions and roundabouts – the Miracle Garden takes these to a new and grandiose level, with an amusing twist.
Against a backdrop of arid desert, cranes and the replica space shuttle and rollercoaster that tower over Motor City, it’s a brilliant and expansive kaleidoscope of colour that brightens up the dusty, half-developed, suburban landscape no end.
So what did my green-fingered mother make of this explosion of flowers in the desert?
“Unique,” my mum ventured, “but not exactly natural,” she added, referring to the fact that not one flower is native to the region.
It takes a mind-boggling amount of water to establish a desert oasis like this – and keeping it alive in hostile conditions requires huge quantities every day. It’s made possible, the developer says, “through judicious re-use of waste water, through drip irrigation.”
But despite the lack of native plants more suited to the climate, we thoroughly enjoyed strolling around the Miracle Garden and walking under pergolas decorated with garlands of flowers. With plans to add retail outlets, restaurants and shops, and to change the floral displays each season, I’ve a feeling we’ll be back the next time my parents stay.
For further information, please visit the garden’s website.