When we moved into our villa, the garden was literally a giant sandbox. We paid landscapers to turn it green, and unwittingly agreed to having Damas trees planted, which shot up to the sky in no time at all.
“We’ll plant ten trees,” the head gardener told us (omitting to mention that they’d position the saplings less than ten inches apart). “Very fast-growing trees. Very green,” he said, making bushy shapes with his hands.
Little did we know at the time that our leafy Damas trees would head upwards at an unstoppable rate, rather like Jack’s beanstalk or a hedge fund on speed. Whilst they certainly provided a lot of green foliage, and attracted some interesting birdlife, their rapid, out-of-control growth got me worried when I spotted Day of the Triffids-style stories online, such as A Damas tree ate my house.
The Damas root system, it turns out, is so aggressive in seeking out water and nutrients that it can strangle underground pipes, crack walls, choke drains and kill whole lawns.
We asked our gardeners, the very same people who introduced this species into our backyard in the first place. “Yes, very bad,” they nodded gravely – and it was agreed we’d pay them to topple the overgrown trees in stages.
Today, the remaining five were felled. I say felled, but really I mean pulled down. At least six gardeners arrived with no tools – not a chainsaw or ladder in sight, and proceeded to tear the huge trees down with their hands, an axe and some scissors (okay I made that last one up – they did have shears).
“We stand on the wall and cut as high as our hands can reach,” head gardener, who speaks the most English, has told me in the past, while nibbling on the biscuits I ply him with. And, somehow, this combination of rudimentary tools and manpower results in great big trees being shorn into lollipops.
This morning, when Gardener Scissorhands and his team set about scalping our backyard of its Damas trees, I perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised when, at some point, the water pipe to our house gets bludgeoned too.
After 4 hours with no water, and maintenance refusing to come (because it’s the gardeners’ fault), head honcho announces with a megawatt grin: “It’s fixed!”
Again, no tools! (Funnily, his head scarf has disappeared.)
Anyone who’s ever met a Dubai gardener-turned-tiler-turned-water pipe fixer will know exactly why I’m not expecting to be able to shower tomorrow.