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Gardenlust: The Miracle Garden in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

by Timber Press on September 25, 2018

in Design, Gardening

Forty-five million petunias and geraniums in the desert. A mirage, a madness, a Garden of Eden, or a paradise?

Akar Landscaping Services • 18 acres (7.3 hectares) • 2014

Dubai is a modern desert city, seemingly always under construction with one glorious or inglorious thing after another. The weather is wonderful in the autumn, winter, and spring and appallingly hot in the summer. The temperatures relate directly to the population’s available avenues of recreation.

In the cooler seasons, many flock to see the Miracle Garden. There is a British slang word that may adequately describe a person’s reaction to the Miracle Garden: “gobsmacked.” There is no doubt that entering through the petunia-laden gates is a jaw-dropping experience. If all you normally see is desert—dry and dusty—all these flowers and yes, even petunias, might seem luxurious, a feast for the senses.

Seemingly endless archways of petunias lead to crossing hearts writ with geraniums. Igloos, too, and pyramids, domes, and a village of flower-strewn cottages. Let us not forget pink flamingos, and let us pay attention to a somewhat alarming fountain of an upside-down automobile penetrated by a thick column and pouring water. There is dried fruit too—thousands of lemons clothing what looks like a Tyrolean castle, and, in another piece, a model of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, also made from lemons. For the romantic ornithologist there are pink swans and white peacocks. It is remarkable what can be done with petunias.

Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Garden designers talk about sustainability, whatever that actually means, and design intent, and invasive versus native plants, and so on. They question whether garden design is an art or a craft. Meanwhile, the overall population, oblivious to these back-room conversations, just wants to have fun, a place to take the kids, and an opportunity for selfies.

The Miracle Garden succeeds. It is for the enjoyment of beauty without the complications of intellect, and it doesn’t pretend anything else. It’s honest. With Dubai’s children having such little access to truly green space, any time spent outdoors, even at this riotous and fantastic garden, is an appropriately laughing matter.


Christopher Woods began his gardening life at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. He was director and chief designer of Chanticleer, and he has served as vice president for horticulture at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden; director of the Van Dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada; executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden; and director of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Meadowbrook Farm.


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