With the world’s largest tower, the highest hotel and the biggest shopping mall, Dubai has never been known for subtlety. With the opening of the Miracle Garden at Dubailand, the city’s penchant for the over-the-top and extreme continues.
The largest natural flower garden in the world, the Miracle Garden opened on Valentine’s Day 2013 to worldwide fanfare. Designed by the noted landscape architecture firm Akar Landscape Services and Agriculture, the 220,000 square metre garden features dazzling displays of colourful blooms, many of which have never been seen in the Middle East before.
Turning the Desert Green
So what does it take to turn what was, for the most part, an arid stretch of desert sand into one of the world’s most impressive botanical gardens?
For starters, around $11 million dollars — plus 45 million flowers, 400 workers and more than two months of soil preparation, digging and planting. The meticulously manicured displays include everything from archways to classic American automobiles formed by flowers to intricate geometric designs. More than 30 different varieties of flowers were used in the garden including geraniums, petunias, marigolds and pansies.
Of course, the Middle Eastern desert isn’t exactly a prime growing region for many of these blooms, leading the designers to come up with creative and environmentally friendly solutions for caring for the flowers. Abdel Nasser Y. Rahhal, Akar’s general manager, explained that the garden is watered using an advanced wastewater recycling and drip irrigation system. Coupled with the fact that Dubai’s weather during the growing season — which extends from October through May — tends to be rather mild, with daytime temperatures rarely rising above 26°C and only dipping to around 10°C in the evening, very little of the moisture evaporates, keeping the flowers healthy and vibrant.
Plans for Expansion
The initial phase of the Miracle Gardens marks only the beginning of Dubai’s foray into developing outdoor green spaces. Because the summer months tend to be exceedingly hot (on average, daytime highs hover around 40°C) the garden will be closed from June through September each year. This will allow the designers to expand the gardens to incorporate a planned butterfly garden, as well as an edible plant section where visitors can pick their own fruit. There are also plans to add shops and restaurants to the garden, including a nursery where visitors can purchase plants and seedlings for their own gardens.
More importantly, though, the garden designers will also completely redesign and replant the flowers on display, creating an entirely new space before opening next fall. Going forward, the Miracle Garden will change every year, with new displays and flower combinations to explore.
The Miracle Garden is part of Dubailand, an expansive recreation and entertainment district on the outskirts of the city; you won’t find Dubai hotels very close to the complex, but it’s easily accessible via car. The planned community — which already houses nearly 100,000 people — offers several sports facilities including a golf course, horseback riding centre and Dubai Sports City, a facility that offers classes and schools in a number of sports. Dubailand also offers the Autodrome at MotorCity, a full auto race track where visitors can watch the pros race, or (on specific days) test out the performance of their own cars in the controlled environment of the race track.
Dubailand is also where you’ll find Global Village, a shopping and dining complex that honours cultures from around the globe. The nearby Dubai Outlet Mall is the only such shopping complex in Dubai. In a city that is known for excess, this mall is the one place where visitors and locals can find bargains on everything from designer clothing to home furnishings.
At one point, Dubailand was also expected to be the site of a branch of the popular Universal Studios Theme Park. Although construction started on the project in 2007, there has not been any significant work on the project since 2009; in late 2012 the ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced that the country still plans to invest in the entertainment complex.
For the time being, though, Dubailand’s Miracle Garden is the newest addition to the area, offering a quiet and visually stimulating respite from the crowds of the city.
About the Author: An avid gardener afflicted with a terrible case of wanderlust, Millie Mahon was thrilled to be one of the first to see Dubai’s Miracle Garden. She writes about gardens around the world, often finding deals on Expedia hotels to keep her globetrotting expenses as low as possible.