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Landscaping is an art form. It is based on careful composition involving textures, colour and other classic components. Whether a sprawling estate or a stamp-size backyard, creating gardens with a soul is the key to truly capturing what the outdoors truly embody.
There's no getting around the fact that Dubai, with its glitzy skyscrapers, sprawling communities and opulent villas, is an urban paradise. Some even call it a concrete jungle. Which is why any opportunity to capture nature and bring out the true essence of the outdoors is most welcome.
''Feeling good about a space is about an emotional connection. This is generally achieved through experiential elements such as vistas, intrigue and mystery, light, the interconnection of space, the capability to host social functions and other intangible elements,'' says Will Bennett, Landscape Architect at Desert Ink. ''Recreating such experiences is not reliant upon expensive materials, but clever design.''
Furthermore, a well-designed, well-maintained garden can increase property value or help achieve a quick sale. ''While the real estate market is going through a correction, a vibrant, well planned garden will help to raise the property's profile against a comparable house on the same street,'' explains Ben Bloomfield, Director at Easigrass. ''In the UAE we have at least seven months of wonderful weather, so it's understandable that outside space, be it a garden or terrace, is a major consideration when buying property.
''Present a buyer with a lush, green, tranquil oasis [and that] it could easily sell the house.''
Property Weekly explores the key trends on landscaping and outdoor design in the emirate, while learning about innovative products that are gaining popularity.
Looking for something dramatic? Then be inspired by the fire-and-water features that create beautiful effects and look great at night. When it comes to lighting technology, this year's trend is the rusty look. Fully rusted light fixtures with the latest LED technology look great, points out Mario Matyas, Operations and Sales Director at Aqua Verde Landscaping and Water Features.
''We are also seeing clients who want to build a basement in the garden,'' says Matyas. ''The lower level is likely to be used as a 'man cave' with gym, snooker and home cinema. The ground level could be used for informal gathering and the roof of this additional building can be used as a fruit and vegetable garden.''
There is also an increasing demand for swimming pools, hot tub decks, artificially grassed play areas and pitches, and terraces for grilling and relaxing. ''We have seen a particular increase in smaller villas and town houses looking to introduce splash pools for all the family and friends to enjoy,'' says Ryan Evans, Operations Manager at Making Ground. ''These areas act as an extension to the home, providing a more liveable open space and a safe area for children to play and adults to relax.''
Also, many homeowners are investing in outdoor technology, including multimedia in their outdoor spaces, smart phones to control everything from music to the lighting and even irrigation in their gardens. ''The latest weatherproof outdoor sound systems are becoming much more common in all types of gardens,'' says Evans. ''In addition, we have seen a lot of these newly developed recreational and outdoor living spaces feature projectors on the gazebo or terrace, with films, photographs and — particularly as we approach the start of the Euro—sporting events being shown outdoors from a unique and comfortable setting.''
But nothing says outdoor entertainment as a gigantic pop-up television. ''Outdoor cinemas are becoming very popular,'' says Brocas Burrows, Director of Platinum House. ''tate-of-the-art popup TV with built-in sound system is a great plug-and play solution. These screens come in three sizes: 103 inch, 130 inch and 155 inch.''
We all want our gardens to look as inviting as possible, but if your lawn is shaded or isn't tended to, it is almost impossible to grow natural grass. This results in dirty, patchy and sandy outdoor areas.
To address this, many homeowners are turning to artificial grass. ''A growing market trend in the UAE is to replace natural grass with artificial grass,'' says Bloomfield, whose company specialises in artificial grass. ''Fake grass needs no water to keep it green, which is also great for reducing your water bill and kinder on the environment as well. Turning off the sprinklers can reduce water consumption by up to 60 per cent.''
Artificial grass also gets rid of those creepy crawlies in your lawn and would not require poisonous pesticides and herbicides needed to maintain a natural lawn. Bloomfield says Easigrass can also be combined with a shock pad to create a bouncy, padded surface, which could be used below a climbing frame or where children are playing.
Making Ground, meanwhile, has developed a sustainable resin-bound paving system, which uses aggregates found in the GCC. ''The system offers sustainable paving with far more benefits and design flexibility than traditional paving methods, plus it uses a non-hazardous, fastcuring, flexible, solvent free resin, which encapsulates decorative stones. The end result is a smooth, seamless, permeable, antislip surface with an attractive natural or coloured stone finish,'' says Evans.
Recently, Making Ground launched Evaglow, a sustainable UV powered paving system that incorporates glow-in the-dark stones to create eco-friendly illuminating pathways and roads.
With year-around sunshine, shade is of great demand in the city, making Dubai a potentially huge market for automated pergolas such as the Italian made Gibus Pergolas. Burrows says these pergolas have automated blades in the ceiling, which help cool the surrounding area.
''There are also retractable glass doors making the pergola cooler in the summer or warmer in the winter,'' says Burrows. ''All pergolas can come with RGB LED lighting, music systems that are all controllable through your iPad or smart phone.''
Keep it sustainable
Garden designers and their clients should commit to creating ecologically restorative spaces. Each garden should be built with precision of form and composition, revealing its own unique personality and character, says Laura Allais-Mare, founder of Slow Food Dubai Convivium.
Allais-Mare says there are a few simple gardening rules to keep in mind to maintain a sustainable garden. ''Companion planting is all about creating plant groups which benefit each other,'' she says. ''It is used as an organic way to protect crops from pests and it can help improve pollination of fruit and vegetable crops. Furthermore, the more diverse your mix of plants, the healthier your garden will be.
''For example, planting chives next to tomatoes. The onion-like scent of chives helps to deter aphids from attacking your tomatoes.''
Compost is the single most important supplement you can have in your ecogarden's soil. A good compost will introduce new and beneficial microorganisms that will help aerate your soil and serve as a natural, non-toxic fertiliser. You can do this by having a compost bin, bucket or compost heap in the corner of the garden. Start by collecting table scraps (fruits, vegetables, egg shells, tea leaves, etc.), coffee grounds, shredded paper, dry leaves and weeds. Never add meat products or leftovers to your compost pile, points out Allais-Mare.
With clever design, it is possible to achieve almost any garden style using native and adapted species that are more suited to the local climate and soil. Tropical-style gardens need not necessarily be filled with sensitive and demanding tropical plants. Using climatically adapted plants will dramatically lower the amount of watering and soil improvement required, saving as much as 60 per cent on water bills and greatly reducing ongoing maintenance.
''Markets are now yearning for a more sustainable landscape, which takes account of the climate, culture and materiality of the region,'' says Bennett. ''As responsible designers, our core value is to embrace the qualities of the region, rather than promote exotic design that is out of context. By using materials such as local Hatta stone, native trees and wonderful desert grasses, Desert Ink has established an exciting new vernacular of landscape design in the UAE, which is almost exclusively sourced within the Gulf.''
Learn how to take the plunge by installing a swimming pool
Source: Sanaya Pavri, Special to Property Weekly