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A taste of the tropics in Arabian Ranches

Inventive landscaping, exotic plants and European architecture have transformed this once tired piece of turf into a laid-back and luxurious garden

  • This luscious, well-composed garden is the perfect setting for laid-back winter entertaining.Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • The bar area is Paul’s favourite part of the garden.Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM
  • Marble fountains framed by black and white pebbles greet guests at the entrance (left), gravel beds add symmetImage Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM

It was a coral-hued flame tree, an exotic neem tree and a cluster of date palms at the back of this garden that cemented Dr Ayman Adbul Hadi and his wife Mountaha’s decision to move to the 8,000 square-foot property in Arabian Ranches. “We’d been living in our previous Umm Suqeim home for 12 years, and we wanted something with a larger outdoor space,” says Ayman, a novice gardener and lover of all things green. “We knew this was the space we’d been looking for when we saw the potential of the garden.”

While the architectural style of the villa is Spanish – expansive terraces, balconies and roof tiles meet dusky pink walls – the garden evokes a feeling of languid relaxation akin to poolside holidays in tropical climes. Ayman laughs at the comparison, but admits that is the look he and Toscana Landscaping, the company that helped transform the once sparse outdoor space, were going for. “We wanted the garden to have a laid-back, resort-like atmosphere, but it took time and effort to get it looking that way. While we kept the trees we’d originally fallen in love with at the back of the garden, the rest of the planting scheme is entirely new.”

Paul Toscana, managing director of Toscana Landscaping, says the garden took three months to complete. “While clearing it took time, once we started the actual build, the process of laying the landscape down sped up significantly.” Today, fat clumps of ravanella trees, milky swirls of taberna montana, dreamy frangipanis and fan-like Washingtonia trees take position along the sides of the garden, creating a lavish, tropical atmosphere. In keeping with the European architectural theme and, “to remind me of my childhood home in Palestine” Ayman says, an olive tree was planted near the outdoor seating.

One of the garden’s main features, the swimming pool, was already there when the family moved in, but Paul says it was “probably our biggest challenge, because it wasn’t parallel with the house, so the flow of the design didn’t look right”. Paul and his team resolved this by lining it up with the dining area. He says the bar and barbecue area, clad in lustrous black marble, is his favourite design element. “It exudes a slick, masculine feel, and picks up the garden’s shades of green beautifully. We went to town with these two features, upping the luxury factor and creating a five-star feel.”

As for water features, “we wanted something impressive but not ostentatious,” Ayman says. Paul and his team took up the challenge, designing two main water elements. The first is a contemporary piece made up of three square marble fountains housed in a rectangular pebble bed, filled with monochromatic stones. The second is a terracotta Spanish pot, in delicious contrast to the pool’s turquoise mosaic tiles, sitting atop a square plinth and churning water into the pool via a stone water cascade.

While many homeowners in Dubai opt for lawn around terrace and pool areas, Paul advised against this. “We suggested Ayman use artificial grass to keep maintenance costs down and prevent water spillage on potentially slippery stepping stones,” he says. As for delineating beds and linking sections of the garden, Paul designed gravel and pebble pathways that double up as the garden’s “mapping system”.

Ayman and Paul agree that lighting is the garden’s most important feature. As the sun goes down, pale purple lights illuminate the plush bar and barbecue area, while pools of white spill on to side walls, creating dancing shadows and transforming the garden’s zesty daytime hues to dreamy, translucent shades. “After a hard day’s work there’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting at the fire pit taking in the greenery,” Ayman says. “I’ll never get tired of it.”