While focusing on cool hues and minimal lines is often seen as the best approach to designing a garden in the UAE due to its hot and humid climate, the owners of this Arabian Ranches garden took a different path entirely, opting for warm, ethnic shades and a layout that is undeniably Moroccan.
"We took inspiration from Dubai's Bab Al Shams desert resort as well as traditional Moroccan design," Paul Toscana, director of Toscana Landscaping says. "The owners, who love to entertain, wanted a lush, functional garden where they could host friends and family."
The finished space – which is 60 square metres in size, took three months to complete and was part of the Emaar garden competition for 2012 – started out as "an empty space," Paul says. He explains, "Working with different elevations in a limited space proved challenging, but we managed to create a practical outdoor entertainment area by dividing the garden into sections.
While smaller gardens can be difficult to design, this one provides a wonderfully intimate – one might even call it romantic – atmosphere."
The main section – which serves as the visual focal point – is dedicated to a cosy Majlis-style sitting area decorated in a traditional-Moroccan-meets-Emirati style with Bedouin fabrics, jewel-toned cushions, Moroccan lanterns and copper tables taking centre stage.
Complementing this, the paved area leading to the seating space is lined with Arabesque-style pots cleverly transformed into water features with a fully equipped barbecue to the right and a dining area to the left.
"The water features are a wonderful way to bring the comforting sound of water into the garden and also draw bird life into the space in both the summer and winter months," Paul says.
While the garden is stunning by day, Paul says it's just as lovely at night. "Before we started this project the owners and I decided lighting was going to be the focal point through the use of traditional brass Moroccan lanterns.
The warm, flickering light cast by these lamps creates mysterious shadows on the floor and walls, reminiscent of campfire shadows in the desert.
It's a great place to sit and share stories." Texture also played a crucial role in the garden, with Paul employing the use of "Moroccan tiles, stepping stones in coloured shingles, a sunken shower with a Moroccan tile pattern, warm wood for the gazebo and elegant marble countertops around the barbecue."
He adds, "The main tiling work is a mix of tumbled natural stone tiles in four different sizes laid out in what is called a French pattern. Mosaic Persian tiles were custom-ordered by the client as were the water features and brass lights."
While the garden exudes a warm feel, the lush plants surrounding the man-made landscape cool it down substantially. "We planted palm trees to create natural shade while frangipani blooms provide subtle colour and scent," Paul says. "The ground cover and the layered backdrops made up of cycads and phoenix robellini take precedence in the remainder of the space."
As for his favourite aspect of creating the garden, Paul says, "I really enjoyed the execution. As the project took shape everything fell into place exactly as we hoped. It was fun to watch the tile and step details being laid as they lined up well with the garden’s different levels. Playing with colour, texture and line while keeping function, scale and style in mind can help create a beautiful landscape, no matter what size."