DUBAI: In a desert country where advances in landscape technology are constantly defying the odds, you could be forgiven for thinking that rows of trees lining some of the most prominent roads, communities or even private villas are artificial.
But a closer look at them would reveal they’re not.
Grown naturally, these trees are just tailored to achieve an exact height, trunk width and even spread of the canopy.
Naser M. Ahmad, co-founder of Proscape Landscaping and Acacia nursery, the largest supplier of such trees in the UAE, said: “Trees take time to grow and not everyone is willing to wait. Add to this the hot weather conditions, and they would much rather get mature trees that can instantly beautify their landscape.”
A pioneer in this field, Ahmad said: “We grow the trees to specification in India, uproot them, wash all the soil from the root as required by local regulations and transfer them into a cocopeat or sterile planting medium where they take fresh root. We then bring the trees to the UAE in air-conditioned containers in compliance with the laws.”
He said the ornamental trees are produced as per benchmarks he has derived from British standards. “We grow 16 kinds of trees whose height ranges from 1,750 to 8,000cm and the girth 4-6 to 60-70cm. Even the size of the trunk and canopy spread is specific. For example, a 7-8 metre tree will have a clear trunk of 3 metres and a canopy of 3-3.5 metres.”
15500trees brought into the UAE by Cottonwood last year. It has an order for 20,000 trees this year and 30,000 in 2020.
Periyaswamy Dhanaraj, project engineer at Akar Landscaping, said mature trees don’t come cheap, yet they have many takers.
“A small tree with a trunk diameter of 40-50mm, clear trunk of 1.8 metres and an overall height of 3.3-3.5 metres would cost around Dh250-300. Whereas a mature tree that has a 100 to 120mm diameter, clear trunk of 1.8 to 2 metres and an overall height of four to five metres can cost seven to 10 times more.”
Ahmad said: “You are buying time for the cost. An average ornamental tree would take five years to mature, but here you are getting it ready made.”
A spokesperson for the Wahat Al Sahraa Nursery said: “Typically, large trees are bought by people who want to have a more immediate impact on their garden or environment. An avenue or grove planting of mature trees provides the visitor with a strong visual effect and helps to convey the message of entering a well-established and well-designed area.”
A softscape project manager, who works with several five-star hotels and developers, said: “Everyone these days wants fully grown trees so that they have a finished look as if to show they’ve been there for many years. They want a completely acclimatised tree that is ready for a property launch or even an event.”
Dh250-300 cost of a tree with a trunk diameter of 40-50mm, clear trunk of 1.8 metres and an overall height of 3.3-3.5 metres
The experts said mature trees that have the biggest demand in the UAE include Delonix Regia or gulmohar trees, Peltophorum Inerme or yellow flame trees, Millingtonia or jasmine trees, Azadirachta Indica or neem trees and Ficus Religiosa or sacred fig trees.
But what about the good old date palms?
The Wahat Al Sahraa spokesperson said: “Date palms are a very evocative symbol of the region, its history and its people. Mature date palms are of the easiest palms to transplant and a common sight both in public and private areas. The same can be said of Washingtonia palms. The use of the more ornamental types of palm trees has been growing over the years to provide gardens with a more international and tropical look.”
How mature trees are sourced
Mature trees sold in the UAE are generally imported.
One of the main sources is Cottonwood, an agrotech company set up by Nasser Ahmad of Proscape, which cultivates these trees in 90 hectares of land in Bengaluru and Cumbum of South India. Each of the farms has a greenhouse measuring 3,600 square metres. Ornamental trees from here comply with the BS 3936-1:1992 landscaping standard, and are grown in an eco-friendly manner as the farms harvest their own water and use solar power.
For a 6-8cm girth tree, it takes four-five years to mature to a girth 20-25cm. As the trees at Cottonwood grow over this period, there are many changes that are incorporated when there is an import order from the UAE.
As per UAE regulations, all imported trees must be brought in sterile media free of pathogens and nematodes and should meet all quarantine requirements. The trees produced in Cottonwood are accordingly uprooted, washed of all soil from the root, and transferred into a 100 per cent sterile medium — cocopeat — so that they can take fresh root before they are brought into the UAE. When ready, they are transported in 40 foot reefer (air-conditioned) containers as required by local laws here.
Cottonwood, which brought in 15,500 trees in 2018, is now catering to a shipment order of 20,000 trees this year and 30,000 in 2020.