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Stephen Allan

See a Massive Flower Garden in the Dubai Desert

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Stephen Allan

The world’s largest flower garden exists in a place you might not expect. It’s found not in the lush Tuileries of Paris or the Renaissance-era terraces at Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy, but in the desert outside Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Opened on Valentine’s Day 2013, the Dubai Miracle Garden is the world leader when it comes to enormous flower gardens, comprising 150 million individual flowers and blowing its nearest competitor, the tulip-based Keukenhof in the Netherlands and its 7 million blooms, out of the water. It's an entire theme park devoted to flowers, featuring peacocks, castles, windmills, houses, cars, a giant woman, and a replica of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, all made out of flowers. You even have to walk through a huge (fake) flower to get inside. At close to 2 million square feet, the complex also includes retail stores, a mosque, a floral clock, and the region’s first butterfly garden.


Being inside is a charming flavor of bizarre, like strolling through a Lewis Carroll book or a flower world in Super Mario Bros., if such things existed. Rainbow blossoms dazzle the eyes in every direction. Some of the more surreal displays include an upside-down flower house and a giant faucet (not made of flowers) suspended in mid-air, pouring water into a small lake. Romance also seems to be a major theme at the park—in keeping with its opening date—with heart-shaped archways and swans perched throughout. Not surprisingly, it’s a popular spot for wedding-related photo shoots.

The bulk of the floral displays stay the same year after year, although each fall—after the garden closes for the blistering hot Arabian summer—a handful of exhibits change. The park currently includes at least 45 different species of flower imported from around the globe, many of which are difficult to cultivate in the desert and rarely seen in the Middle East, such as geraniums, marigolds, calendulas, and petunias.

In addition to being the world’s largest garden in terms of flower count, the Dubai Miracle Garden also holds the current Guinness record for largest flower arrangement. That award was bestowed in December 2016 for a floral structure in the shape of an Airbus A380 that’s 230 feet long and includes more than 500,000 fresh flowers and plants, constructed over a frame built from recycled materials.

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In addition to the large-scale floral sculptures, the Dubai Miracle Garden has a medicinal plant section and a fruits-and-veggies section. Guests are able to make their own salads and teas from the plants, with designated seating areas set up for this purpose. The idea is to educate guests on healthy, unprocessed, plant-based diets, as well as “mindful eating”—knowing what’s in your food and where the ingredients came from. (Perhaps the nearby ice cream and candy vendors are there in order to test visitors on their healthy-eating willpower.)

Aside from the enormous displays, the most impressive thing about the garden is that the whole operation is fed via recycled wastewater. The facility uses a unique drip irrigation system wherein the tubes run under the soil rather than alongside the plants on the surface, thereby helping to avoid evaporation—a major issue with above-ground drip irrigation systems. This subterranean method uses a fraction of the water and energy required in a conventional system—less than a tenth of a gallon of water is required to hydrate a plot that would usually need 2.5 or 3 gallons. That’s a big deal when your garden uses 200,000 gallons of water per day. When the garden opened, its landscapers, Akar Landscaping and Agriculture Company, told Gulfnews.com they wanted to show “it’s possible to green the desert through judicious re-use of waste water, through drip irrigation.”

Considering its location on the arid Arabian Peninsula, this is probably the cleverest—and possibly the only—way to make such a massive, fantastic oasis bloom in a place where water is in very short supply. And that is indeed miraculous.

 
 
 
 
 

All photos by Stephen Allan unless otherwise noted.

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5 Smart Gardening Devices to Turn Your Thumb Green
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iStock

Just because you are a little absentminded about your houseplants doesn’t mean you can’t be a gardener. In the 21st century, there are plenty of smart tech solutions to care for your plants. Here are five technological tools to keep your plants alive, no matter how terrible a plant parent you are:

1. HELLOPLANT; $26

A blue sensor is placed in a pot of purple flowers next to a phone with the HelloPlant app open.
HelloPlant

Helloplant, a new Kickstarter project, is a sensor that you insert into the soil of your pot to keep tabs on your houseplant. The associated smartphone app will ping you if the Wi-Fi-connected sensor detects that your plant is drying out, and it can tell you where the plant is getting light. The recommendations are customized based on what kind of plant you label it as in the app. Best of all, it’s cheaper than other smart gardening solutions, coming in at just under $26 per sensor.

Find it: Kickstarter

2. PARROT POT; $90

Parrot’s smart pots use embedded sensors to monitor and tend to your plants whether you’re home or not. They are self-watering, preventing you from under-watering or over-watering your delicate houseplants. You can go on vacation for up to a month and the Parrot Pot will take care of your precious basil plant for you. The four sensors measure light, temperature, moisture, and fertilizer levels and send the information to your phone so that you can analyze how your plant is doing. It’s the perfect assistant for someone who wants to develop a green thumb but isn’t quite sure how to start.

Find it: Amazon

3. GROWTH

Three plants in white GROWTH planters are placed on the floor.
Studio Ayaskan

With GROWTH, you never have to worry about your plants outgrowing their pots. The origami-like containers can expand so your growing plant has more room as it gets bigger. Created by the London-based design shop Studio Ayaskan, the white pots will give your apartment a minimal, modern vibe. The pots are not widely available yet, sadly. The studio recommends you subscribe to its newsletter to get an alert when they go on sale.

4. PLANTLINK SENSOR; $70

A white sensor is hidden within the leaves of a potted plant.
PlantLink

PlantLink is another smart sensor that you can insert into your potting soil to detect the moisture level of your plant’s environment. Based on the type of plant, the device will text, email, or send a push alert to your smartphone to tell you when it needs to be watered. PlantLink also makes a smart valve that you hook up to your sprinklers to automatically water your plants. It has its own solar panel and can be programmed to water your plants based on changes in the weather.

Find it: Amazon

5. THE NANOFARM; $350

Three Nanofarm boxes filled with herbs sit next to each other on a wooden table.
Replantable

If you’re serious about your indoor gardening operation, consider Replantable's Nanofarm, a Kickstarter-backed tabletop produce system that requires zero oversight. You set it up once and wait for your food to grow. It works using Replantable’s Plant Pads, all-in-one seed and nutrient sheets that come in a number of different herb and salad-green varieties. For the Nanofarm, you just fill the tray inside with water, put in a Plant Pad, and close the door until your basil or butter lettuce is ready to harvest.

Find it: Replantable

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Food
Grow Produce at Home With This Open-Source Fish Tank
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Aquapioneers

What’s the secret to fresh, tasty produce that basically grows itself? A steady supply of fish poop, according to Aquapioneers. The brand's aquaponics kits recycle the natural waste from fish tanks into fertilizer for indoor gardens. And unlike some other home growing systems, these tanks are cheap and easy to assemble.

The Aquapioneers Ecosystem is intended to be an open-source digital file available online, Fast Company reports. Anyone can download the design and take the data to their local maker lab for printing. Once the plywood frame has been put together, it's ready to hold a standard-sized home aquarium.

The fish in the tank and the plants in the garden above them rely on one another to flourish. The fish produce waste, microorganisms in the water convert the waste to fertilizer, and the plants drink up the fertilizer, cleaning the tank in the process. “Think about it—fish and plants can harmoniously coexist in the same ecosystem,” the Aquapioneers website reads. “So why not put those fish to good use?”

People standing in front of a fish tank with a garden on top.
Aquapioneers

The system yields produce faster than a traditional soil garden while using less water. Plants are nourished by a low-energy LED light, which means they can grow in the corner of a kitchen until they’re ready for harvest.

Home gardeners won’t be able to live on an aquaponics diet alone: The kit is best suited for growing herbs, greens, and strawberries. But for people looking to learn more about where their food comes from, the product is a great introduction to personal agriculture.

To reserve a digital download of the design, you can donate to Aquapioneers’ crowdfunding campaign today. The plans will be made available on an open-source basis at the campaign's conclusion.

[h/t Fast Company]

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