Dreaming of a green garden? How this Dubai couple took their outdoor space from boring to blooming

How a garden in Umm Suqeim 2, Dubai blossomed into a sanctuary for wildlife

Beautiful garden covered with flowers behind a house
Shana Sebban Mannarini reveals how she transformed her garden into a landscape bursting with natural colours

“As soon as we saw the bougainvillea that covers the bay windows and the greenery climbing the garden wall, we decided we wanted this villa,” reveals Shana Sebban Mannarini. She moved in with her family a month later, but by that time the garden was dry and void of greenery.

Eight years on, and it is filled with mature flowering trees and plants. These include an arbor of bougainvillea that connects the area originally constructed as a carport to the bougainvillea that first caught Shana’s eye, as well as frangipani, laurier rose (“this can be toxic to children and animals so be vigilant,” Shana warns), an Eastern redbud tree that Shana and her husband Gil planted in celebration of their five-year-old son Ari’s birth and another tree planted a year ago when their daughter Ari was born. 

Bird home on a branch
Shana warns that bird feeders should be kept out of reach from cats

“We’re animal lovers so we wanted to create a safe haven for wildlife in the garden, which is why we grew lots of trees and shrubs, and hung bird feeding stations.”

The couple run children’s edutainment concept Pearls of the Emirates, with the aim of educating children about environment protection and animal welfare and their passion is evident throughout their outside space. There’s a cattery for their rescued street cats, while the air is filled with birdsong.

Woman painting on an easel
“It’s important to have an inspiring view when I paint,” Shana – who likes to take to her easel in the early morning – told B. Living

“Indian parakeets love the Indian nuts we put out for them, while ground-feeding hoopoes feed off the fallen scraps,” Shana enthuses. Other visiting birds include hummingbirds, common mynas, Indian rollers and doves, while the couple also often spot lizards, butterflies and dragonflies. “The wildlife-filled garden takes us away from the bustle of Dubai.” 

“Ensure you place feeders out of the reach of cats,” says Shana. “I buy seeds from the pet shop, Indian nuts from Carrefour and hang up cuttlefish found on the shoreline for a calcium-rich dietary supplement”

Man and woman sitting on a lawn chair outdoors
Creating a European feel was important for the French couple

Shana likes to paint in the early mornings with the birds’ dawn chorus, and explains that having a nice view was an important consideration when redesigning her outdoor space.

And finally, the nature-lover added: “As we’re both French, it was important for us to create a European atmosphere with lots of trees. Plant new trees and the end of summer so they’ve got time to get established.”

Time to start digging…

See more ideas for transforming your garden and outdoor space here.

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