Interior stylist Emilie Jacob not only talks us through how she transformed her garden into a tropical escape but offers her tips for recreating the vibrant style in your own backyard
“This was the 44th house I looked at,” says interior stylist Emilie Jacob, referring to the Umm Suqeim 1 villa that she shares with her husband, Pete, and two young children, Stella and Teddy. Having grown up in the south of France, Emilie’s top priority was being located close to the beach, and despite the space consisting of a building site during her first viewing over two years ago, it was love, at first sight.
“Most of the trees that you can see in the front garden, including the frangipani, Washingtonia palms, banana, flame and bougainvillaea, were already there,” she says of her tropically-inspired garden. “I could see the walk to the beach; the open-plan, loft-like, bungalow-style layout of the interior with its skylight; plus the side and back outdoor spaces.”
A lonely banana tree in the corner provided the only life, and Emilie ensured its survival during the home’s three-month refurbishment before she moved in with her family. Since then, three more banana plants joined the first; two of which bore so much fruit that they collapsed under their weight. These are surrounded by the garden’s only stretch of real grass, as it’s the only area that receives enough sunlight for it to thrive.
The back garden, however, consisted of some brown tiles, interlock bricks, sand and a stark white wall separating the garden from the neighbour’s. “It was a little bit depressing,” Emilie admits.
The starting point for the tropical garden was creating privacy, so Emilie sought advice on creating a tropical bed along the wall. “When you consider living in Dubai, lush plants don’t naturally spring to mind but, with a little guidance, I have created a mini jungle in my backyard that I never tire of.”
Emilie’s top tips for creating a lush garden in the UAE:
Factor in your budget
If you are working with a tight budget, plant and furnish your garden gradually so that you invest in quality pieces that withstand the UAE climate.
Suss out the sunlight
Get advice on what to plant in different areas of your garden so you know what thrives in direct sunlight and what flourishes in shade.
There are plenty of lovely shops but it pays to do your research and negotiate.
The majority of suppliers will try to sell you what everyone else already has in their gardens but we live in a place where we can get so many amazing plants that you just wouldn’t find in Europe.
Photographs by Muthu Kumar and Hiral Kapadia