British author, Frances Gillespie, reviews the book, ‘Gardening in Arabia: Outdoor Annual Florals of the Arabian Gulf’, by Shuaa Abdullah Al Sada.
The forthcoming series Gardening in Arabia is – literally – a ground-breaking project. These are the first modern books ever to be published in Arabic on the subject, and the first comprehensive series to be published in English. Volume I, on annual flowering plants for gardens, has just been published and will shortly be available in retail outlets in Qatar and on Amazon.
The Qatari author, Shuaa Abdullah Al Sada, was formerly an Assistant Professor at Qatar University, and spent 18 years as a member of the Marine Biology Department. When travelling abroad in the course of her work, she often brought back seeds, bulbs and plant cuttings and planted them in her garden, hoping they would grow. Until quite recently, the range of plants available in local nurseries was limited, but years of experimenting has convinced the author that almost anything will grow here in Qatar, given the right care and conditions.
The book is a blaze of brilliant colour, with hundreds of superb photographs of flowering annuals, all taken in Qatar, by the author’s friend and fellow gardening enthusiast, Australian photographer Natalie Gueris.
The first section is called ‘Gardening by the Arabian Stars’. Here in Qatar today, there is so much ground light that, unless very far from a settlement, it is difficult to see the stars clearly, and the information is a reminder that in Arabia from very ancient times agriculture, pearl diving and other activities were governed by the movement of stars as they rose and sank in the heavens. So we learn that towards the end of January a group of six tiny stars called taleh al-Balda rises and is a herald of cold weather when plants in areas of Arabia with high ground may need some protection, and in the third week in April the constellation Aries appears and signals the time to start planting seeds for summer flowers.
The main part of the book is taken up with winter annuals, followed by a much shorter section on summer annuals. More than 50 winter species ranging from hollyhocks to violas, each one often with several varieties, are described in detail, alongside several photographs, with information on their propagation and planting, methods of dealing with any pests or diseases to which the plant may be susceptible, and finally a paragraph on the plant’s culinary and medicinal uses. The summer section includes just three species: tassel flowers, globe amaranths and the ever popular zinnias. In addition, for each plant in the book the author includes a description of the common symbolism of each flower and what it represents, a topic that deeply interests her since, as she says, giving and receiving flowers expresses emotion and is a form of connection.
Shuaa Al Sada embarked on her pioneering project because her ambition is to help everyone living in the Arabian Gulf states, whether citizens or expatriates, share her enthusiasm for gardening and to be aware what a range of flowers, trees, fruits and herbs can be grown. Finding that there were no books in Arabic available to help people plan their gardens and to grow plants, she set out to write one. Originally planned as one large book, it has now been divided into several volumes, all of which will be published in both Arabic and English. The next book in the Gardening in Arabia series, on trees, shrubs and climbers, will be published in 2015, to be followed by one on fruits, vegetables and herbs, and indoor plants and orchids. The series has a linked website, gardeninginarabia.com, which will be kept updated.
The author has thought of everything possible to help gardeners – Outdoor Annual Florals comes with a handy supplementary purse-sized booklet with illustrations and names of all the annuals covered in the main volume. As she points out, nurserymen may not always know the names of plants, but when shown a photograph they will be able to say whether or not they have it in stock.
Title: Gardening in Arabia: Outdoor Annual Florals of the Arabian Gulf
Author: Shuaa Abdullah Al Sada
Publisher: Akkadia Press
Languages: English and Arabic
Publication date: June 2014
ISBN HB English: 978-9948-20-885-3
ISBN PB English: 978-9948-20-884-6
UK RRP: HB £59.00/PB £40.00
The book is now available at Jarir Bookstore, WHSmith and Amazon.
Author: Fran Gillespie
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