An ambitious Chelsea Flower Show garden is designed to highlight the peaceful and respectful qualities of Islam
The show garden designs have been revealed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 and there is a new woman on Main Avenue.
Making her Chelsea debut, Kamelia Bin Zaal will be the first Emirati landscape designer to appear at Chelsea and she is bringing her heritage to the forefront.
The show garden, titled ‘The Beauty of Islam’, aims to meld modern and classic materials with planting from countries influenced by Arabic and Islamic culture. It is an ambitious attempt to bridge Middle Eastern and Western cultures.
Recognising the tensions of Islam in the west Bin Zaal said, “In my family I have grown up seeing Islam as a religion of tolerance, peace, and love, with respect for humanity, and the world around us. I am continuously inspired by our heritage and wanted to creatively translate my interpretation of our peaceful religion and culture into a beautiful garden design.”
Whilst Arabic and Islamic culture are the predominant themes of the garden, Bin Zaal cites influences from elsewhere. “I think I’m more influenced by contemporary architecture and interiors from all over the world. Whether it’s a resort in Thailand, a building in London or a piece of art I see in a gallery here in Dubai.”
Perhaps it is unsurprising that Bin Zaal takes inspiration from international design, as she is currently the creative director and head of marketing for the Zaal Group. The group are behind the luxury residential development Al Barari in Dubai, which attracts an international crowd.
Luxury residential development Al Barari (Brown Paparazzi)
The garden aims to reflect that diversity: “I wanted to show how as a culture we have touched so many other societies and vice versa, from Europe to China and even Madagascar.”
The planting is intended to represent the growth of the Arab Empire though the spice trade. Orange, olive, fig, pomegranate trees and plants such as cardamom, pepper and jasmine will permeate the garden with scents evoking the Arabic trade routes.
The garden will feature pomegranate trees (Alamy)
Bin Zaal knows from personal experience that is it possible to connect western society with Arabic culture; her mother is Scottish and her father Emirati. “I spent half my life growing up in the UK and the other half in the UAE. So I have learnt from both cultures and appreciate the values of both.”
The main challenge facing the team behind ‘The Beauty of Islam’ is the use of plants more at home in a Middle Eastern climate. They are aware that temperamental British weather tests all Chelsea designers even when using planting native to England, “We are being practical and have backups just in case certain plants don’t look good or, for some reason, probably the weather, don’t make it at all.”
Kamelia Bin Zaal hopes the garden will bring a positive view on Islam (Cameron Clegg)
‘The Beauty of Islam’ promises to be an original show garden. Not only will the planting be refreshing, if they pull it off, but the use of poetry and calligraphy carved into stone is inventive. It is an art form that will offer an accessible way to appreciate Arabic culture.
•A look at the other Chelsea Flower Show garden designs
“I hope that my garden will be something that resonates with the public and will have a positive effect on people’s perception of Islam. It is the chance to show that Islam and Arabic culture really is as many other religions and cultures, a way of life and that we share the same values and morals as other religions and cultures.”
If it succeeds, ‘The Beauty of Islam’ will be a beautiful reminder of how gardens can play a part in understanding other people and cultures. As a project clearly close to Kamelia Bin Zaal’s heart, let’s hope it does.