My 24-year-old self thought that entering neighbourhood garden contests was the preserve of bored, frustrated, curtain-twitching housewives with competitive tendencies.
It never crossed my mind that, 15 years later – in the desert of all places – I’d pick up a leaflet advertising a community garden competition that had been pushed under the door and put it in a safe place. That, a week later, I’d spend 20 minutes looking for the by-now-lost leaflet, and then, late one night, email a photo of our garden, taken when it was in bloom, to the organisers.
I didn’t even tell DH. I might have told my mum, who has such green fingers she could probably grow roses on the moon, and I mentioned it to Catherine the Great, who laughed. But I didn’t think anymore of it.
I blogged about our garden before. Previously just a giant sandpit, it now has real grass, brightly coloured bougainvillea and a selection of exceedingly hardy, heat-resistant desert plants. Like most families in Dubai, we have gardeners who come by twice a week, but compared to the lush oases that more horticulturally minded neighbours have created, our patch of desert is more Jungle Book than Kew Gardens. If I’m honest, I really don’t know one end of the garden shears from the other.
So I forgot all about it, until the email arrived to say we’d won. I’ve no idea how, but we’d won! My fate as a reluctant housewife with a garden to manicure was sealed.
And they wanted to come round with a prize!
Twenty minutes before their visit, I was rueing the fact I hadn’t high tailed it to the plant souk to do some repair work. I took the picture shortly after my mum had worked her magic on a visit. Since then, the plants in the photo had either grown to Jack-And-The-Beanstalk proportions, or died in the scorching sun.
At 4pm on the dot, three people arrived from Dubai Properties, one of them a photographer with a long-lens camera, the other two from marketing. Oh no, I cringed, they want photos for their brochure and they’re going to be horribly disappointed!
I didn’t let DH leave. I accepted the prize (a solar-powered lamp) apologetically and we all walked around the garden while the photographer took hundreds of pictures, and I made excuses for the fact that a) it didn’t look nearly as clipped and alive as in the photo (but, look, the grass is still green!) and b) I didn’t know the names of any of the plants.
I have to admit, I did rather enjoy feeling like we were on a shoot for House & Garden magazine, but when their marketing brochure is printed, I won’t be holding my breath.
I can’t show you the photo I entered, unfortunately, as it gives away where we live, but I can leave you with a feast for sore eyes – before and after shots of my mum’s English garden in Surrey. As you can see, I’ve got a lot to live up to!