Gardening enthusiasts need not despair just because they happen to live in Bahrain. With a little patience, it’s possible to build your own tropical paradise, says Elizabeth Shaheen.
Elizabeth Shaheen has gardened in Bahrain for over 30 years. As a self taught gardener, few in the Kingdom can rival her knowledge and passion for the greens.
Elizabeth’s gardening experiments began 35 years ago, when she and her husband built a house in Budaiya amidst a date palm grove with sandy soil.
Since early days, her ethos rested on working with nature rather than trying to force nature’s arm. “I recommend starting with plants that you know will survive for sure in Bahrain. Species such as the bohemia, frangipani, bougainvillea, hibiscus and jasmine are a safe bet,” she says.
Elizabeth was raised in the UK where she inherited her green thumb from parents who were avid gardeners. Her grandfather grew sweet pea in abundance and her earliest memories are of the maternal home in Winchester, which was perfumed with the aroma of this plant.
From her travels across the world, she has collected a phenomenal number of plants, bulbs and seeds, which have flourished at her lush garden in Budaiya. From English wildflowers, such as lavender and honeysuckle to pistachio and passion fruit, her acre-wide garden is dotted with hundreds of varieties native to Australia, UK, Egypt and Thailand. To accommodate over 20 varieties of aquatic plants including lotus, water lily and bulrush, she has designed 19 garden ponds and lagoons which now are a haven for frogs and fish alike.
An inspiration to discerning gardeners, Elizabeth is a Fellow of The Linnean Society of London as well as the Institute of Horticulture of London. She has authored two books on trees and exotic plants in Bahrain.
Her lecture ‘All About Bulbs’ at the Bahrain Garden Club on March 5 will educate the audience about the infinite potential of bulbs in planning a garden.
“It’s important for people to realise that certain varieties of plants do grow and thrive in Bahrain. In addition to perfect soil preparation, I prefer to plant where I feel a plant is suited rather than trying to adjust the site to accommodate the plant. However, once they start to taste success, I advise people to keep an eye on other gardens in the vicinity and be experimental in their own garden,” she says.
Elizabeth has lectured widely and has conducted a series of gardening demonstrations on Bahrain Television. An avid environmental enthusiast, she has been awarded by the Ministry of Education for promoting gardening in Bahrain.