Some of the local plants that will feature in Qatar Foundation’s upcoming garden project include acacia tortilis (Arabic name is Samr, umbrella thorn), cymbopogon parkeri (Khabar, a tall, scented grass), lycium shawii (Awsaj, a thorny shrub), rhanterium epapposum (Arfaj, a shrub), and ziziphus nummularia (Sidra).
Samr has a large flat canopy and white flowers, while Khabar is used in the cosmetic industry for its essential oils, and also has some antifungal and insecticide properties.
Awsaj has toxic leaves, but the berries are edible and high in vitamins A, C and D. Unusually for a fruit, it is high in fatty acids, and research is being conducted into its use as a food in preventing cancer, and as a medicine to treat cancer.
Arfaj, the national flower of Kuwait, has a dense network of branches with bright yellow and white flowers.
Sidra, one of the best known plants in the Arab world, is used as the logo of QF.
Artist’s impression of a view of the proposed garden
Sidra’s leaves can be used as a disinfectant, its sap as a deodorant and its ash to treat snakebites. Honey from Sidra flowers is said to be the most sought after in the world, costing as much as 100 times that of other honeys.
“I think that the native plants are fantastic,” said the project’s designer Petra Blaisse (founder and head of Dutch design studio Inside Outside) while describing that they have flowers, fruits and attractive foliage and can look very beautiful if they get sufficient water, protection and care.
The garden will contain some foreign or exotic plants, according to QF’s monthly magazine The Foundation.
In all, 25 of the 145 planters are planted with non-native trees, providing shade during the hot summer months, and special decorative plants that will add permanent form and colour to the garden.
Blaisse wants each plant to be labelled with its name in Latin and Arabic, along with some information on it.
“We are going to try to achieve a very beautiful look, but I do not have all the answers now,” she said while asserting that it is a work in progress and it will always be, as it is not like constructing a building.
Inside Outside’s contract for the garden project still has almost three years to run. “We will continue our conversations with ecologists and with the people in Qatar Foundation,” Blaisse added.
Her Amsterdam-based practice, Inside Outside, designs gardens, public spaces, interiors and, most famously, vast curtains for theatres, concert halls, museums and building facades.
In Blaisse’s world interiors and exteriors more than playfully coexist—they blur and clash, then recombine to form something new.
“They are totally different professions, yet they are completely connected through the roles they have,” Blaisse says. “Open the window and the garden comes in, the curtain comes out.”
Blaisse has worked with an array of architects including Tim Ronalds, UN Studio and SANAA, and the globally acclaimed unconventional designer Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
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