If you’re wondering how garden greenery can thrive in the heat of the Middle East, head to this month’s Riffa Views Bahrain International Garden Show (RVBIGS), under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa and Her Royal Highness Shaikha Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa. Despite a pretty dry winter this year, we’re told that green thumbs around the island have been most resourceful, and there will be an even greater abundance of flowers, plants and creative show gardens than in preceding years, care of both Bahrain residents and international exhibitors.
As always, there’s a commercial element to the show, but there’s also a strong community focus, with a local farmers’ market, lectures and some healthy competition, most notably the Bahrain Garden Club Competition, where Bahrain’s secateur-wielding best will battle it out to produce the prettiest patch of soil in the land. Categories include Small, Medium and Large Gardens, Front Yard, Container Garden, Herb Garden and Experimental Garden – which should yield some interesting results.
But, apart from the joy of wandering though a plethora of plants, petals and perfumed air, the show’s theme, ‘Water for Life’, is of relevance to us all. Tying in with the UN International Water Decade 2005-2015, several exhibits reflect on the world’s depleting water supplies, as well as addressing ways in which we can all help to sustain this indispensable resource.
It has long been a cliché to say that water is the new oil. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.2 billion people worldwide are currently without access to fresh water, and global consumption has more than doubled since World War II. However, unlike oil, the amount of water on earth (an estimated 326 quintillion gallons) will not diminish, but its location changes.
For poorer countries, the effects would be drastic; but equally, for the arid countries of the Middle East, where water scarcity is already an issue, concern is high. And, while desalination of sea water offers a solution in Bahrain and elsewhere (the Middle East accounting for approximately 75 per cent of the world’s desalination), this process is believed to have an adverse environmental impact, not least of all from the carbon dioxide and hot brine water expelled into the sea, which are a potential threat to the marine ecosystem.
So the onus is on us to do our best not to exploit this resource, and certain stands at the show are here to help, providing an education in things like water extraction, purification and distribution, and demonstrating simple water saving techniques. For example, don’t stand by and watch the water run down the sink; use the plug; shower rather than bath (because the former may use only 30 litres compared to the latter’s 110 litres), and if you must bath, recycle the water for the garden.
Another way to support the environment is to buy seasonal produce grown where you live, and there’s an opportunity to do that here too. Wander around a traditional farmers’ market and take your pick from an array of produce grown in local gardens, from fresh fruit and vegetables to dates and honey (yes, from Bahraini bees), as well as fruit trees so you can grow your own figs and apples at home. You’ll be surprised at the amount of local produce on offer, so make sure you bring your basket (lest we forget that plastic bags are also not doing the environment any favours).
Even if gardening isn’t your thing – and the challenging weather conditions are enough to put anyone but the hardcore off – BIGS is worth a look to bone up on a global concern or simply indulge your senses.
To provide a little extra inspiration to the blossoming local gardening community, a couple of international guests will be on hand to share all sorts of tips.
Celebrity UK gardener Chris Beardshaw (inset) has established a name for himself via numerous gardening TV shows, books and lectures. The show’s ambassador, he will be judging competitions including the Eden Project, which drew entries from hundreds of school children, with the winners’ models turned into life-size exhibitions at the show.
French landscape architect/author Alain Faragou and colleague Jean-Marie Rey will give a lecture about an environmental project implemented in Nice, France, where a street was designed and landscaped in an extremely efficient manner following methods that could be adopted in Bahrain.
RVBIGS, Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre, Seef, April 17-19, 10am-9pm. Price 500fils for a three-day pass; children under 12 free. More info at www.bigs.com.bh