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Walks on the not-so-wild side

We’ve spent a fun couple of days this weekend at the Spring Flower Show in downtown Cairo, pottering among the displays of flowers, looking at fruit trees, chatting to beekeepers – and trying to resist the temptation to add to our already crowded garden.

The show brings together nurseries and agricultural businesses, as well as suppliers of equipment, seeds and potting compost, from all over. If the flower displays are on the repetitive side (too many geraniums for my taste), it’s a great way to find out more about what works and what doesn’t here in Egypt, and where to get stock for the garden etc.

Oddly, there aren’t many garden design companies in the show, though one exception to this, from the upscale neighbourhood of Maadi, has an interesting, and unusual, display.

What makes the Cairo event so attractive, to my way of thinking, is the setting: the show is held over the road from Cairo University in the grand – if somewhat faded – El-Urman Gardens. Part of an ambitious scheme to create a fashionable European-style city by Egypt’s C19 rulers (Khedives), the gardens are filled with an amazing collection of conifers and exemplars of trees from across the world, from Australian kauris to Indian almonds to American swamp cypresses.

We wandered among colourful banks of flowers, some locally produced, some imported, testing the prices and looking out for a few we could take home. They make great gifts for family and friends: almost everyone we know has a balcony or small patch of garden, and they really appreciate a present of colourful and aromatic carnations, sweet williams or jasmine.

Thinner on the ground this year compared to 2015, I thought, were the fruit tree and kitchen garden sections, though the herbs were looking good and there were a few trays filled with veg seedlings such as lettuce, aubergine and celery. We resisted the temptation to buy a mulberry tree (one of my husband’s favourites, if only for his memories of boyhood escapades climbing them to feast off the sweet, sticky fruit). Just as well, they grow like topsy and have the kind of root systems we can’t accommodate!

Good to see some labels, though all were exclusively in Arabic: I’m not so sure about the vines, though, (above right), planted up in old industrial adhesives cans. Hardly the most sensitive of environments for the roots…

We came away with a modest haul, for once managing to stick to our plan – not something I normally manage when faced with temptation on this scale. As my husband went off to talk to the beekeepers, I even went round my favourite garden tools stall without buying a thing. Reformed character, or what!


6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am very impressed you stuck to your plan. I don’t think I would have been so strong. Amelia

    April 19, 2016
  2. How interesting that the swamp cypress would be desirable there. I found that yuccas are popular as greenhouse plants in Denmark. To us, the native yuccas can be a problem!

    October 5, 2017
    • I think the plan was to collect a wide range of plants from as far afield as possible, to create a scientific botanical collection. What fascinates me is to see how many will grow well in Egypt (Aswan’s botanical garden is an amazingly rich example) and also to read that as long ago as ancient times, the the Academy/Great Library of Alexandria had a botanical garden. As for yuccas, they seem to be popular everywhere – we have one in our garden, while the owner of a wonderful Sicilian estate we visited last year was very proud of her Y. elephantipes!

      October 5, 2017
      • I still love my Yucca elephantipes! I have grown hundreds over the years by burying the canes, and then taking the pups from them. It is a ‘cheap’ yucca here, but I don’t care. I also like the (Hesperoyucca) Yucca whipplei because it has those crazy tall flower talks . . . and because it is native where I went to school.

        October 6, 2017
      • I agree with you: grow what you like, not what general opinion/fashion dictates! Where is “here”, by the way?
        Yuccas are to be found in London, where I live for part of the year: down by the Thames we have some beautiful walks, passing sunny gardens filled with unusual (for the UK) plants – Yucca, Oleander, Palms. It’s one of my favourite walks.

        October 6, 2017
      • I am in Los Gatos, in the Santa Cruz Mountain south of San Jose. Yuccas are not native here, but the (Hesperoyucca) Yucca whipplei is native about a hundred miles to the south. It is quite a nasty perennial to run into, with very sharp tips, but the tall blooms are spectacular. We really should be growing more yuccas here because those that are from desert regions do so well here. Even the tropical types do well if watered.

        October 6, 2017

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