by Ching Yeh

Passion. Imagination. Creativity. Sustainability.

These attributes were on full display by the three winners of the 2019-2020 best yard competition in Dhahran, as they were recognized for their efforts to enhance aesthetics in the community and apply environmental friendly methods to maintain their yards.

The gardens of the Raghid Ajamoughli family, the Nasir M. Khan family, and the Cory H. Helfrich family were selected by a five-member panel of judges led by Nabeel A. Al Dughaither, administrator of the Gardening and Sanitation Services division.

Each winner of the competition was given an award and a gift for their accomplishment.

The department received dozens of entries to join the competition in late 2019. The selection process began in January 2020 and was completed before the national lockdown was imposed.

“The scope of talent in gardening in the community is outstanding. The knowledge and support from the Gardening Team is significant toward the environmental achievement within our community efforts to enhance the quality of life in the Dhahran community. We are glad to see several yards reflect the sustainable concept in terms of the running maintenance and water conservation,” said Al Dughaither.

Participants of the competition were evaluated by a number of criteria, including:

  • Condition of the yard
  • Balance and creativity in landscape designs
  • Adaptation of environmental conservation techniques, such as recycling, reuse, and xeriscape.
Great Gardens Bring Color, Beauty, and Life to Dhahran
Raghid and Indira Ajamoughli

A Passion for Gardening and the Environment

“At the moment we enter the houses (of the winners) we immediately see the passion. It is their lifestyle. It’s in their blood,” said one of the judges. “They would continue with such a lifestyle no matter if there is a competition or not.”

All three winners, first-time participants in the competition, demonstrated their passion for gardening and used recycled materials to decorate or furnish their yards with style.

Raghid’s wife, Indira, from Kazakhstan, is a self-made artist who was the mastermind behind their award-winning yard. She designed and painted all the flowerpots, big and small, incorporating styles of Indian mandala ornaments, a Mexican talavera motif, and a Russian hoholoma pattern.

“I want some bright, vivid colors in my yard. That’s why I chose red to be the theme of my design and layered with various bright colors,” she said. “I get my inspiration from Pinterest and travel posts or photos from Facebook. I take different ideas and modify them into my ideas.”

Their yard was a result of team effort. Indira was in charge of painting the pots, designing the landscape, selecting plants and flowers, whereas Raghid shouldered the responsibilities of furnishing the yard. As a woodworking enthusiast, he sourced recycled materials to build benches, table, flower stands, and a gazebo.

Raghid and Indira prepared for more than two months to get their garden ready for the annual contest, which started in 2014.

“When I decided to join the competition, I was determined to win,” said Indira.

Great Gardens Bring Color, Beauty, and Life to Dhahran
Nasir and Mariyam Khan

A Sanctuary From the Desert

Nasir’s wife, Mariyam, made her wish come true by bringing her garden life from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. Their yard has served as a sanctuary for her and an outdoor activity center for their family and their guests.

“I want a sanctuary that looks like I am not in a desert,” said Mariyam, an avid horticulturist with many years of experience in planting and gardening. Instead of grass, she used gravel and flagstones to pave her garden in her landscape design to save water.

It has become a ritual for her every year to make frequent visits to nurseries in the region during the October-December planting season to make plans for her yard.

“It’s my passion. I love it,” she said, noting her enthusiasm in gardening has been nurtured and intensified by the reading of Home and Garden magazine and exploring Pinterest, she said.

She often had her 4-year-old daughter, Narmeen, tagging along when she was working in the yard in hopes to cultivate the young girl’s interest in gardening.

“I teach my daughter gardening because I would like her to develop the same passion,” said Mariyam.

Great Gardens Bring Color, Beauty, and Life to Dhahran
Cory and Maggie Helfrich

The Restorative Gifts of Morning Gardening

For years, it has been a daily routine for Cory’s wife, Maggie, to spend her morning working in her yard. For her, gardening is healing and calming.

“Every morning, spending a couple of hours in the yard is very therapeutic and satisfying, like doing yoga,” said Maggie, a Canadian native who used to work in furniture finishing as her profession and is an experienced quilter.

While envisioning her yard as a bouquet of colorful flowers and greenery, Maggie applied her quilting designs and skills in her yard. She described her yard as “an outdoor quilt in which I use mathematical and dimensional concepts in my designs.”

Some species of plants were put in place purposefully to attract birds, which feed on insects from the yard, a natural ecosystem food chain that helps mitigate the negative impact from bugs in the yard, she said.

Maggie’s expertise in furniture was applied to repurpose old metal, wooden, or glass panels into art pieces for the wall surrounding the yard. To add a flair of Arabic culture to her yard, she sourced traditional Saudi doors, windows, and building materials from used furniture stores or craftsman’s shops in the Eastern Province.

The key reason for her to enter the competition was to share her passion in gardening to the Aramco community where she has called home for more than 20 years.

“I want to do something positive to the community, to promote gardening in our community. Everyone can do it. There are lots of people who can help and share their knowledge on gardening,” she said.

— The Arabian Sun: July 29, 2020 | Vol. LXXV, No. 30