By Waheed Ghanim.
Basra’s Miracle Flower Show: Growing Petunias without Water
In temperatures of over 50 degrees C, in a place where there is either no water or it’s salty, putting on a flower show is something of a challenge. Basra’s gardeners tell how they did it.
Despite the sunshine and the proximity to water, the locals in Basra don’t find it all that easy to grow decorative flowers. During the summer temperatures go as high as 50 degrees Celsius and the Shatt al-Arab waterway is very salty; here the fresh water of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers mixes with the Persian Gulf’s salty water. Desertification, resulting from the successive wars and urbanization, is another major problem as are polluted city waterways.
"In the past we’ve grown petunias that are very beautiful and have lovely colours,” Saad Nidal Assad, who heads the agricultural unit in the Qibla area of Basra, reports. “We then plant them in public parks but they die in two weeks because of the heat.”
This meant growing and keeping the flowers for Basra’s recent Flower Show was even more of a challenge. “We spent huge amounts of money to bring fresh water for the flowers,” says Amar Abdul Salam, director of the Agriculture Department in Basra. “One tank of water costs about US$40 and we need at least two tanks a day because of the heat.”
But the results are worth it, Salam believes. The flowers are on display for 45 days and have attracted crowds of locals to what was once former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s palace in Basra, next to the water.
Hundreds of plants are on display in the palace grounds, as are a variety of animals, including ostriches and pigeons.