Abu Dhabi resident collects 400 plants over a decade to build garden that 'brings him joy'

Harly Sabater only just moved to a villa: before that, his plant collection filled his balcony

For some, gardening is a hobby, for others, it's a passion. In the case of Harly Sabater, it’s definitely the latter.

The Abu Dhabi resident from the Philippines started his plant collection when he moved to the capital more than 10 years ago.

It all began with a humble cherry tomato plant, but his collection has since grown to more than 400 plants, and includes alocasias, begonias and a Chinese pepper tree.

After 10 years of living in an apartment and tending to an indoor jungle, Sabater decided to bite the bullet and move into a villa this year. Its primary attraction was the large garden, of course, and he says having an outdoor space is, for him, a "UAE goal achieved".

“I have always wanted to live somewhere where I could garden, really dig through the dirt. For me, having a garden connects me to nature. It keeps me grounded and sane, and is a form of meditation. It is what makes me feel at home and brings me joy,” he says.

“Especially now, since the pandemic, when we are all spending more time at home, we need these activities that keep us busy and engaged. Gardening is a very effective way of coping with the new normal, I think.”

Sabater moved at the beginning of July, with one truck required just to move his plants. He then took a few days off work to transform his garden into a Zen retreat, at minimal expense.

His garden buys include four wooden planks (Dh92), 23 concrete bricks (Dh46) and a wooden chest for storage that doubles up into a seat (Dh400).

Abu Dhabi resident Harly Sabater moved from an apartment to a villa just so he could have a garden. Supplied 
Abu Dhabi resident Harly Sabater moved from an apartment to a villa so he could have a garden. Supplied

While the majority of his plant collection is now outside – including many of his bonsai trees (Sabater has at 13 of them), many of his more delicate plants have had to be placed indoors to escape the heat.

His collection includes certain species that require tropical climates, and he has a humidifier to tend to them.

As soon as the sun sets, I spend all my time in the garden, tending to it and organising things

He’s already making headway on his new villa garden but, as he puts it, creating one is a never-ending process and this is just the beginning. His future plans include repotting some of his current plants, planting new fruit-bearing trees and creating a Japanese rock garden.

“I’m very excited. During the day, it’s too hot to be outside, but as soon as the sun sets, I spend all my time in the garden, tending to it and organising things."

Some of the plants found in Harly Sabater's garden:

  • Pilea peperomioides or Chinese money plant
  • Lithops, a succulent also known as 'living stone'
  • Alocasia baginda, also known as dragon scale plant
  • Bougainvillea pre-bonsai
  • Madagascar palm
  • Caladium humboldtii, also known as caladium mini white
  • Variegatum monstrosum, also known as Micky Mouse taro
  • Euphorbia lactea, a cactus also known as white ghost

Updated: July 20, 2020 07:50 PM


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