Zereniti House only opened its gates two years ago after intensive work by Jazzani Minae and his mother Susan to perform an ‘extreme make-over’ of the family’s five acre piece of land in Red Hill, not far from Limuru.
“We renovated and extended the [two-story] stone house, adding four new apartments, an extra floor, and enlarging the kitchen,” says Jazz who returned home from the States specifically to assist his mother to rehab the house and beautify the land.“We also did lots of landscape gardening,” adds Zereniti’s Creative Director as we cruise up an elegant tree-lined Mazera stone driveway.
On our way to the house (once the headquarters of a 1000 acre colonial farm called ‘Updown’) we pass what Jazz calls the ‘Frangipani Garden’ since that ground has a huge Frangipani tree on it, surrounded by land covered in ultra-green Zimbabwe grass.
On the other side of the driveway is the ‘Jacaranda Garden’, which is a site Jazz says is popular for many kinds of parties, from cocktail receptions to music concerts. “We decided to curtail the concerts somewhat since the neighbors weren’t happy with the noise,” says Jazz who oversees virtually every detail and department of Zereniti.
The Jacaranda Garden has become an especially popular site for wedding receptions and actual weddings as well. The tree provides cooling shade and it also has a cultural appeal. “The Jacaranda itself is one of oldest [and grandest] of its kind in Kenya,” says Jazz who has cobbled the ground around the tree with more Mazera stone.
“Newly-weds often spend their weekends with us since we also have [elegant] self-contained apartments,” he says. “I’ve been busy every weekend with weddings since last October up through Valentine’s Day.”
The drought hadn’t been kind to the trees at Zereniti. But Jazz, like most Kenyan farmers, is grateful for the rains that finally came late last week. At the same time, he and his mother (who’s a retired agricultural economist formerly with the Food and Agriculture Organization) planted plenty of succulents on the far side of the house which can withstand drought.Pointing to a whole cluster of cacti, he says the family thought long and hard about what to do after constructing larger sanitation facilities (to accommodate the new apartments). They wanted to gracefully conceal the old septic tank. This they did by planning and planting the so-called ‘Rock Garden’ which they filled with more colorful plants interspersed with smooth rocks.
They also added succulents on one side of the rocks. On the other side is the new sanitation facility which is also surrounded with exotic and indigenous plants. They ensure that instead of being an eye-sore, the sun-kissed flowers will serve as another attraction of Zereniti.
All of those multicolored clusters are at the top of a gentle stone-paved slope leading past the ‘Herb Garden’ and down to the spacious carpark which is lined with tall pine trees. “One set of previous owners were Swedes who planted the long line of pines leading down to the tree nursery,” says Jazz, adding that the carpark can comfortable hold up 80 vehicles!The nursery is meant to ensure Zereniti can consistently enhance the greenery on the grounds. “We envisage Zereniti being a kind of quiet retreat where people can come relax and be creative. We called the place Zerenit because we thought of Zen as one way of achieving serenity, and that’s what we’d like for people to feel when they come to stay here.”