Monday, 18 September 2017



By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted September 18, 2017)

                                                         A white diamond orchid (all photos by Margaretta)
Kenya Horticultural Society’s 119th Flower & Plant Show set a new standard for artistry, originality and excellence of plant entries this year.

That’s the verdict of the eight professional judges who had the task of adjudicating the 40 colorful exhibits that were on display this past weekend at the SSDS Temple Hall in Westlands.
One of the judges, Celia Hardy, owner of Plants Galore Garden Centre, said the clearest evidence of this year’s improved entries was George Barua’s large and lovely display of ‘Container-Grown Plant Materials.’
                                                    George Barua's display won the top Gold Award
“It won the Society’s Gold Award for overall excellence,” said Celia who explained that last year, no Gold Award was given out since none of the entries met the judges’ rigorous criteria.

They consider everything from the condition of the plant and the artistry of its presentation to its originality, variety and overall effect. The judging went on last Friday, just hours before the winning plant displays were announced and the trophies handed out.
KHS’s chairperson, Mrs. Balinder Ahluwalia explained that winners do not receive cash awards. Instead, they receive a “floating” solid silver trophy which they keep for one year, after which they return it to the Society so it can be awarded again the next year.

“The trophies have been handed down to award-winning horticulturalists [gardeners] over the decades,” said Mrs. Ahluwalia. She recalled they were first given out back in 1926, two years after the Horticultural Society was initially formed.

“Kenya was a colony at the time of course so the local society was part of the Royal Horticultural Society based in the UK,” she added.

Like Celia Hardy, the KHS Chair was also pleased with the turn-out and quality of this year’s plant entries.

“Our members keep learning and improving every year,” she said, noting that only KHS members are qualified to enter the annual competition.

‘There were sixty members [out of a total membership of more than 300] who brought beautiful plants to exhibit,” Mrs Ahluwalia said.

“In all there were no less than 140 plant entries,” she added, noting that many of the exhibits contained more than a single flower or plant.

For instance, the award-winning Manda Orchids that won the special award for ‘Best Display of Cut Flowers’ exhibited more than a half dozen dazzling cymbidium orchids.
                     Nyokabi Kenyatta-Muthama's Manda Orchids display won a Special Award for her cymbidium orchids.

“The cymbidiums are often described as the ‘king of orchids’,” said Nyokabi Kenyatta-Muthama, who owns Manda Orchids. Her award-winning display featured all the colors that these exotic orchids come in, from pastel pink to sunshine yellow and snowy white.

“We only grow our orchids on three acres, but that still makes us the largest commercial orchid growers in all of East and Central Africa,” Nyokabi added.

But orchids were only one of the many plants and flowers that filled the SSDS Hall last weekend. There were both indigenous and exotic plants, everything from roses, African violets and assorted ferns to philodendrons, azalea hybrids and anthurium blooms.
                       Paul Mwai's sikuma wiki, spinach and leafy lettuce won 1st, 2nd and 3rd awards in the veg class.

There were flowering fruit trees and miniature bonsai plants as well as tables full of thorny succulents. And there were even awards for culinary herbs, spices and vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and ‘sikuma wiki’ (known by its botanical name as Brassica oleracea and in English as Corrands Creen). All three of those green favorites, [grown by Paul Mwai in backyard garden in Runda], won first, second and third awards in their class.
                             Alice Kuria won 1st prize for her culinary herbs display. She grows her herb in Karen.

In all there were 65 award-winning classes, including trophies for children, one for gardeners between six and eight years old, another for little ‘green thumbs’ between nine and twelve years old.
Mrs. Ahluwalia, who’s been KHS’s chairperson for the last five years, said there are many benefits to joining the Society, even if someone isn’t inclined to place their plants and flowers in the Horticultural Show. For one, members meet every month in a different member’s garden. “Then we invite a professional landscaper to come and speak to us about various aspects of gardening, so our members are always learning new things," she added. Membership is Ksh1,500 annually and it's open to all.
                                                 The humble Sikuma wiki won 1st prize in the veggie category

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