By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 10 May for 17 May 2019)
The 121st Plant and Flower Show opens today at the SSDS Temple Hall on Lower Kabete Road. The show, which is organized annually by the Kenya Horticultural Society, runs through the weekend and features a wide range of displays – everything from roses, orchids, succulents and herbs to ferns, fruits, vegetables and flowers arranged beautifully by the Kenya Floral Club.
The Show opens officially at 2pm through 5 today. But this morning, a team of highly qualified judges (headed by Pauline Balleto who flew in from Malindi) went through the exhibition and gave awards in multiple categories. It’s a tradition that has been going on practically since the Horticultural Society began.
The judging also runs according to international standards that are applied in every country where there’s a horticulture society, including the USA, UK and South Africa, among others.
The awards don’t have an immediate cash value. Nonetheless, the top award winners receive a silver cup that they get to keep for one year. Plus, the prestige of having grown an award-winning plant means a great deal.
“Winning a silver cup is a great source of motivation,” says agricultural consultant Paul Mwai who won several silver cups last year for his prize-winning vegetables. “Winning gives someone added incentive to keep working hard. It’s also gratifying to know that experts appreciate what you do.”
Paul adds that he will be bringing fruits and herbs to this year’s Plant and Flower Show. “But no vegetables,” he says. “Mine are not ready,” he explains, noting that the weather has been hard on farmers this past season.
The weather has also been a problem for this year’s show organizer, Darshna Patel. “A number of our members were not ready to display flowers and plants from their gardens this year,” she says. “We are used to the rains coming in March so that by May, the plants are usually looking perfect for display. But as the rains came late, and before them, we had the drought, our plants have had a hard time,” she adds.
Nonetheless, the 121st Plant and Flower Show is drawing gardeners from Nakuru and Thika chapters of the Horticultural Society who will display their most precious plants. The Kenya Orchid Society will also be well represented. so will Nature Kenya whose working group, ‘Succulenta East Africa’ will be bringing their best desert plants and flowers to enrich this year’s display.
In addition to the displays, there will be a large sales area at the Show where there will be all kinds of flowers and plants (and fresh foods) for sale at ‘affordable’ prices. In addition to the plants, which tend to get swiftly bought out (which is why it is advisable to come early), there will be a wide variety of pots and organic fertilizers on sale.
Darshna's indoor rock garden
A number of organizations will be at the Temple Hall. Among them are the East African Wildlife Society, the Beekeeping Institute (selling lots of Kenyan honey), the Kenya Floral Arrangement Club and even the Kenya Quilting Guild, hanging a few of their finest Kenyan-made quilts.
“The quilts will all reflect the plant and flower theme,” says Darshna who personally has an artistic eye for beauty and has a lovely garden of her own. “I will be bringing cut flowers from my trees and shrubs,” she says a few days before the show. “I can’t say which trees or shrubs I will be getting the flowers from because of the rains,” she adds.
Darshna's waterfall garden
Darshna will have a wide variety of healthy plants to choose from since she has been an avid student of horticulture since she joined the Society 16 years ago.
“Membership in the Horticultural Society entitles someone to visit a different garden every month. And once there, we have a knowledgeable speaker who talks about various aspects of gardening,” she says.
The Society also runs weekly courses once a year that are encyclopedic when it comes to gardening. Those courses are how Darshna says she has become relatively well-informed about horticulture. And from the look of her lush five-acre garden, one can see that she has indeed become an expert in gardening.
“I never let a day go by without visiting my garden,” says Darshna who has spent the last 20 years cultivating her family’s grounds. “It gives me peace and keeps me feeling strong and ever-young,” says this woman who looks 20 years younger than her 50-odd years.