Sunday, 3 November 2019


By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 4 November 2019 for 8.11.19)

It was a perfect day for a plant sale. The Horticulture Society’s Nairobi District always holds their semi-annual sales during rainy seasons, either in October/November or April/May, says Sally Shaw, the Society’s Council Chair. But members and friends were blessed last Saturday with bright sunny blue skies at the Potting Shed in Karen.
“We like to hold the sale at this time of year since people are always looking for plants to grow in their garden,” says Sally Davey, Nairobi District Chair who is hosting the sale this year in her spacious 1.5 acres yard.
The sale was to start at 10am, but many plant-lovers arrived early, some to set up their colorful displays of trees, shrubs, herbs, succulents and potted flowers of all types, others to get a good look around before the crowds arrived, which they did.
In fact, well before 2pm when the sale was to be done, an army of wheel barrels were heavy-laden with plants getting wheels to people’s vehicles. Some were loaded with Brian William’s indigenous trees, others filled with Paul Mwai’s fruit trees including rare pomegranate, tamarind, kiwi and moringa trees. And others couldn’t resist getting lots of Alice Kuria’s potted herbs, some favoring her pineapple mint, lemon balm and thyme, others going for her stevia, oregano and lavender plants.
The succulents were especially popular this year in light of gardeners’ experience of the extended drought. The Succulenta Society’s table was strategically located with its Crassula ovata, also known as the ‘Money Tree’ selling in three different sizes. “We donate our succulents to the sale so we can raise money for the upkeep of the society,” says Pat Jentz, who adds that one of the big advantages of membership in Succulenta is the reasonable trips they regularly take to see species of the plant that grows well in arid places.
Patrick Kamau also grows succulents in his quarter-acre garden in Syokimau. “We have a green house, and that’s where we grow our plants,” says Helen Watiri, one of Patrick’s two daughter. Her sister Elizabeth Wanjiru says she’s been helping her dad look after their succulents ever since he joined the Horticulture Society five years ago.
Sophie Shaw,17 also grows succulents when she’s not studying for exams. “I guess my mother’s love for gardening has rubbed off on me,” says Sophie whose mother Sally kindly escorted this Business Daily reporter all around the sale.
“Originally, around 30 years ago the sale was just for members to exchange plants. But over the years, we’ve opened the sale up to members and the public who get to see many plants you won’t find in any of the street nurseries,” says Sally, as she introduces me to Monica Kerretts who’s chairperson of the Horticulture Society’s newest district in Machakos County.
“I love plants myself,” says Monica whose district already has 33 members. “We only started up in January this year but there’s a growing interest in plants where we live,” she says, noting her place is called Kanake Gardens, “Kanake means beautiful in Kikamba, my language,” she adds.
But Monica is clearly not the only one who’s passionate about plants. So is Suraj Shah who runs the Herbivore Garden Centre. He had a wide assortment of herbs and orchids on display right at the entrance of the actual Potting Shed, a space which had been transformed that day into both a sales area and an eatery where the Rusty Nail was doing outside catering for the Society.
Inside the Shed, everything from sturdy flower bags by Katy Barnes’s Kuzi to bees wax and honey from the Bee Institute to fresh chicken wings from Rusty Nail were on sale. Meanwhile, out on the grass, besides all the trees, shrubs and flowers on display, there were 25kg and 50kg bags of organic compost being sold.
One thing I found especially appealing about the Plant Show was the tremendous variety of healthy plants to see, many of which I had never heard of before. For instance, Eileen Vienna had Scotch bonnet chilis potted in recycled plastic cups which I now know are one of the hottest chilis anywhere. She had other species of chilis as well. But again, I didn’t know there are ‘ornamental chilis’ as well as ‘ornamental pomegranates’ which she and her son had on display.
But perhaps the discovery I found most delightful was learning from one of these knowledgeable horticulturalists, that the tree growing right outside my front door is an Araucaria or Monkey tree.

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