- Samia Ali recalls what her front yard looked like when she moved into her house in 2020.
- The pale crème-coloured walls stared unexcitingly back at her, and the black metal grill coupled with the grey, solid concrete pavement beneath her feet reminded her of the reality of living in an apartment in an urban area.
Samia Ali recalls what her front yard looked like when she moved into her house in 2020. The pale crème-coloured walls stared unexcitingly back at her, and the black metal grill coupled with the grey, solid concrete pavement beneath her feet reminded her of the reality of living in an apartment in an urban area.
“It was uninviting, unhomely, uninspiring,” the 44-year-old says.
In some way, all urban spaces, open or built on, reflect the eradication of the once-vibrant plant population that previously dotted the landscape.
If you visited her now, and it feels like home, it is because she has laboured to turn it into one. The mother of two has breathed life into her apartment’s front yard, which she proudly calls “my jungle” by turning the blank canvas of urban barrenness into wild beauty. And it all started with one potted plant.
“I had kept a small first-floor balcony garden in my previous home, which I gave away. But moving here rekindled my love and passion for plants and took it to a whole new level. Now I’m all in,” she says.
“I spend hours on plant window shopping and can go a distance to look for different varieties, and I also order from vendors in other counties.”
Ms Ali, who works as an administrator at a hospital knows that nature is one of life’s best physicians. As she takes me through her journey, I get the sense that one cannot be a half-hearted gardener.
You need to be attentive and willing to go the extra mile to get the garden you want.
“I noticed that the first plants I bought were wilting under the sun. To prevent this, I started saving towards the construction of the shed that you see at the moment,” she says.
Measuring no more than four by two metres, I estimate that this urban jungle contains 80 to 100 plants.
Most are foliage plants with a few flowering plants which she loves admiring while unwinding down from a long day at work. Her kitchen and bedroom windowsills are lined with small plants too.
You can tell from the meticulously arranged pots that her skills as an administrator have been applied to ensure efficient use of space and resources.
“I arrange plants in clusters based on their requirement needs. Some plants thrive on medium to high humidity. Grouping them creates extra humidity and an ideal tropical environment,” she shares.
And because pots can be expensive, she has given plenty of plastic containers a second at purposeful living. The garden is further enhanced by an eclectic group of hanging potted flowers that create a sense of movement while adding a dash of colours for the eye to marvel at that level.
Her favourites are the Caladium, Alocasia, Monstera, Syngonium pink and all the trailing and hanging plants which include pothos, string of buttons, tradescantia zebrine among others.
Hardest to grow
I’m curious to know which plant has been a thorn in the flesh.
“The spider plant. They say that it’s the easiest beginner plant. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. It’s been my worst experience. But through persistence and experimenting, I’ve tamed it,” the plant lover says.
The self-taught gardener gardens with a global mindset. She believes that her local efforts here contribute to change in the global world explaining:
“Gardeners create ecosystems that contribute in creating clean air and beautifying spaces. We influence others to go green. Currently, many young people are embracing nature and embarking on their plant journey. I support such initiatives. Occasionally, I’ll give my neighbours pups from my matured plants.”
She is active in several gardening social media pages and has started her own, “Plant Lovers Mombasa” on Facebook page and “mombasaplantlady” on Instagram. Of these she notes, “It’s amazing to have a plant community where plant lovers share, appreciate, support, and learn from each other. With pollution and global warming crisis threatening life, we make a difference one plant, one tree at a time. Even the mighty oak was once a sapling.”
As a working mom, she guards her gardening time with the eye of a lion watching its prey as the only time she has to tend to it is in the evenings after work and during weekends.
During this precious time, she inspects her plants for watering, pruning, pest control, or repotting. Other days, she and her two sons will just sit on the divani sofa bed taking in the beauty around them.
She admits to having considered doing away with the hassles of gardening especially when a plant wilts “after I’ve given it my best” or has the energy to carry out the normal plant care routine. During such times, she preaches to herself the joy and satisfaction derived from nurturing a plant into its glory.
“Plant care is therapy. It calms my spirit, gives me a sense of purpose and a healthy and adorable way of spending my spare time.”
It’s also the best way to connect with her seven-year-old son.
“He has his section in the garden,” she says.
What is she working on now? “Expanding my flower collection to add more vibrant colours. I’m also working to acquire equipment like a humidity and soil moisture meter, which will ease my work.”
Great gardens just do not exist. They are created through blood, sweat, tears, and proper budgeting.