Gardening

A man's tiny urban sanctuary - VIDEO

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Jarunda Jaluth talks about some of his plants he has grown over the years at his backyard garden during the interview on February 10, 2022. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Summary

  • Time in the then rose-filled garden not only earned him favour with the Sisters but also birthed in him a love for nature that endures 45 years later.
  • At his home in Old Racecourse, Nairobi, the 55-year-old has built a tiny urban sanctuary to escape city life.
  • Living at an apartment at the time, he slowly changed the face of his balcony using a minimalistic approach to gardening.

When 10-year-old Jarunda Jaluth began tending to plants and flowers, it was not because he particularly enjoyed it. It was an opportunistic move.

“I grew up in a children’s home run by Catholic nuns. To remain unforgettable when goodies were being distributed, I decided to care for that which they cared most about: the garden. It was also the easiest job to do."

Time in the then rose-filled garden not only earned him favour with the nuns but also birthed in him a love for nature that endures 45 years later. At his home in Old Racecourse, Nairobi, the 55-year-old has built a tiny urban sanctuary to escape city life.

“When I moved out of the home, my passion for gardening dwindled as life got busier. However, working with the famed bird watcher, Fleur Ng’weno, made me rekindled that lost love once again,” he says.

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The backyard home garden of Jarunda Jaluth pictured on February 10, 2022 where he sits with his family on sunny afternoons. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Living at an apartment at the time, he slowly changed the face of his balcony using a minimalistic approach to gardening. “I prefer to have a few but rare plants,” he shares and has gone to great lengths to get the plants that fit this criterion.

It is these plants that now dot the landscape of his current home, which is a stand-alone house. So far, he has 15 varieties which include wild plants, both indoor and outdoor ones. In his living room, he has two wild plants: the whale fin snake plant which he got from Amboseli and the African Spear snake plant.

“Wild plants can be adopted. If you create a condition for a plant to grow, it will grow,” he says. Finding a spot inside is also the Zanzibar Gem from Tanzania. These stunning plants are great conversation starters which is something that Mambobiad enjoys talking about immensely.

But the joy of green is not only in the living room. It pours into the backyard carried in pots carefully labelled by the wife of his youth, Marion. Under his watch with the trowel in hand and passion in heart, the bland, concrete backyard has evolved into a contemplative potted garden, much loved by his family.

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The backyard home garden of Jarunda Jaluth pictured on February 10, 2022 where he sits with his family on sunny afternoons. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

His two children, aged nine and 12, will grow up knowing that no matter how small a space they have, there is always room for hanging plants. They will have memories of doing school assignments under hanging pots filled with flourishing donkey tails.

They will also remember watering their fern collection in the garden: the foxtail, the Boston, the giant sword and the variegated brake ferns, and laugh at their father’s insistence on watering the fishbone cactus with rainwater only.

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A Burro’s Tail plant planted at the home garden of Jarunda Jaluth pictured on February 10, 2022. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Over dinner, the family enjoys the fragrance from the highly fragrant flowers of the evergreen Arabian Jasmine. Owing to the nature of his job, he chooses plants that are easy maintenance but bold and command attention. It is the reason why he has several fern varieties.

Ferns, he says, are elegant and forgiving. “If you overwater them, they will survive and when underwatered, they’ll give you warning signs.” The garden is also home to the lovely vine, Mandavilla, the watermelon peperomia, the stunning Alocasia 'Frydek', also known as Alocasia Green Velvet, and the Monstera albo, whose price can be as high as Sh40,000.

A bird-watcher, nothing gives him greater joy than having birds nesting in his garden. “The albo has grown in popularity in recent years,” he says, adding that he is propagating his to increase his count. His love for plants has bloomed into a new career as a gardening consultant designing gardens for people.

Besides fetching for his prized possessions in the wild, he also buys them from roadside vendors as well as has plant and cuttings exchanges with fellow plant enthusiasts. He has a favourite pot that he purchased in India. Golden in colour, it carries the most exquisite plants in his collection- the thanksgiving and Easter cacti.

Along the way, the gardener has learned valuable tips on gardening especially in pots. He shares a few. “Most gardeners are wary about keeping plants and pets together. Well, they don’t have to choose between the two. Train your pets on how to live with plants,” shares the owner of two cats, 'Simba' and 'Angel.'

To keep root rot in these potted pleasures at bay, he does not use soil in the plants. “I use charcoal dust mixed with chicken or goat manure. This mix doesn’t retain water because it is light. Furthermore, it allows the plant roots to breath.” He uses rainwater as opposed to tap water to avoid over chlorinating the plants.

On pests, the avid gardener stresses that presence of pests in a garden is squarely on the shoulders of the owners of plants. They must learn as much as possible about the best growing conditions. “Gardeners stress plants through over or underwatering, wrong placements and whatnot.

Such conditions remove the vigour of life from the plants, turning them into prey for the pests.” In the end, I ask if having a garden softens or clouds his masculinity. “No. If anything, it’s made me a better person. A garden is a place for us to connect, watch and learn.

Caring for plants has taught me patience, which is a vital trait in dealing with the people and the things life,” he reveals. Surely, one cannot overestimate the value of a garden to one’s soul and quality of life, he adds.

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