Gardening

Art of growing miniature roses

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Ms Zoya Verjee the founder of EZ plants enterprise in Naivasha showing some of the rose flowers grown by the firm on July 15, 2021. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG

Summary

  • "Miniature roses are wonderful landscape plants because no matter how tiny a space you have, you'll always find space for a potted miniature rose," shares Ms Verjee.
  • The average plant has at least six rose flowers and can grow into a mini rose bush.
  • Depending on the care given, miniature roses may last 3-5 months indoors and one to two years outdoors.

For the past two years, Zoya Verjee, the founder of EZ Plants Kenya, has been in the business of delivering joy in pots. Every day, thousands of plants – flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs – in small to mid-sized pots make their way from the Plantech Kenya Limited farm, the mother company of EZ Plants Kenya, to garden centres and supermarkets in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Kampala and eventually to individuals and landscapers for home or business use.

"A plant is a wonderful addition to one's home. Whether it provides food or beauty, the result is the same - joy," Ms Verjee says. Her own joy and enthusiasm about plants are evident as she takes me around the farm which is located in Naivasha.

While EZ Plants Kenya grows a variety of plants, it's the flowers that bring me to Naivasha today. The expansive greenhouse where the flowers are grown is an oasis of nature's goodness. Every flower I set my eyes on makes my heart sing and cry at the same time.

The song is a natural response to the sheer delight of being in a space with such magnificent botanical wealth. Walking around, touching and smelling the rows upon rows of neatly arranged potted flowers felt like I was in a huge estate with an extensive, well-tended garden. The cry is of the realisation that in the future, visiting greenhouses would be the closest we'll get to nature if we don't change the way we interact with our natural environment.

There are over 50 varieties of flowers here. From the stunning dahlias with saucer-sized flowers, the colourful and cheerful gerberas, the multi-coloured pentas and the blue-flowered petunias, which are butterfly magnets, the prolific pot marigolds and the edible flowers like the vividly coloured celosias and the heart-shaped pansies among others. The most spectacular flowers though, are the miniature roses. The newest addition to the plant family, they excite Ms Verjee the most and are the highlight of my trip.

"Miniature roses are wonderful landscape plants because no matter how tiny a space you have, you'll always find space for a potted miniature rose," shares Ms Verjee. The finance graduate began flower farming to introduce a variety to the ornamental horticulture industry.

Available in six different colours - light pink, dark pink, attention-grabbing orange, deep red, sunny yellow, and innocent white – and slightly less than 60 centimetres in height, the potted rose plants are heavy with promise. A promise to enhance the prestige of any place they'll be found at. Whether it's at the balcony, in the corner of your garden, whether potted or planted in the ground.

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Ms Zoya Verjee (left) the founder of EZ plants enterprise in Naivasha supervises a worker at work on July 15, 2021. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG

"We are also excited about the pot Hypercium, garden roses, Amorinas and fragranced roses that will be in a variety of colours in addition to the ones we already have," says Elad Bouton, managing director of Plantech Kenya who leads the growing and propagation of the miniature roses.

As I walk through the rose section of the greenhouse, I figure the problem I'll encounter is choosing which of the six rose colours I'll carry home. Not even their thorny stems will keep me away. The scent emanating from all of them makes me wish we were surviving on rose-perfumed oxygen. But after careful consideration, the attention-grabbing orange rose flower scent is the one I like most.

"The roses are bred by a breeder in the Netherlands and once we receive them, we propagate them on their roots, which makes them hardy, and pot them ready to be delivered to gardeners," explains Ms Verjee in the high-humidity propagation room, adding that it was her first job in a rose propagation farm that made her realise that she wanted to be a farmer.

How does one care for and maintain miniature roses, I ask.

Miniature roses do well outdoors where there's plenty of sunshine and fresh air. Therefore, select a spot where your potted beauties will get at least four hours of sunshine daily. The result will be a bloom-packed flower pot. Roses should be replanted in a good potting mix.

"We sell our roses when they are in the flowering stage. Once in full bloom, they are gorgeous. Because they are small in size, you can take them indoors where they'll provide you with bright and constant spots of colour. Aim to have them next to the window or in a place with supplemental lighting," Ms Verjee says.

The average plant has at least six rose flowers and can grow into a mini rose bush.

As for water needs, ensure your scented friends have plenty of water, especially when outdoors. The rule of thumb: ensure that the soil is moist. Dip your finger in the soil to check for dryness or overwatering. Loose soil indicates dryness while clumpy soil, overwatering. Smaller plants mean shallow roots therefore, water regularly.

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A worker at EZ plants enterprise in Naivasha watering flowers on July 15, 2021. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NMG

For optimal and continuous growth, pruning and deadheading are essential practices. Pruning keeps the plant in shape, pleasing to the eye while deadheading promotes vigorous growth. While it may be tempting to prune and deadhead with your hand as you pass by, resist the urge. Use a pair of gardening pruners, cutting at a 45-degree angle. This will keep the plant from being damaged through tearing.

Even though miniature roses are hardy plants, be on the lookout for pests such as aphids, mealybugs and spider mites, which tend to make rose flowers and bushes their home much to your disappointment. Should these unwanted visitors show up, cut off the affected part of the plant and apply pesticide.

"Spending time among your roses will ensure you notice any changes to their leaves and foliage for quick action. It will also boost your mood," Ms Verjee says adding that depending on the care given, miniature roses may last 3-5 months indoors and one to two years outdoors.

Ms Verjee notes that a potted rose is a perfect gift since it lasts more than a few days. It's a "gift that grows'', she says. Confident that I can care for a rose, I carried seven of which I'll keep two. The orange for its scent and the classic deep red because I still believe in romance!