The rains are here with us and you know what that means for our gardens; blooms and more blooms and the resurrection of dying plants.
This is also a season to grow new plants and trees.
Monday was a nationwide Tree Planting Day in Kenya and many showed up to plant trees in public places but what about your own home?
The trees that you plant in your home do not have to be plain. Ornamental trees radiate colour and beauty in your garden. These are trees that are grown purely for their beauty. They are colourful, have a good scent, may provide shade and act as a fence. The majority are not expensive. They range between Sh500 and Sh2,200.
Prachi Shah from Prachis Creations says: “Ornamental trees are not only beautiful but the flowering ones help the ecosystem survive. They help attract birds and bees, and they provide sweet smell, which makes your garden a comfortable place to sit and relax.”
Some of the ornamental trees that you can plant this season include:
It is a medium-sized tree that flowers thrice annually. “It produces red and pink flowers. It starts flowering six months after transplanting. It takes two and a half years to reach full maturity. It is propagated through cuttings. Give it four weeks to produce shoots then you can do the transplanting,” says Benjamin Mwongela, the owner of Carnations Landscapes Nursery.
The Indian Crepe-myrtle can also grow in a pot. “The pot must have a big vase, for it to accommodate more nutrients and to grow. It blooms more during the dry season and in hot areas. The quantity of flowers in hot areas is more than in cold areas. The soil should remain moist and well-drained throughout. You can use some organic fertiliser to accelerate its growth,” adds Mr Mwongela.
Petrea Volubilis/purple wreath
Just as the name suggests, the petrea volubilis is a purple vine tree that will add a dash of colour to the green in your garden. It is commonly used for landscaping as it is very beautiful.
“It is propagated through seeds. It blooms thrice annually and takes 18 months to fully grow. Its ideal weather conditions are moderately cold areas or islands. It desires well-drained soil and regular watering,” Mr Mwongela says.
The purple wreath grows best in the soil rather than the pot because it has a big rooting system.
Royal poinciana/ Flamboyant
It is a shade tree that produces yellow or red flowers depending on the variety. It has funnel-like flowers and blooms twice annually during the dry season: “It gives a good canopy hence it is loved by home-owners to provide shade. It is grown from a seedling. The yellow royal poinciana grows into a very huge tree with a height of 20 metres and a radius of up to five metres. The red variety does not grow too tall-reaching only seven metres but it has a wider radius than the yellow one forming a very nice canopy,” Mr Mwongela adds.
The advantage of the royal poinciana is that it does not affect the growth of any plants that grow under it. “You can only grow the royal poinciana in a pot if you want to grow it as a bonsai plant but then it will require special conditions. It is best to grow it as a shade tree or a wind-breaking tree. You can also try to plant it on both sides of your driveway as it will form a very beautiful canopy,” he says.
Japanese cherry blossom
The Japanese cherry blossom's scented light pink and white flowers are sure to give your garden a majestic look. “It produces flowers during the cold season between late May to early July. Normally it sheds off all its flowers and covers the root base with its flowers.It requires a constant supply of water for the soil to be well-drained. You can consider mulching your tree to retain most of the water. It is not very to grow it in a vase,” Mr Mwongeli advises.
There are two varieties of the Nandi Flame; the one with yellow flowers and the one with red flowers.
“The yellow Nandi Flame is propagated from a seed of the red variety. What happens is that the red variety is planted and then grafted with a stem of the yellow nandi flame. When you plant the seed of the yellow variety it cannot germinate on its own. The red nandi flame grows faster than the yellow nandi flame,” says Mr Mwongela. The yellow Nandi Flame is more expensive (at Sh 2,000) than the red Nandi flame (Sh 500) because it is “a grafted breed.
Are you looking to get a shady spot in your garden? A japonica tree may be a good choice with its ever-green leaves and iy-like flowers. The japonica tree is best grown during the wet season as it needs a constant supply of water during the initial stages. It can also flourish as a houseplant, particularly in a cool and well-ventilated room. Light pruning and mulching is the best way to care for your japonica tree.
Millingtonia hortensis/ Neem Chameli
The Millingtonia hortensis is highly acclaimed as an ornamental tree for its fragrant flowers and medicinal use. Grown from a cutting, the Neem Chameli requires regulated watering to ensure that the soil is always wet for it to grow.
“They prefer normal black loam soil and can do well in both dry and wet areas. You can also grow it in a pot for a year and then transfer it into big bags,” Ms Shah advises. The flower buds of the neem chameli are used in the treatment of asthma and sinusitis.
Oleander has two varieties: a single-petaled oleander and a double-petaled Oleander. The Oleander has white and pink flowers.
“The only challenge with the Oleander family is that their leaves are very poisonous, posing a threat to pets or animals in your garden if consumed.” It can adapt to the hot weather as it does very well during the dry season and produces a lot of flowers at this time,” Mr Mwongela says.
Trees not to grow
Mr Mwongela says, “Trees to avoid during this rainy season are succulent-like trees which if grown during the rainy season will rot. These plants require very minimal water to survive and include the desert roses, the cactus, and other breeds of euphorbia. These varieties will not shoot if you plant them during the rainy season. They may end up dying because of too much water.”
Other ornamental trees that you can consider growing this rainy season are the cassia fistula also known as the golden shower tree, the majideya and the camel foot tree.
Ms Shah says that many trees grow well during the rainy season. The growth increases to a double rate when it rains,” she says adding, “You can grow the trees in pots, but at the initial stage for a year but afterwards they will need more space to grow.”
According to Ms Shah, the ornamental trees will need to be repotted after a year when the roots grow strong. Ms Shah’s advice is “Grow fruit trees on the road or in public places and public gardens, which can feed birds, monkeys and homeless people.”