Among the many things that humble you in life is going to a muddy garden without gumboots.
The struggle to stay on your feet can be overwhelming but if your destination is a place where you soak up heavenly scents, then it’s worth your while.
That’s what our struggle this week yields at Karura Forest, a few metres from the Belgium Embassy on Limuru Road. Our mission is the search for scented flowers.
Smells can make us reminisce on our past, memories, and the people and things we love. This explains why one of our first instincts when we see flowers, is to stick our noses in them to catch a whiff of their scent.
Benjamin Mwongela, the owner of Carnations Landscapes Nursery welcomes us to the garden that is bursting with fragrance. Unlike us, he has the right farm attire, including a pair of gumboots.
He set up his flower business in 2010.
“The administration of Karura Forest allows us to sell our plants from here as we encourage reforestation and afforestation. They don’t charge us, we just pay the City Council fees,” he says.
Mr Mwongela fell in love with flowers after a short stint working on a floriculture farm and has since 2008 been in the business of nurturing and selling fragrant flowers.
Mr Mwongela says when he started, he sourced seedlings from the neighbouring gardens to propagate. Karura Forest management also donated some seedlings.
But as the business grows and customers develop a taste for more exotic flowers, he’s had to look beyond the country.
“We also have contacts with greenhouses around this region that get us different seedlings. For exotic plants like cherry blossoms, we import and then propagate them at our nursery,” he says.
Below, Mr Mwongela discusses some flowers that are bound to leave your home with a sweet fragrance.
They may sound like a cliche but roses are one of the best-smelling flowers of all time. This explains their regular and common use as a sign of romantic gesture.
“You plant a rose from a bush rose cutting. After two months you graft the rose with a different bush rose to produce the kind of flower that you want. If you want a red, white, or pink rose, you just need to graft a mother stem of one colour with another one. In the third or fourth month, it will start producing roses of different colour petals.”
Roses are happy when under the sun. The best time to graft them is during the dry period in well-drained loam soil. Roses require a medium PH to flourish. In case your soil is acidic you should use lime to neutralize the soil.
Rose flowers need a lot of soil to be able to spread their roots so Benjamin recommends that roses be grown in the garden or in a large pot that can house adequate soil.
Roses should be watered twice every week as the soil needs to be moderately moist. To get more flowers, Mr Mwongela advises that once your flowers shed off it is important to prune your rose plant for it to rejuvenate to new shoots.
“Once you prune one stem, it produces more stems. Having so many stems translates to many flowers in the same plant. You prune when you see most of the flowers fall off.”
Roses look better in clusters so planting them close together is very advisable. It will also concentrate your fragrance.
“Roses come in white, pink, purple, red, yellow, and orange. The red rose smells the best,” adds Benjamin.
There are two types of jasmine, the wildflower and the common jasmine plant which has a greater scent and more flowers. Its flowers are star-shaped and white in colour. A fruity smell lingers around its blooming flowers.
“Jasmine flowers are planted from cuttings. You then let them grow under the conditions of a greenhouse. Once it sprouts you can transfer it into a pot on your balcony or in your garden for you to care for it,” Mr Mwongela tells the BDLife.
Jasmine requires moist and nutritious soil.
The Jasmine flower needs reinforcement as it cannot stand on its own. It could then do very well as a hanging plant for you to hang on your balcony grills, you can also use it as a fence since when it flourishes it grows very well.
“If you intend to grow jasmine as a hanging plant, or for your pergola you should grow it vertically and give it access to full sun for it to bloom well,” advises Mr Mwongela.
Pruning should not be done often as this will reduce the number of flowers. Benjamins tells BDLife that a Jasmine will cost between Sh1,000 and Sh2000 depending on the size.
One unique element of the jasmine flower is that it can never dry for lacking water, what will happen is that the number of flowers would reduce thus reducing the scent.
Lavenda is another scented flower that emanates a herbal and very soothing smell. It has purple flowers.
The grey lavender can be used as a standalone plant or a hedging plant. “Once out in a driveway or in a hedge you can feel the smell. Like most other plants, lavender requires a lot of soil and moderate watering.”
Mr Mwongela says that after it has sprouted. Lavender blooms once you let it go without pruning within 6 months once it has grown. When planting it is proper to give lavender a spacing of at least a foot.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow plant
We sought to find out more about this sweet-smelling flower that could change its colour.
The yesterday, today, and tomorrow plant can be grown from cuttings and it requires that it be grown under a greenhouse effect. Once it shoots, then you can do the planting,” Benjamins tells the BDLife.
Its first blooming will come eight months after planting. The first day it becomes white, the next day it changes to light purple and the last colour will be dark purple before it withers and falls off.
The plant blooms again after three months.
“The nutrients that are helpful in planting are potassium and calcium. You should water it once a week during the dry season. It can only flower outside where it has access to the morning sun and the afternoon shade. Growing it indoors will make it retarded,” says Mr Mwongela.
Among the Chinese, Azalea flowers are one of the most bought flowers during the new year period. The Chinese associated its red colour with good fortune and success. Azaleas come in red, pink, white, and yellow.
With its funnel-shaped blooms, azaleas are happy under the full sun with a partial shade.
“The Azalea produces very many flowers and has lush foliage. It is obtained from cuttings and uses a rooting powder to grow. Fertilizer is used to grow and produce flowers. You need to grow them two to three feet away,” says Mr Mwongela. An azalea will go for Sh1,500.
Fun fact: Scented Flowers produce scent when they bloom as a way of surviving. The scent is to ward off predators and to also lure pollinators.
Bees dance to the fragrance of a sweet-smelling flower. For us human beings the sweet scent of flowers gladdens our hearts and brings us joy and calmness.
As we leave Benjamin’s nursery the fragrance from the flowers accompanies us but so do our muddy shoes. We will need to get ourselves a shoe cleaner.