Gardening

A city garden giving endless pleasure

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Faith Muthoni at her home garden in Ruiru, Kiambu County on February 19, 2021. Faith prefers to propagate her plants. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NAIROBI

Summary

  • The garden is self-designed and self-planted.
  • Her husband of over 20 years, is her design consultant, together with YouTube and Pinterest.

Faith Muthoni smiles more when she talks about the plants and flowers that beautify her front lawn. Her voice is jovial as she shows us around her small, intimate garden in Ruiru, Kiambu County. Her joy is understandable because five years ago, none of these existed.

“The only thing we found when we moved here in 2015 was grass, and this tree,” Ms Muthoni says, pointing to a pine tree.

Her green thumb began when she was in primary school. Her mother gave her and her siblings space on their farm to grow maize for roasting.

“This not only effectively and permanently ended the ‘maize wars’ we had but it also allowed me to delight in watching something I’d planted grow,” Ms Muthoni says.

It was then that she decided that wherever she would go in life, she would always make room for a garden. At her home in Ruiru, she knew that for a plant to make it to her garden, it should have at least one of these four characteristics; be easy to propagate, scented, add colour through flowers or foliage, and require little maintenance. An auditor by profession, over 20 species have made the cut and found a home in her garden, along a perimeter wall.

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She has grown succulents, hydrangeas, Snake and Spider plants, cordylines, periwinkles, anthuriums, the Chinese evergreen, differently coloured daisies, the touch-me-not plants, at least five different coleus plants, among others. Most of them were acquired from friends and family. “It’s a way to keep them on my mind as often as possible, if not daily,” she says.

Impossible to miss are the Foxtail Agave, the euphobia lactea variegated cactus and the two birds of paradise plants, in bloom.

Always hunting for a bargain, the Birds of Paradise are the most expensive plants Ms Muthoni has bought. They cost her Sh1,500 but “they are worth it.”

Roses, however, are what makes her heart sing. The garden abounds in them. Different colours — red, orange, baby pink, cream and white – almost all in full bloom, and varieties, which include the climbing and miniature roses.

“I love, love roses. I cannot wait for the climbing rose to weave its way on this wall,” says the mother-of-two.

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Like many city gardeners, with little space, Ms Muthoni has resorted to using flower pots strategically placed in lining terraces and house walls.

Worth mentioning is what she has christened ‘quarantine pots’. Aptly named so since she made them during her time indoors owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to her, pots are vessels of life. Unfortunately, they are quite pricey. The ones she wanted, for example, cost Sh4,000. Being the creative she is, she bought cement and together with her husband, Tony, and sons, Matthew and Christopher, they moulded pots out of plastic buckets.

“I got eight pots and didn’t even finish the bag of cement, which cost me Sh 1,000,” she says.

Some of her pots have seen many seasons of plants. The oldest one stands right on top of the manhole.

“My husband bought me two of these,” she remarks. In it, she has planted a pothos plant which she hopes in time will cascade down. The other is right next to the night-scented plant, the blooming Jasmine offering a yellow rose flower a thriving environment.

Furthermore, pots play a decorative role strung up in macramé plant hangers, which Ms Muthoni knit herself. Two earth-coloured pots hanging by the main door, bear lovely floral arrangements, with purple coleus, a succulent and a donkey’s tail plant, inject a touch of colour.

But not everything in this garden is for aesthetics. Ms Muthoni has a goal of growing 10 fruit trees this year. So far she has three: A Zimbabwean passion and two apple trees. As she has no ground space to make this a reality, she will plant them in pots.

The garden is self-designed and self-planted. Her husband of over 20 years, is her design consultant, together with YouTube and Pinterest.

“He has good ideas and is always encouraging me, surprising me with flowers now and then.”

Her sons help with the watering thrice a week. Of the two, Christopher, 11 years, seems to have developed an affection for gardening.

Her greatest challenge? Snails which left a trail of destroyed flowers when it rained. For a long time, she pondered on how to get rid of them without using inorganic chemicals. Toads, nature’s slug and snail-eating helpers, came to the rescue. “My neighbour introduced them and we haven’t encountered them since,” Ms Muthoni says.

On Sunday afternoons, you will find Ms Muthoni and Tony basking on the rustic daybeds purchased precisely for this work. “When roses bloom, I can smell them while seated here,” she says. “With such an environment comes birds, bees and butterflies causing us to sit here for hours watching, reading and talking. Nothing can compare to that relaxed feeling.”