Gardening

‘Mama Bonsai’ blooms in flower landscaping

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Prachi Shah trims her Desert Rose Flower at her farm in the Kongowea area of Mombasa in this photo taken on 14th December 2021. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

If Prachi Shah were to be a flower in a farm, she would be a grafted desert rose. Sprouting and growing slowly, it increases in colour and beauty and when fully grown, a nature marvel – gorgeous with spectacularly coloured trumpeting blooms.

Why a desert rose, I ask. “Well, it would describe, to a fault, my journey as a landscape gardener working with ornamental plants,” Ms Shah says from her Mombasa-based flower farm, Prachi Creations.

Established in 2009, the business involves the beautification and landscaping of various sites, homes, and offices using ornamental plants, and on a smaller scale selling beautiful potted plants, mainly grafted desert roses.

Plants have featured in Ms Shah’s life since she was in university. As a hobby, she created bonsai plants primarily for her own enjoyment.

“In 2008 I took part in an exhibition that became a launchpad for my entrepreneurial journey. After the exhibition, I started collecting variety of indigenous plants for Bonsai beauties and with time transitioned into the field of landscaping,” she explains. “Bonsai artistry taught me to be calm, persistent, patient with a great attention to detail, qualities that have helped me become a good entrepreneur.”

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Prachi Shah trims her Desert Rose Flower at her farm in the Kongowea area of Mombasa in this photo taken on 14th December 2021. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

A very ‘khatarnaak’ (dangerous) woman who takes big risks and jumps into anything adventurous and challenging, Ms. Shah began importing, selling and landscaping using ornamental plants from the international market. The response was phenomenal, boosting her business tremendously.

“I chose to work with ornamentals because they’re charming. Desert roses, for example, are a favourite because of their many shades of colour and variety. One look at them and people fall in love,” she says. “Furthermore, not many people were in the business of landscaping using ornamental flowers.”

Ornamental plants are one of nature’s finest offerings, contributing immensely to making living a pleasure. They are visual delights intentionally planted for aesthetic appeal. With beauty as their mainstay, ornamental plants are absolutely fitting to feature in our outdoors and indoors spaces.

They add character to dull corners, soften harsh interiors and flood our gardens with pops or bursts of colour. Furthermore, they purify and scent the air, and beckon wildlife. There’s nothing more practical and heartwarming than an ornamental plant.

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Grafted desert rose flowers at Prachi Shah farm in Kongowea area of Mombasa in this photo taken on 14th December 2021. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Eleven years later, Ms Shah has established herself both as a bonsai artist and an ornamental landscaper. Her farm contains a trove of the propagated fascinating and living Bonsai trees which include Ficus, acacia, baobab as well as grafted and local grafted roses.

“The oldest plant I have is a 23-year-old baobab. As for the roses, I have a stock of over 50 grafted desert roses. The colors vary from pink, yellow, black, purple, orange, red and more,” she says adding that she has other types of ornamental plants like the Ixora plants which produce clusters of star-shaped flowers which have extended bloom power.

Ms Shah imports her plants from India and Thailand, a process which is very precarious. One has to be very thorough with the characteristics of the plants especially on how it behaves during transit when importation is done. If a plant can’t survive without soil for a few days, importing it will be a fruitless venture.

It is with the same inspired dedication that she delivers, and grounds the plants in her clients’ soils. Luckily, most of them know about the rose.

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Grafted desert rose flowers at Prachi Shah farm in Kongowea area of Mombasa in this photo taken on 14th December 2021. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

“I have clients both locally and abroad who reach out through social media and word of mouth. Some come for plants to liven up their outdoor spaces, spruce up their interior decors – bedrooms or living rooms - or to give their balconies an outdoor feeling. But one thing they have in common is that they are all plant lovers.”

Ms Shah, also fondly known as Mama Bonsai, glows with pride about her work. Every job is an opportunity to meet new people and grow as an individual and landscaper. Her achievements are a source of happiness and satisfaction.

The highlight of her 11-year career is when one of her Bonsai plants was chosen as a gift to the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. A continuous highlight is the fact that is that she’s the only one who imports grafted desert roses. But there’s more.

“Recently I successfully undertook the restoration of a 35-year-old Ficus and the evergreen Terminalia Mantaly which were uprooted and left oscillating between life and death. Both were jolted back to life after 110 days. In 180 days, they stood tall covered in lush green leaves.”

Because desert roses are perfect for landscaping, how do we get the best from them? Just like the name suggests, a dry and hot environment is bliss to them. Therefore, position these eye-catching roses under full sunlight (preferably in a place where one will acknowledge their beauty and splendour) in sandy, stony soil mixed with compost.

Water sparingly to avoid drowning the life out of them. If planted in a container, ensure that you do so in a good soil mix and a container with good drainage to allow excess water to run off immediately.

As I conclude, I ask Ms Shah if flowers are like human beings. “Yes, they are. Both need and crave the same things: love and care.”