- The 72-year-old woman has packed a lot in her life: youthful adventures, marriage, children, loss of her son, 13 grandchildren, various entrepreneurial endeavours and community service initiatives.
- Before the pandemic, she spent her days volunteering at the Vincentian Prayer House where she organised retreats.
My time with Margaret Njeri began in a room that was well lit. Its light did not come from hanging chandeliers holding pear-shaped bulbs but from the natural light flooding in from the two colour stained windows located near one corner.
This room, with white and pale gold, painted walls that hold various religious paraphernalia, is very important to her. Finding a spot on the thick, wall-to-wall yellow carpet covering the floor beneath, she tells me why.
“The idea to start gardening came to me while I was praying here,” she says. The ‘here’ is her prayer room, and the evidence of her conviction is in the tidily arranged pots carrying ornamental indoor beauties that include the prayer plant, peace lilies, rubber fig and the Dracaena Janet Craig plants.
The 72-year-old woman has packed a lot in her life: youthful adventures, marriage, children, loss of her son, 13 grandchildren, various entrepreneurial endeavours and community service initiatives.
Before the pandemic, she spent her days volunteering at the Vincentian Prayer House where she organised retreats.
“My volunteer work came to an end due to Covid-19 social distancing rules. Suddenly, my days became longer and filled with silence,” she recalls. Knowing that an idle mind is the devil’s playground, the staunch Catholic turned to God for guidance.
“In prayer, God showed me what to do.”
It’s not that gardening was new to her. It had just gotten lost in the busy shuffle of life.
The mother to six has always been sharing whispers with the flora and fauna in her surroundings. Growing up in central Kenya, nature dotted the landscape of her childhood.
She remembers planting seeds that soon became loaded with leaves and food. The pandemic reminded her of those days, rekindling her love and passion for the soil and the life it supports.
Wasting no time, her first purchase was the white peace lily, known for its brilliant white flowers. That one flower birthed many others.
Seeing the potential, her children encouraged her to turn her passion into a business. She chose an endearing name for it: Mama Peter’s Garden.
The divinely inspired gardener has been growing happiness for seven months, with the help of her daughter, Wambui Njuguna. Setting up shop was not a challenge as she converted her garage into a gardening area and uses her compound as a nursery.
There is an air of excitement when she finally opens her paradise. A dugout portion of the lawn, windowsills and the verandas of the house are her display panels.
Each plant is handled as one would a baby. Already healthy from being showered with tender love and care, it’s patted softly and spoken of highly.
Indoor and outdoor foliage plants make up most of the collection that numbers more than 200, drawn from a variety of species: the canna lilies, begonias, polka dot, firetail chenille, Heart of Jesus, raindrop peperomia, elephant ears, and the spectacular patterned bromeliad known as the Aechmea orlandiana.
There’s also a succulent corner and several flowering plants.
“My mother has been a plant lover for a long time. As a child, I have fond memories of a home teeming with different types of plants and flowers. Other realities edge it out of her life but I’m glad she’s at it again,” Ms Njuguna says.
The mother plants of her rich plant catalogues come from various sources and her experience as a farmer has proven useful during plant propagation.
Some have been bought from roadside nurseries or flower shops, gifted to her, while others are a product of a honeyed tongue. If there’s a nice plant, she will ask for a cutting.
Having inherited her green thumb from her mother, Wambui is the hand behind Mama Peters Garden social media pages since her mother is not tech-savvy.
“She’s gotten better at using YouTube but Instagram remains a maze,” the last of her mother’s four girls adds.
The impact of gardening on an older person’s life cannot be underestimated. It is an excellent form of exercise.
The activity of digging, watering, and watering builds strength without being too hard on their bones. They also get to catch some sun while at it.
It is also an incredible stress-reliever. “I’m so happy when I’m in the garden. I get lost in my world,” the energetic woman shares. “It’s also thrilling to watch a plant that was once small and fragile grow strong under my care.”
Furthermore, gardening provides routine and purpose for older persons. Wambui is happy that it fills her mother’s time and keeps her engaged mentally and emotionally.
“When she’s not praying, she’s in the garden,” she says. “This is far better than watching TV. When we come home, she has stories to share about her plant adventures or mishaps. It’s also a great way to fund her sunset years.”
The rubber fig tree is the one she likes most. She has two giant trees in her compound, several potted ones and some growing from propagation. “It takes three months to develop roots. But as challenging as it is to grow it, once it catches on, it flourishes.”
Having begun selling the plants only three months ago, the majority of Mama Peter’s Garden customers are family, friends and friends of friends.
However, social media has grown its online footprint. Pricing is dependent on the type and size of the plant chosen. Underpinned by their own experiences while purchasing plants, the vision of the business is to make plants affordable for their clients.
“It’s been an incredible investment, and it can only get better,” the new business owner says.