Vet finds peace in caring for plants - VIDEO


Joyce Shamshudin’s rock garden as pictured on October 17, 2023, at her home garden in Muthaiga, Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

Joyce Shamshudin is a very happy gardener. When we arrive at her home in Muthaiga, Nairobi, she joyfully receives us and is eager to tell us about her 22-year-old garden.

She tells us tales of her 40-year-old cycad, a rock garden, palm trees and her struggling lawn grass.

“We came here in 2001. When we first moved in, there were a lot of canna lilies and lantana-cameras in the garden. But I got rid of them, I did not like them. There were some indigenous trees and a ficus tree. I planted the yellow Nandi flame tree. I remember going to buy it at Sh2,000 at that time (18 years ago). That was an exorbitant price. I am just so happy that it grew. I like it because it is unique. When it blooms fully, it is yellow. It is my pride,” Joyce tells BDLife.

Among the trees in her garden is the Terminalia, growing right outside her house. It acts as a cover to prevent passersby from seeing through.

It also provides a good shade and a beautiful canopy.

Vet finds peace in caring for plants

“But now its roots are giving us a run for our money; so we keep cutting the roots that are going towards the house. The roots travel in the same way that the branches go. It does however provide a very nice big shade and it sheds all its leaves around August.”

To prevent it from being all plain, Joyce has climbing philodendrons growing on the tree. This is the case with the majority of the trees in her front yard.

“I grow other plants on the trees and under the trees so that the trees do not look too bare, especially because many of the indigenous trees shed all their leaves at certain times of the year,” she says, as she shows us her staghorn ferns growing off some trees.

I wonder how she got the ferns to stick on the trees.

“I bought this fern (she shows us one of the largely growing ferns) from roadside plant sellers and put it in a pot to grow. I then fixed it on the tree using moss,” she says.

She also has many air plants growing on her trees including the Old Man’s beard, all of which help to keep the trees vibrant when “they shed all their leaves.”

Her collection of palm trees is also astounding. She has the Thika Palm, the Livistona Palm, the Traveller Palm, and the Fishtail Palm.


A side view of a section of Joyce Shamshudin’s garden on October 17, 2023, at her home garden in Muthaiga, Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

Her Orchids

Joyce has a bountiful collection of different types of orchids. She grows a majority of her orchids under the different trees around her garden, particularly under her pepper tree.

“I have discovered that my orchids are happy under this tree.”

Her local orchids include vandas, cattleyas and dendrobiums.

“I don't have a good hand with dendrobiums but I am well with vandas and cattleyas. When I was sick about seven years ago, I lost all of my 15 cymbidiums,” Joyce, who is a cancer survivor tells us.


Orchids growing on trees in Joyce Shamshudin’s garden on October 17, 2023, at her home garden in Muthaiga, Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

The pots

The avid gardener has state-of-the-art pots that are not only large but also exquisite.

They must cost a fortune but Joyce tells us that for her concrete pots, she got them as compensation in place of money.

“I am a veterinarian by profession and there was a lady who contracted me to treat her dogs and she would pay me with these concrete pots instead of money.”

As for the clay pots, she gets them from the roadside sellers and families leaving the country.

Her lawn

She has designed her garden herself with the help of her gardener.

However, she says she requires hiring a landscaper to help with her lawn because it has gotten a beating from all the construction that is going on and the dry season.


Joyce Shamshudin during the interview on October 17, 2023, at her home garden in Muthaiga, Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

"I have Zimbabwe grass. The landscaper is going to scarify the lawn where she will remove the dead grass. She will create big holes everywhere, 150 cm deep and then mix manure and fertiliser and spread it with sand. This will help the soil to be opened out and the nutrients can sink in. Initially, I had thought of reaping it up and replanting but then the landscaper said ‘Don't do that your lawn will take many many years to regrow,” she says.

At the edge of her compound, Joyce also has the birds of paradise, bromeliads and hibiscus plants.

Rock garden

The area to the left of her gate is Joyce’s rock garden area, one of her garden successes and a source of pride. Many of her anthuriums are also to be found on the rock bed though growing in pots.

“When we first moved here, this area was all empty. During the dry season, it was always very dry. There is a big rock underneath it, so when you dig a little you hit the stones and you cannot grow anything much here. So a friend advised me to plant succulents. I put all my succulents here and during the hottest season of the year, this place still blooms. I have my Penny tree here at the centre and underneath it, I have grown my air plants, Christmas Cactus and my Donkey tail. Most of my succulents are from the roadside and Plants Galore. I also take cuttings from friends.”

In swan concrete pots, Joyce has grown her geraniums “which like the full sun so they are doing very well here.”

40-year-old cycad

Cycads are an endangered species of plants and are gradually becoming extinct. Joyce has a 40-year-old cycad that she cherishes.

“This is a female cycad. I got it in 1993 in Mombasa from my mom’s house, which had gotten it in 1983. It was in a pot so when she left for Canada, she gave it to me and I continued growing it in a pot until we moved to this place, then I decided to grow it in the soil.”


A 40-year-old cycad in Joyce Shamshudin’s garden on October 17, 2023, at her home garden in Muthaiga, Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

Her backyard hosts her fruit trees including passion, pawpaws, mangoes, bananas and avocados. She also has struggling lemons and oranges.

“I am not very lucky with oranges,” she says as she shows us an orange tree that is seven years old but has never brought forth fruit.

The area where her septic tank sits is covered with succulents with the dominant ones being the ornamental aloe vera and agapanthus.

She also has a nursing room for her orchids where she cares for her young orchids until they are ready for her to take them outside.

How did she fall in love with gardening?

“I grew up on a farm in Mombasa. My mom used to do her shamba work and I would find so much peace and calmness working with the soil whenever I helped her. Dad also used to grow his plants, so I guess I picked it up from my parents. So when we bought this place, it was half an acre. I was happy to improve the garden. I just buy my plants at random. For instance, every time I go to an orchid show, I could spend between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000 and I don't mind much because I will enjoy them for a longer time,” the 63-year-old says.


Joyce Shamshudin’s plant nursery pictured on October 17, 2023, at her home garden in Muthaiga, Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

For Joyce, her joy comes in the morning when she wakes up and gets to enjoy her beautiful garden. What has growing plants from scratch taught her about herself?

“Anything in its lowest point of life can come up again. Don’t discard it when it is at its lowest point in life,” she says.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.