Where gardeners meet for powwow


Angela Lyimo, a member of Kenya Horticultural Society at her garden in Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL


  • KHS is a gardening society established in 1922 in Nairobi by a group gathered by Miss Olive Collyer.
  • The main objective of the society is to create, foster, and stimulate interest in horticulture, gardens and plants in Kenya.

Gardens. They may look like personalised retreat centres designed by us and for us. Spaces that we run to for quiet, refuge, and solitude. Yet, the enjoyment of these little treasures of heaven is directly tied to our involving others in the gardening journey. Because gardening is best done in the company of many.

Angela Lyimo, a Nairobi gardener is among the many Kenyans in gardening groups as a hobby and to learn the art of growing flowers and trees.

“Nothing is quite like belonging to a community of gardeners. Gardening communities are vibrant spaces where knowledge is freely handed down,” she says during an interview with BDLife.

At her home, it is easy to understand why she joined a gardening group. She has a small garden at the heart of Nairobi. It has a very large tree, some grass, and flowers. “I started gardening when I fell in love with agriculture,” she says.

“To see something grow from a seed or cutting into something that gives you food or beauty is profound to me. A wonder that continues to grow as one ages.”

It was this interest in plants that led her to seek out, and eventually join the Kenya Horticultural Society (KHS) in 2012.

“At first I thought because of the name ‘horticultural’ it would be dealing with areas that I work in, agriculture and horticulture. So, I attended one of their advertised annual plant sale at the potting shed in Karen,” she recalls.

What she expected was not what she got.

“There were people selling plants and freely sharing knowledge on where to plant and how to do to go about it. Though I knew no one there, I felt right at home amid all the strangers because we had a common love for nature. The rest as they say is history.”

KHS is a gardening society established in 1922 in Nairobi by a group gathered by Miss Olive Collyer.

The main objective of the society is to create, foster, and stimulate interest in horticulture, gardens and plants in Kenya. It achieves this by bringing together people of all backgrounds, whose common interest is growing flowers, fruits, vegetables, or ornamental plants.

Ms Lyimo’s sentiments are echoed by Vishy Talwar, also a KHS member and current national chairman of the society. Mr Talwar grew up exposed to nature and greenery.

He remembers plump coffee berries falling on his tiny hands during harvest time. The sweet and slightly sour taste of strawberries plucked by his hasty hands before breakfast, the soles of his feet brushing against his father’s perfect lawn and trying to make the coloured petals in his mother’s garden flutter during a windless day.


Vishy Talwar, the Council Chairman Horticultural Association posing for a Photograph at Flowered Earth in Westlands, Nairobi on March 10, 2022. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

“My mother has been a member {of the gardening group} since 1986. I knew the value from watching her gardening experience but it was not until 2007 that I decided to join,” the father-of-two explains.

At the time, the garden in which he grew up in was facing destruction since it had to be uprooted to pave way for construction. It had at least 200 varieties of plants displayed in 3,000 individual plants.

“KHS had a course called ‘Know Your Garden’ that was offered exclusively to members. I primarily joined to do this course and save the garden,” he says.

And save the garden he did.

With the knowledge gained, he made a nursery with all the plants which he then replanted once the construction projects were done.

“It was so much fun,” he says.

“This course unearthed in me a passion and deep appreciation for gardening and connected me to a large pool of gardening enthusiasts.”

Today, the ardent gardener has two home gardens and one office garden, that he has solely planted. At his home garden, he has 75 trees, of which 43 are indigenous and over 200 flowering plants, shrubs, and herbs.

“Palm trees are my favourite. I like them because they’re beautiful and have many varieties So far, I have 26 different varieties.”

Joining a gardening society is one of the best decisions gardeners can make. For a nominal subscription fee, being part of a community enables them to gain more insight into the world of gardening through garden meetings, lectures and discussion, plant sales and flower shows, and literature on the same.

“It has expanded my knowledge of flowers, herbs, trees, plants and pollinators plus so much more,” Ms Lyimo shares.

So exciting has this journey been for her that she serves as a council member, in charge of membership. It has also enriched her plant collections.

“I have select plants bought from the various meetings. The hibiscus plant I can see from where I sit was bought from a garden visit. My mother who is an avid gardener is the beneficiary of the surplus I have collected over the years which cannot fit in my small garden.”

To Mr Talwar, a gardening society is a wonderful place to network in a gardening sense.

“Because of the various mix of people in such spaces, there’s so much to learn. In a society as old as KHS, some old gardens are brimming with old-fashioned plants. Visiting such gardens exposes me to plants that are no longer found in the mainstream markets,” he says.

Furthermore, associations enhance the appreciation of nature and the access to experts stretches one’s gardening prowess. For example, Mr Talwar has let a section of his garden grow wild. No tending, feeding, or watering. Seven months later, the wild growth, in its golden brown shade, is now a talking point amongst his neighbours as it is unique with an abundance of butterflies, and other small insects.

His advice? Gardeners should consider joining communities of gardeners around them.

“In such spaces, both people and nature are talking to you,” summarises Ms Lyimo.