Nineteen years ago, Mumbaz Adam started urban gardening to ease pain of losing a loved one and loneliness.
At her garden now, the only sound that breaks the tranquillity is the chirping birds and wind chimes. It has hundreds of potted plants, some beautifully grown on driftwood and others over 40 years old.
“My children went to college and my father died the same year. I was at a very low point in my life. When I started watering and potting plants, I felt a big relief,’’ she says.
Little did she know that treating the soul with planting flowers and trees would turn into a career. Soon, customers started making flower orders. The well-maintained Nyali eco garden is located in her family home at the suburbs of Mombasa and she has more than 150 plants and trees.
As I stepped into the botanical garden, it did not take me long to connect with nature.
There were not many people around but occasionally, Mrs Adam says, she hosts garden meetings for small groups of people in the makuti-thatched gazebo.
Paying visitors also come to feed fish and sit by the garden pond.
“It is an eco-system. The fish control the insects and mosquito larvae. The water cabbage on top is food for the fish,” she says of the pond.
Most mornings, she wakes up to glorious birds and butterflies. The garden has attracted schools that bring children to learn gardening techniques.
“I teach them how to plant their own flowers and learning different parts. We do a little tour. Afterwards they take the potted flower home for Sh200,” she says.
Mrs Adam who studied business management has a creative eye that adds glamour, age and art to plants.
She pairs some of the plants with driftwood to bring out an old rustic visual interest to young plants.
“I play with driftwood. I incorporate it with the plants and you can see how beautiful it is. It changes the look,” she says.
Her husband, Adam Ismail Musa, an engineer helped a lot in the garden. Using a wire, they tire a flower or tree to the driftwood to hold on to it properly.
“It looks like an old tree. For instance, some flowers are three years old but when grown on driftwood, they look older and more beautiful,’’ Mrs Adam says.
She also grows miniature trees including dwarf conifers. The backyard of her home is littered with shelves of Bonsai plant varieties among other rare ones indoors.
“I train them to grow small in tiny pots and when they grow taller, I prune them and make them bushier but the trunk grows bigger,” she says.
The miniature trees can be paired with other flowery species but she prefers them standing out as their own masterpieces. The oldest potted plant is a 45-year-old Benjamin tree that sits on the front yard. She collected it from an abandoned site. And it is the most valuable.
“I saw potential in it. I would sell it for Sh20,000 or Sh25,000. It is a living art.”
The desert rose sitting in a pot next to the Benjamin tree goes for Sh18,000.
Some of her customers include home owners and the offices. She also hires out the flowers as weddings and parties decorations. She has more affordable plants such as bougainvillea and palms that are perfect ornamental vines for outdoors.
A potted lucky bamboo is very good indoors and an ideal gift for all occasions.
“I love anthuriums. They are challenging in that I have to feed them after every two weeks but the flowers are beautiful and last for months,” says Mrs Adam.
The urban gardener spends most of her time tending to her plants and describes it as her source of renewed joy.
“When gardening, you are in your own world. It is not labour but pleasure. I spend in the garden as much time as the sun allows me,” she says.