A show for flower lovers

Nyokabi Kenyatta-Muthama, who owns Manda Orchids was among the winners. Photo | Margaretta wa Gacheru | NMG
Nyokabi Kenyatta-Muthama, who owns Manda Orchids was among the winners. Photo | Margaretta wa Gacheru | NMG 

Kenya Horticultural Society’s 119th Flower and Plant Show set a new standard for artistry, originality and excellence of entries this year.

That’s the verdict of the eight judges who had the task of adjudicating the 40 colourfully exhibits at the SSDS Temple Hall in Westlands this past weekend.

One of the judges, Celia Hardy, owner of Plants Galore Garden Centre, said the evidence of this year’s improved entries was George Barua’s large and lovely display of ‘Container-Grown Plant Materials.’

“It won the Society’s Gold Award for overall excellence,” said Celia. Last year, no gold award was given out since none of the entries met the judges’ rigorous criteria.

They consider everything from the condition of the plant and the artistry of its presentation to its originality, variety and overall effect.

Mrs Balinder Ahluwalia, the chairperson explained that winners do not receive cash awards. Instead, they receive a “floating” solid silver trophy which they keep for one year, after which they return it to the society so it can be awarded again the next year.

“The trophies have been handed down to award-winning horticulturalists [gardeners] over the decades,” said Mrs Ahluwalia. She recalled they were first given out back in 1926, two years after the Horticultural Society was formed.

Dazzling Orchids

“Kenya was a colony at the time of course so the local society was part of the Royal Horticultural Society based in the UK,” she added.

Only KHS members are qualified to enter the annual competition.

There were 60 members, out of a total membership of more than 300, who brought beautiful plants to exhibit. There were no less than 140 plant entries and many of the exhibits contained more than a single flower or plant.

For instance, the award-winning Manda Orchids that won the special award for ‘Best Display of Cut Flowers’ exhibited more than a half dozen dazzling cymbidium orchids.

“The cymbidiums are often described as the ‘king of orchids’,” said Nyokabi Kenyatta-Muthama, who owns Manda Orchids.

Her award-winning display featured all the colours that these exotic orchids come in, from pastel pink to sunshine yellow and snowy white.

Bonsai plants

“We only grow our orchids on three acres, but that still makes us the largest commercial orchid growers in all of East and Central Africa,” Nyokabi added.

There were other indigenous and exotic plants, everything from roses, African violets and assorted ferns to philodendrons, azalea hybrids and anthurium blooms.

There were flowering fruit trees and miniature bonsai plants as well as tables full of thorny succulents. And there were even awards for culinary herbs, spices and vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and ‘sukuma wiki’.

All three of those green favourites, [grown by Paul Mwai in a backyard garden in Runda], won first, second and third awards in their class.

There were 65 award-winning classes, including trophies for children, one for gardeners between six and eight years old, another for little ‘green thumbs’ between nine and 12 years old.

Mrs Ahluwalia, who’s been KHS chairperson for the last five years, said there are many benefits to joining the society, even if someone isn’t inclined to place their plants and flowers in the horticultural show. For one, members meet every month in a different member’s garden.

“Then we invite a professional landscaper to come and speak to us about various aspects of gardening, so our members are continually learning new lessons. Membership is Sh1,500 annually.