Beautiful pigmented flowers hanging on frames, trees and walls with sweet scent catch your attention as you approach a garden in Malindi.
Nick Conway, the owner of the Hanging Garden, says he ventured into orchids as a substitute to tourism that kept on dwindling in Malindi over the past years.
I found him watering some purple, green and red coloured flowers planted on wood, flotsam and stones inside clay and wooded pots shaped like mugs, buckets and trays among others.
“Most of the flowers here range from Sh500 to Sh100,000 depending on the species, cost of transportation for delivery, type and size of flower pot,” he says.
Some of the domestic and wild species of flowers in the garden include dendrobiums also known as foxtail orchids, rhynchostylis, cattleya and angraecum from Madagascar among others.
Another scenery of a witty bushy plant covering a mask also hangs on a wall, which he identifies as “Old Man’s Beard”, a Spanish moss scientifically referred to as tillandsia usneoides.
“The plant sell at Sh500 per bunch and it gives a beautiful scenery at homes and hotels and birds use them for making nests,” he says adding that “once planted, it multiplies itself to cover a place like wool.”
Mr Conway, a Briton with over 12 years experience in landscaping and gardening from the UK, says he uses local artisans to make the flower pots in order to incorporate African art and design.
“The flower pots have been made with a lot of creativity by local artists in Mombasa and they display the true African heritage and culture intertwined with beauty and sweet flower scent,” he says.
He then fills the pots with pebbles, charcoal or coconut chunks that assists to hold the plant roots firmly in the pot and provide water and nutrients.
“The organic materials decompose after some time providing nutrients to the plants, although refilling is required once they decompose and I irrigate them depending on moisture content,” he says.
However, Mr Conway who also operates a tour advisory company says he has incorporated creativity and styles from Japan, Asia and the Mediterranean to attract more customers.
“We also specialise in transforming patio areas, pools, roof tops, gazebos and turning parts of the garden or trees into focal points,” he says.
Mr Conway who has employed five casual labourers to assist him in garden works usually imports some of the flowers from as far as Thailand, Europe, Mediterranean, Madagascar and South America.
“These wonderful hybrid desert roses that sell Sh4,500 per plant are imported from India,” he says as displays a unique rose flower.
He says he has grown some of the flowers like dendrobium in a hollow tree stump which sell at Sh15,000 each in order to attract customers who prefer natural beauty.
“The dendrobium is around five-years-old and well established, with two flower spikes that will be flowering in a week or so and a third coming,” he added.
Mr Conway says the business involves a lot of travelling and research on exotic flowers found in South America, Japan, Thailand, India, Africa, Madagascar and Mediterranean islands.
“One has to know the type of soil and diseases affecting certain species of plants and whether they could grow outside their climate of origin,” says the Briton who came to Kenya in the 1990s.
However, he says, the most interesting challenge is to master the legal mechanisms between countries during the importation and exportation of plants in the international market.
“In some countries, it is an offence to possess and export wild plants,” he says adding “here is Kenya, one is required to secure a permit to operate such a business.”
Mr Conway says his customers are mainly in Nairobi where he sells to individual clients who pay via M-Pesa and supermarkets, while exporting others overseas to online shoppers.