Weaver birds chirp merrily around a ginger lily flower bud as the travellers sit nearby enjoying a sumptuous lunch at Sarova Whitesands Hotel, Mombasa.
A year ago, Jahera Biondi saw the lovely ginger lilies growing in a hotel garden while attending a conference in Uganda. She picked a stem and brought it home.
She was fascinated by the plant that is not commonly found in Kenya, she says.
“When I see something I like, I ask if I can have a little bit or even buy it. I broke the twig of the plant, although it was not doing very well at the hotel. I put it in a bottle with fresh water in my room for a few days until I got back to Mombasa where I planted it in the soil,” says Ms Biondi, who is known as ‘Rina the landscaper’ in her circles.
The landscaper says most of the plants grown in hotel garden came from South America and other places all over the world.
The Ugandan ginger lily blossoms with red flowers. It needs direct sunlight and does well outdoors.
“Ginger lily responds well outdoors rather than indoors. I had several cuttings before transferring them to the garden because they require a lot of space due to their spreading nature,” Ms Biondi says, adding that the stem cutting is placed in a compost manure for about two months for the stem and the roots to sprout.
The young plant is then transferred to a garden. Water is a vital for the plant and it should be watered twice a week.
“All plants deserve to be watered using fresh water to maintain their beauty,” says the landscaper adding that salty water makes the plant leaves turn brown on its edges.
Compost manure is applied to replenish the nutrients help them stay healthy, have strong stem and flower faster. Ms Biondi makes her own compost from dry leaves collected by the gardeners and other organic matter, which is kept under a shade and left to decompose.
Ginger lilies thrive after pruning. It has green succulent leaves and the old ones should be plucked to allow the plant to grow tall and look more appealing. The plant flowers six months after growing it, after which pruning is done and the plant is cut almost to the root level to allow it to regenerate.
“When they are done flowering, we prune them all the way down. We also cut it at the bottom and it will grow and spread very fast,” said Ms Biondi as she clipped off stem cuttings and gave us to try in our small gardens.
The plants can be planted in the pots but repotting should be done often because it spreads fast.
On the downside, ginger lilies attract many pests just as they entice birds. Check often whether it has fungus or pests and spray pesticides.
“Using a single type of pesticide is not helpful in the garden. We keep changing the pesticides because some fungus get immune to the sprays,” says Ms Biondi who carved a name for herself in Mombasa and has lined up hotels and the wealthy as her clients.
‘‘Many hotel visitors ask if they can carry with them ginger lily stem cuttings so as to plant in their homes. I once caught a hotel guest plucking it without asking and I knew they loved it,” she says.