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Gardening

Ivy That Doesn't Destroy Walls

Bridge Hotel
Bridge Hotel, Mombasa, with the Ivy plant. PHOTO | DIANA MUTHEU 

Sometimes walls look boring and to make them truly awake, you can plant climbers. But some climbing plants may weaken the walls.

At Bridge Hotel in Mombasa, there is an ivy plant that has climbed up about 100 metres tall. Jeff Njuguna, the operations manager at the hotel says nine years ago he picked a stem and decided to plant it next to a pillar. It soon spreads through the walls without damaging them. The ivy plant spread up to a foot bridge connecting two buildings at the hotel.

From a distance, one can notice the green wall. “When I got the plant, I did not know its name but I loved it. Since then it has become a marvel,” says Mr Njuguna, adding that how the plant climbs the wall amazes even visitors who always want to know more about it. A gardener at the hotel who has been attending to the flower for two years now, Patrick David says the plant requires a lot of sunlight to retain the rich green colour and sprout the beautiful medium-sized leaves.

“The plant is doing well outdoors. It has tried spreading to the inner side of the building but it changes its direction towards sunlight at most times,” says Mr David. The ivy plant has a unique character of attaching its roots to the rough wall using its sticky roots. In the building, it has avoided the smooth painted walls.

The flower is watered twice a day to help it grow and spread faster. “I water the plant every morning and evening using fresh water if there is no rain,” the gardener says.

Ivy plant is an evasive plant and has a tendency of overcrowding. Pruning is necessary and the gardener trims it every other month.

“After pruning the unwanted parts of the plant, I direct it on the rough wall. I add compost manure on the main root of the plant after every two to three months to boost the nutrients taken by the plant,” says Mr David. The non-flowering plant is pest-resistant and also does not attract any kind of pest. “This plant amazes me because it has never attracted any pest or snakes. We have never applied any pesticides,” says Mr David. The gardener cautioned that the plant roots should be handled with care to avoid the whole plant from dying.

“The roots depend on each other for nutrients and they tend to intertwine. If a root is cut,it can lead to the rest of the plants dying,” the gardener added.

Mr David says visitors in the hotel question a lot about the plant and some ask for the stem so that they can try it in their gardens. “I gave out some stems to visitors from Morocco and Cameroon. Some local residents have also picked the stem. I always follow up to know how it is doing in their gardens.”the gardener said.

Also, bougainvillea plant can climb the walls smoothly without making a crack if guided well with the help of a rope or wire next to the wall.

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