Turning your garden into a money-spinner

Victor Rono trims flowers at the Traveller’s
Victor Rono trims flowers at the Traveller’s Guest House garden. PHOTO/ ANITA CHEPKOECH 

At Traveller’s Palm Guest House in Eldoret, lovers of serene environment flock to sit and enjoy the lush garden and the delicious lamb chops. What’s different with their tasty lamb chops is that it is cooked on charcoal, in embers, with smoke and ash.

A gentle bell-ring ushers you into the beautiful garden carpeted with persperum grass along Waiganjo Street.

The one-year hotel prides itself in a bougainvillea and roses-filled garden with a blend of traditional and exotic flowers and trees including the bottlebrush aligned along the concrete fence.

The guest house sits right at the centre of the garden, making it ideal for garden weddings.

Also, the garden has a vegetative kind of plant named ground cover. It covers the soil and prevents growth of weeds by chocking and denying them sunshine.

Traveller palm tree

What draws many is the traveller’s palm tree with an interesting history. In the family of palms, the tree is native to Madagascar. Its name is derived from the tired and thirsty travellers who drunk water from its cup-like leaves years ago.

It’s after it that Mark Rotich and his wife named their little ‘paradise.’

“I loved flowers from a tender age. They bring out beauty, theme and emotions of each moment. They are mind-relaxing too,” says Mrs Rotich who manages the garden.

To maintain the lustre year-round, she says she invests in the flowers as if they are cash crops. “Gardens are kept fertile depending on the type of flower or tree planted there. I often research on how to maintain them and teach my workers,” she says.

Some of the basic things she observes is weeding, proper pruning and deadheading—removal of withered flowers— especially ahead of a major event like a wedding.

Seasonal flowers

She also ensures that the lawns do not creep into the flower garden.

“The edges of the lawns and the flower garden should be defined so that they look neat,” she says. She replaces seasonal plants once they are too old to produce flowers. The garden also has an arch with flowering vines.

The green space generates income for the Rotich family, in addition to cash earned from offering accommodation to visitors. Room prices range from Sh4,000 and Sh10,000.

“In the hospitality industry, it is the little things that draw people. Then money follows,” says Mr Rotich who is a doctor.
The hotel charges Sh30,000 for a garden wedding, for grounds alone.

Turning the space green was no mean feat for the Rotichs. Since the area was rugged with some sections rocky and others sandy, they had to hire a landscapper. Landscaping alone cost them Sh200,000.

They also had to smoothen the compound and bring in good loam soil and manure. The persperum grass which they purchased from Kakamega, flowers and trees cost about Sh100,000.

Edward Owala, a chef who roasts the lamb at Traveller’s Palm Guest House says that what adds magic to the meat and lures outdoor lovers is the soy sauce and the charcoal fire.

The charcoal heat keeps the meat crispy on the outside while keeping it juicy inside. The burner has two compartments set up, a lower direct heat zone when one needs to brown food surface, and a cooler indirect zone where the food can cook by convection airflow when one needs to gently and evenly warm the interior of the food.

It is believed that smoke emitted by charcoal during cooking adds desirable flavours that make food tastier unlike those cooked in gas and electricity.

It also has water pans which help absorb heat and radiates it back evenly mitigating temperature fluctuations, and they add humidity to the air helping to reduce evaporation from the food.

The moisture also mixes with the smoke and combustion gases to create wonderful balcony flavours.

‘‘This charcoal burner bakes way better than electric ones,” the chef says.