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CRYSTAL GARDENS

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Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

Blog Posts

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Tr…

Read more

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political tr…

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by th…

Read more

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are …

Read more

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for…

Read more

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yea…

Read more

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden …

Read more

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and …

Read more

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and na…

Read more

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was…

Read more

View older posts »

GARDEN FLOORS

 

A garden, like a house has floors, walls and ceilings. Garden floors, which by far occupy the largest area of any given garden, include  lawns, paths, paving and walk ways which suffer heavy and foot and motor traffic, and the lawn and ground covers, which form living garden floors.

The layout, extent and choice of the material for garden floors are influenced by ones’ lifestyle, the size of the garden, the mood /style you wish to create and the maintenance requirements.

Naturally, spacious gardens will have room for free flowing curving paths that espouse an informal theme in a addition to a sizeable lawn. On the other hand, squeezed nature of small gardens calls for a formal look modeled on geometric lines. Indeed it is not uncommon to find gardens that are entirely hard and concreted with no provision for a lawn or ground covers.

Thus one is at liberty to go for a garden floor style that fits his lifestyle.

Lawn

Arguably the most popular floor style to be found in gardens. It offers opportunity for numerous outdoor living options. Grass adds a distinct appeal to a garden. A lawn, especially when designed with paths running through, almost always seems to invite a tour a round the garden. The only draw back is the routine maintenance activities of lawn mowing, watering, feeding and pest control that can seem very involving. Besides, one has to know which type of grass thrives in his environment.

A newly done lawn at the British Council

 

Groundcovers

 A popular option in most gardens. They can be massed in place of a lawn. The beauty with ground covers is that as opposed to lawns that need regular mowing, groundcovers, especially the hardy ones like succulents require less maintenance.

 

Drive ways & parking

Besides offering accessibility, hard surfaces can also be points of ornamentation.  This can be achieved through the way they are designed or plant accessories that adorn them.  One technique is to soften the hard surfaces through planting of shrubbery or hedges. In other cases, grass is planted in between the paving materials.  Because these surfaces hold heavy loads, it is natural that they be made from more resilient materials.  As such most will be done from   hard or medium quarry stone, concrete, bricks and carbro paving.

 

Walk way

Again, a very good option to add flair to the garden. Paths can be done with a variety of materials; stone, mazeras, ballast, saw dust among others.  To the novice, laying paths may seem such a big deal, in reality it isn’t. Actually, the beauty of paths is that since they don’t carry heavy traffic, they can be installed without professional help. Thus mazeras, bricks or stone can be simply laid down in a well marked out path, adjusted to fit proportionally, backfilled with soil or mortar.

Whatever style of garden floor or the materials one uses, the aim is to have a floor that is both functional and aesthetic.

                                    

how to grow a potted garden

Sprawling gardens are fast becoming a rarity. With acute shortage of urban space, apartments are increasingly becoming the norm.  This calls for innovative approaches to gardening. One such approach is the container garden. If you aspire to have a garden, and are space challenged, you need not worry.  By use of pots and other containers, you can still realize your desire for a lovely garden setting.

Container gardening can be fun if you are creative and develop a passion for it.

Containers-virtually anything a plant can grow in – come in various forms; pots, baskets, urns, planters, jars and glasses. The choice of material is equally wide and exciting, to suit everyone’s taste: beautiful ceramic, plain or ornate plastic, sturdy concrete, light and easy asbestos, terracotta-a form favourite, wire baskets and for a mellow look-wooden. And since containers are movable, they can easily be tugged along when moving house or interchanged to give a new look.

Most plants lend themselves well to container growing but be careful about those you select for indoors as only a few thrive there.

What are the requirements for successful container gardening?

Potting Soil

Potting soils are the medium in which plants grow and draw most of their sustenance. A good potting soil must be rich, light and have good drainage for moisture and nutrient retention. Potting soils are therefore blended to supply adequate physical and chemical structures for plant growth. Plain garden soils contain disease causing pathogens and must therefore be treated with soil fumigant or sterilized by heating. Ideal potting soil includes compost, top soil, peat fir bark and vermiculite. A selection of these is mixed as per the plant’s requirement. Premixed soils are readily available at garden centres.  To ensure proper drainage, drill holes at the base of the container for water outflow.

Water

A tricky area with potted plants is watering. Too often the plants are either overwatered or under watered. Too much water causes root rot eventually killing the plants while too little water causes the plant to dry up. For best results, let your soils dry to a depth of 3cm before watering. Once plant start losing their vigour and turgidity, it’s time to water. Newly potted plants should be watered twice a week until they rare established while for mature plants, a once a week watering is sufficient. A tell-tale sign that you are overwatering is the presence of green moss and algae covering the soil.

Some plants like Africa Violets (Saintpaullia) detest water on their leaves and are best watered by standing the pots in a basin filled with water-they will draw water through the drainage walls

Location

Where you place your potted plants depends on the effect you want to create with the choice of indoor plants as they rarely flower indoors. An exception is the Peace lily (Spathiphylum) which can bloom indoors and tolerates low light conditions.  Ficus and Yucca on the other hand, need high to medium light conditions. Schefflera, with its attractive shiny foliage, falls in this latter category.

Use plants with different leaf textures to create interest and form on the patio or balcony. To create depts., use pots with fine textures leaves in front of bigger pots with large leafed plants

Feeding

This is the supply of nutrients which may not be available in the potting mixture. Foliar feeds (Liquid fertilizers) are highly recommended. Apply them once a month alternating them with bone meal. For fruiting and flowering plants, apply potassium for a prolonged flowering season and enlarged sweet fruits.

Repotting

Sooner or later your plant will outgrow its pot. This calls for repotting which involves moving it to a bigger pot. You can know your plant needs repotting due to slowed growth and frequent need for watering. To repot, soak the new pot in water and simultaneously water the plant. Soaking lets the clay pot absorb water cushioning it against sudden fluctuations in temperature that cause it to crack. To remove the plant, turn the pot upside down with your left hand over the soil surface and gently shake it out.

Remove coiled roots and transfer the plant to the new pot, taking care not to damage it. Fill around the root ball with potting soil to just one inch below the pot rim. Firm down the new soil, then add water. Keep newly potted plants in shade for a week before returning to its normal position.

 

 

ADD CLASS TO YOUR GARDEN WITH ORCHIDS

 

In the world of flowers Orchids are the undisputed champions. Most varieties are beautiful and long lasting fragrant and very long lasting, qualities that usually mean that they are very expensive. A single leopard orchid in bloom for instance can for about Ksh 2,000 ($20).

What are Orchids?

Most orchids species are rhizomatous epiphytes (Have rhizomes and grow on other trees) from the tropical rainforests. Often they have fleshy, aerial roots fully or partially attached to the host trees. These roots attract moisture from the atmosphere. Most Orchids you see in your flower shop are complex hybrids.

While most orchids are epiphytic, we also have terrestrial orchids (on land growing) which are native to the temperate regions. They have underground rhizomes and tubers.

 

Epiphytic Orchids occur in two groups, Sympodial and Monopodial epiphytes. Sympodial epiphytes are mainly from the rainforest at sea level or low altitude and arise from horizontal rhizomes. Each season growing buds on the rhizomes produce pseudo bulbs-erect swollen stems that store water and food and bear leaves and flowers.

 Monopodial epiphytes are native to dense, rainforest at higher altitudes. Instead of pseudo bulbs they have extended stems that produce new growth from the shoot tips and growing points.

The Orchid family   is then largest in the plant family in nature and orchids take amazingly different shapes, forms and growth habits. Some orchids produce blossoms as tiny as a mosquito while others are as large as a plate. The plant takes its name from the Greek word Orchis which means testes. Orchids were so named because of the resemblance of their root bulbs to testicles.

Are orchids difficult to grow?

Contrary to popular perception, not all orchids are difficult to grow. If you can grow house plants, you can rear orchids. Some orchids are demanding, especially those that require exceedingly warm temperatures. These would inevitably require a green house in which heat conditions are regulated.

But generally, for the homeowner interested in orchids, keenness and attention to detail {light and temperature) are all that is needed. If you go for the two common types, which are the least demanding: Cymbidiums and Phaleanopsis . They are almost similar growing conditions with the former requiring 70 degrees Celsius. They thrive indoors as potted plants or if placed outside, under shade.

Like any other plant, an orchid must have the growing conditions it needs although some are very sturdy and resilient.

Best results

Getting the soil mixture right is crucial for trouble free orchids. As they require free draining.  medium, they can be grown in pumice, bark, a mixture of both or either with charcoal. Pumice will absorb water five times its weight. It also aids in aeration and drainage; bark retains moisture and nutrients when wet, yet allows complete flow of air to the roots; charcoal is useful for absorbing any dissolved soils and keeps the soil neutral or slightly alkaline.

Rather than congest a pot at planting, the initial bulb should be placed at the very end of the container leaving plenty of space for the new pseudo bulbs to develop as the plant grows. For feeding, use ordinary plant feed at half the strength recommended on the label.

When using liquid fertilizers, dissolved salts may be in the soil mixture. To tackle this, break from using fertilizer   and instead use plain water.

Plant care

Orchids are not only exceptional but also long lasting. As the flower spikes develop, it’s necessary to support them with a cane, as they are unable to bear   the weight of blooms. Cymbidium blooms will last for eight weeks while   Phaleanopsis blooms last three months and are perennial. Cut two nodes below the top of the two spent blooms to encourage further flowering.  Occasionally, you may need to place the orchids outdoors to encourage flower development. Slowly acclimatize b the plants to outdoor to conditions to avoid scotching.

Orchid Cultivation

 You can increase your Orchid stock by division removal of back bulbs or from stem cuttings.  For division get a plant that has overfilled its pot and split the rhizome. For backbulbs detach from the rhizome and pot up singly in a 6 cm container, the cut. surface against the rim.

To grow from stem, use 7 cm long stems with at least one   dormant bud. Store on moist moss in direct light until rooted.

 

 

CLIMBING BEAUTIES

 

Got a small garden?

The smaller the garden the more important the vertical surfaces around it. Vertical surfaces consisting of wall, pillars, poles and tree surfaces offer as much growing space as the ground area, sometimes even more. Climbers, also referred to as creepers or vines, provide the quickest and most efficient way of attaining vertical coverage

A tree could take five years or more to reach maturity, but most creepers will cover a wall in two years, or even less if you use fast growing climbers.

Where to grow the climbers rests squarely on the design problem you wish to address or the effect you wish to create. Generally most people grow creepers to soften hard surfaces and introduce a touch of greenery to an otherwise bare surface. This is mostly applicable to the perimeter or house wall where the rough and rugged finish needs tempering.

Screens in form of trellises or fences   meant to demarcate sections in the garden or screen out unsightly views rarely achieve their purpose unless backed by creepers. Their foliage creates a barrier while the flowers serve to detract from the plainness.

For decoration, climbers come in handy. A profusion of foliage and flowers clambering up pillars or around your window bars will not only give your house a graceful look, but also bring colour to your doorstep. Some like Jasmine have the added advantage of emitting delightful scents. In putting up sheds, carports and pergolas one needs to set up the framework as creeper foliage provides shading.

You can also raise climbers that provide fruits like passion or grape vines.

Choosing a climber

In selecting a climber, knowledge of how it anchors itself against a surface is vital. While some climbers are clingers, others will need to be supported up a wall or pillar surface. Some  clinging  climbers like honey suckle use the  growing tips of stems  to grip, while  clematis, grapevines and sweet peas use tendrils growing like side shoots an. Ivies and  ficus have aerial roots for cling.

Clinging roses use their thorny stems for hugging surface although they may occasionally need tying up. These clinging types are appropriate for high walls, as they will propel themselves.

Wires, hooks, nails and netting along which the climbers will be guided need to be installed before the planting is done so that the young plants are not treaded upon.

Protective measures

When using pillars or poles, growing climbers need not present difficulties. Never tie them unprotected, as this will cause chaffing whenever there is a strong wind. Similarly, use of a hard metal strips is discouraged as they can cut into the plant stem. Instead, tie a leather strap or soft clothing around the pole and attach the climber to it with a loose note.

Some climbers grow very fast and will colonize a given area in no time. For a small garden, this could be a nightmare and your options could be limited either planting  in a container to limit root growth  and consequrently its upward growth or regular pruning so that it lies flat along the surface.

Watch out for ivy and ficus as the two are known to pull out mortar from the wall, hence weakening the structure.

To get the best out of your climbers, particularly the flowering and fruiting type, ensure that you regularly fertilize them with potassium rich fertilizer

SHRUBS IN YOUR GARDEN

 

Shrubs are prized for the diversity of their ornamental features. These include architectural habits, attractive foliage, fragrant and showy flowers and striking fruits. Add on the decorative stems   and their year round presence and the gardener has an infinite choice of plant material. Whether deciduous or evergreen, shrubs are prized as essential elements in most garden designs.

Hibiscus yellow-at its prime

What are Shrubs?

Shrubs are woody-stemmed plants normally free branching from the base. A shrub has many stems arising from near ground level. This differs from trees which usually has a single stem. On average Shrubs will rarely grow to more than 5-6 metres high. Indeed mant shrubs  attain an even smaller stature.

A few shrubs like the Lilac can be considered as trees as they grow on a single stem and at maturity attain great height. Some subshrubs-those woody only at the base-like Fuchsia are, in the tropics cultivated as herbaceous perennials to fill borders.

How to Use Shrubs in a garden?

Shrubs offer a long time framework for the garden due to their structural forms and woody stems. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from clump forming, to mat and prostrate.

Flowers

Shrubs are cultivated for their flower features.  Their flowers range from small flowers of the Fuchsia to large displays of Bougainvillea Hawaii that can stir up a garden.  These flowers occur in virtually all colours. While some shrubs bloom only for a few weeks, others like Hibiscus and Bougaivillea flower over several months. Others may be  remontant- regularly flowering twice a year.

Foliage

Shrubs are also cultivated for their colorful foliage, mostly occurring in the shades of green, yellow, red grey, silver and purple. Some shrubs with colourful foliage include; Acalypha. Mussaenda and Croton.

Border

To apply Shrubs in your garden, you can use them in a shrub border or in a mixed border. A shrub border entails a dedicated planting of an assortment of shrubs. This call for planting shrubs that will come into flowering at different times of the year keeping the garden in flower all through. A mixed border will on the other hand be where the shrubs are grown among perennials and annuals, occasionally standing out as specimen plants or seeking associations of colour and foliage. Whatever choice of planting you go for, be sure to first establish a theme. Do you want to display your favourite plants at a corner? Or do you want a display of purely arresting foliage? Be aware of the eventual size of the plant at maturity so as to space accordingly when planting.

Container

In a pot, shrubs also thrive very well. If you have a small space or roof terrace, many shrubs lend themselves well to growing in containers. You can group containers in different arrangements for variety or use a single shrub in a pot as a focal point.

 Cultivation

Given the right growing conditions, shrubs can thrive for many years. Though not too choosy about the type of soil, many however do prefer well drained fertile soils.

For planting ensure the planting hole is 2-3 times the width and deep enough for the roots to be buried to their original depth. As you backfill the hole, add generous amounts of manure to the soil and firm in. In clay soils plant the shrub a little higher than the surrounding soil so that water will run off; in a sandy soil leave a little depression around the plant so that moisture is retained. Water and mulch well with dry grass or bark chips. Support shrubs from strong winds by staking.

Shrubs are propagated from seeds, cuttings, layering division or grafting. Hybrids will only grow from vegetative propagation as they do not come from true seed.

TREES IN YOUR GARDEN

The Cape chesnut tree (Calodendrum capense) in its glory

No garden worth its salt can be without a tree. Indeed, it’s unimaginable to have a garden lacking a single tree even if it’s the tiny of the tinniest gardens.

Trees are the largest and most prominent of all garden plants. As such they establish the long term frame work of the garden. Besides by their shapes and colours, they influence the selection of other plants. What are trees?

Trees are long lived woody plants, either deciduous or evergreen usually growing on a single stem (Although a few like birches do grow two or three stems.

Influence in the garden

A tree’s shape and size can influence the style of a garden. Tall narrow trees like the Italian cypress and Polyantha can give a formal appeal while those open and spreading types like Nandi flame   give an informal look. Weeping trees present a graceful look while conical trees are strong and sculptural.

How to choose a garden tree?

First know the size of a tree at maturity. That struggling seedling may erupt into giant tree creating havoc within your small landscape. A bombax tree would overwhelm a small garden but look perfectly normal in a larger garden. Besides some trees cast dense shade causing  problems for other plant growing nearly. Consider too the root system. Trees like Ficus will unravel parking yards due the action of their roots.

Ornamental features

Many trees are highly ornamental. Tree leaves are usually decorative, and vary in shape, size and texture. The Aleurites molucca  has dramatic bronze foliage  turning yellow  as the seasons change. Leaf textures can be smooth or glossy, wooly or hairy and they add further interest to a garden.

Trees can also be cultivated solely for their flowers. The Nandi flame can be very arresting when in bloom. Tree barks can also be a point of ornament. For instance the Eucalyptus pauciflora and Bracleania huillensis have fascinating textures.

Garden uses of trees

Trees are mostly grown as specimen plants to be viewed from all angles within a lawn or under-planted with a ground cover. Ensure that your specimen tree display several features at different times during the year. You can also grow trees in a large shrub border as focal point. When changing levels in a garden or entry points, a single tree can be used to mark the transition. If your property is exposed to strong winds, trees come in handy as wind breakers. In addition, trees also serve as hedges or barriers to screen out eyesores, to act as sound barriers, to frame a view or to line a drive way. Equally important trees in your garden serve as home for wildlife.

Cultivation

When grown in the right in the right soil, they can thrive or decades. Some trees have lived for centuries. Ideally all trees should be planted away from pipes, drains, walls, cables and buildings.

When planting on a slope, place your trees halfway. This area is normally warmer and less windy.

 Planting hole for a tree should be 2-3 times the size of the root ball and one and half times deep. If you need to stake the tree, this is the time to drive the stake in the ground off-center so the tree and stake are support from the same base. Place the tree and backfill with soil properly mixed with organic matter, firm the soil and water well. A layer of mulch around the hole will help keep moisture. Attach the tree to the stake and be sure to use a stem guard. Water trees regularly until fully established. Keep weeds 3 feet away from the tree trunk to avoid food competition.

In propagating trees, you can use either seeds, cuttings, air and root layering or grafting. Pure species must certainly come from seeds while hybrids and cultivars rarely come true from seeds and are usually reproduced mostly through cuttings.   

 

 

 

HOW TO DROUGHT PROOF YOUR GARDEN

The new Year   period is always a trying period for homeowners   and their gardens.  Not only has the garden suffered bouts of neglect in the preceding holiday season but the dry season soon sets in with a vengeance. This period is regularly manifested   by stooping trees and shrubs and dusty indoor plants. The lawn will have scattered patches and a resurgence of weeds. However, when caught between such extremes and you have the water bills to think of a few gardening techniques can come in handy to tide you through the tough dry patch.

We offer a few suggestions on how to drought proof your garden so that issues of plant care don dampen your new year cheer

Prioritize

Certainly not everything in the garden is worth fighting for. There are plants you may have always wanted to get rid off, some may be diseased or scraggly, while others may simply have fallen out of favour with your tastes. There is no point wasting your energies and water on such and they may have to be sacrificed. Instead focus on the more valuable and irreplaceable shrubs and trees.

Pots

Your potted plants can stay long without watering if you use water wise containers and regularly feed then with compost. Glazed terracotta or plastic pots have higher water retention capacities. Even if your pot is not glazed wrapping with plastic sheeting will give that same desired effect of moisture insulation. For smaller pots place them inside large ones. Similarly burying larger pots into the ground up to the brim.  and covering with compost will save water 

If you have been regularly feeding your pots with compost, they will have a higher threshold for drought-stress as compost conserves water. Heavily feed your plants with organic compost and water thoroughly. Since it is organic   it cannot scorch plants but will be released gradually, holding water for a long period.

Mulching                                                                 -                                                                                      

Be sure to mulch around your shrubs and trees in the garden. Use of shredded bark, grass clippings or straw as mulch will keep moisture loss at a minimum and suppress weeds which rob water and nutrients from plants.

Watering basin  

Where you have young trees and shrubs like roses that have not yet established themselves and still require regular watering, build water basins around such plants to help hold water. Building basins will ensure water uptake is sufficient as water slowly soaks in. This slow and deep watering limits waste due to run-off and encourages plants to develop deep roots system that can withstand drought.

Lawn

If the lawn needs mowing during this dry period, you are better off raising your cutting level. Cutting level exposes the grass roots and consequently dehydrates them.  Cutting at a level of 3-5 inches will help shade the roots and therefore reduce water demand. Check to confirm that your irrigation system is working fine. Inspect your pipes for any leakages and sprinklers for any leakages. Reduced pressure could be due to any of this in the system. These wastes water while giving a false sense of security that the garden is well watered. Where pumps arte involved the waste is double; both for water and power for which you will nevertheless be billed.

A properly functioning irrigation system will give you breathing space as water usage is optimum as you await the wet season.

Whatever your case and however difficult the January-March season may be, the consolation is that no season is permanent as we soon glide into the rejuvenating season of the long rains.                                                                                                                               

 

HOW TO SELECT THE BEST CHRIStMAS TREE

 

Folks, the Christmas season is here! And so is the festive mood. So now, we hang our garden tools in the tool shed and throw our feet up the foot stool!

One of the highlights of the Christmas season is the Christmas tree. Depending on how well you are prepared, selecting a Christmas tree can be a delightful experience or a headache. During this time, most people have a congested diary which includes; visits, holidays, makeovers and shopping, the Christmas tree is among the very last items on the to do list. Inevitably, last minute buying costs money.

 

The Christmas tree is rich in legends, all attributed to the treasured value of trees in ancient cultures. At the arrival of Winter early Egyptians brought green date palms into their homes to symbolize life’s triumph over death. For the Romans Winter was a time to honour Satarnus, the god of agriculture. During this festival referred to as Satarnalia they decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchange gifts. In the middle ages the Germans and Scandinavians placed ever green trees in their homes  to show hope in the upcoming Spring.

However, the Christmas tree can be traced to Martin Luther. Around 1530 he was struck by the beauty of small evergreens whose branches dusted with snow shimmered in the moonlight. At home he set up a little evergreen tree indoors and decorated it with candles attempting to simulate the reflections of star lit heaven, the heaven that looked down over Bethlehem on the first Christmas eve.

Today the Christmas tree is a universal practice.

Choice of trees

There are four types of trees:

  • Artificial
  • Precut and Cut
  • Live (Bagged)

Artificial trees

While   the artificial trees have their distinct advantages, they hardly jell with the spirit of Christmas which symbolizes renewal and eternity.

Precut trees

They offer the convenience and are easier to carry and set up. The downward is that they are not fresh and many having been cut weeks before Christmas. The variety is limited, majority of them being from the cypress and pine family 

Cut trees

Cutting down your own tree means your tree will be fresh. It will retain needles/leaves longer. Besides you will be choosing a healthy and well cared for tree that should add some evergreen scent into your home. The only challenge is that you have to cut and ferry the tree to your house, a not so inviting task.

Live potted (Bagged) trees

Live trees that are in pots or bags remain all-time favourite Chrismas trees. They are available all year round which means you can acquire them much earlier, for less money long before Chrismas rush hour. They offer the freshest tree choice and can be re-used for several years. You can later plant them in the garden.

 

What to look for

Trees always seem smaller in the greater outdoors than when we get them into the house. So before you even leave the home measure your the space your tree will occupy  both height and width. This will help save money. The bigger the tree the more it costs.

Go for freshly cut trees when buying pre-cut trees. Fresh trees will look green and healthy. Check for freshness by running your hand along the branches to see if the needles come off or stay on. A gentle bouncing of  the tree on the ground will also serve the same purpose. In addition if the base of the tree is sticky with some resin, this is an indication that the tree was recently  cut and should hold well through the holidays.

Most people look out for the perfect conical shaped trees but in reality, a fuller and bigger tree is better. However, if you have many ornaments you wish to hang onto a tree, a tree with shorter branches might be a better fit. Trees with long branch  like pines tend to snap even with  small weights.

Tree types

What tree should one go for? Many evergreens can be use as Chrismas trees and some nurseries specifically shape trees for this purpose. The common Chrismas trees include varieties   of Cypress Pines,Cedars  Araucarias and Ficus.

In setting up the tree, choose a location away from heat sources like heat vents, wood stoves, and fire places. Heated rooms dry out trees rapidly. For cut trees   get container that can hold the tree trunk and enough water. Dont trim the sides off as this is where the tree take up its water. Check the tree daily and water as needed.

What do you do with a tree once Christmas season is Over

Branches can be cut into smaller pieces and spread as mulch over flowerbeds, while the tree trunks can be carved into candle sticks. Live trees can be turned into garden ornaments by hanging bird seeds, popcorn strips, stale bread or dried fruit that attracts and feed birds

10 Trees Fit For Your Small Garden

You may have a postage stamp sized garden or the balcony may be your only outdoor space. Whatever the situation space should not be a reason to deny yourself the beauty of a tree garlanding your surroundings.  

For small gardens, small or slow growing trees should be the first consideration. Trees eventually grow into their normal sizes at maturity and the straggly seedling you buy may soon be a giant tree tomorrow. And there is no greater nuisance than having a large tree in a small garden. The roots, branches and leaves soon become a powder keg-damaging the roof, blocking the gutter, cracking the pavement, blocking pipes and so forth. Luckily small and medium size trees exist to fit any garden.
 
Site your tree in an open place. Don’t place it adjacent to the house, over water pipes or under power lines. If you do, it won’t have room to stretch its limbs or roots. Dig a hole 2-4 times wide than the root ball and 1 and half times as deep. Add organic matter to the base. Nail the stake off centre. Plant the tree, backfilling with soil and organic matter. Always ensure the level at which the soil was in the planting bag is the same level at planting. If you plant shallowly you risk exposing the roots and your tree will be constantly required watering. If you plant too deep, the buried part of the stem may start rotting under the soil. Firm up the tree and stake if necessary. Water regularly until established.
It is recommended that you plant a tree one half of the maximum tree height away from the house. For tree growing to 5metres plant it at least 2.5 meters a way from the house. This is because tree roots can often grow beyond a tress canopy.
 
 If you have a small garden, here are the trees you should go for;-
 
1. Thika palm (Felicias decipens) (Japanese fern tree)
An all time Kenyan favourite that dots the Nairobi landscape. Loved for its lush green and striking foliage. Its compact shape ensures that it is self limiting and ideal for a small space. The leaves appear fern-like giving it its local name Thika palm. Flowers, white with a pink tint are not a major feature as they are hidden in the dense foliage.  And many homeowners get surprised when told the tree does have flowers!
Planted in a row, Thika palm works as a windbreaks, screens and noise mufflers. A single specimen provides good shade in a lawn. It is slow growing and will rarely reach 10m in urban gardens. Thika palm is propagated from seeds. It occurs naturally in small parts of East African highlands, Sri lanka and Southern India.
               Thika palm                                                                Theveita                                                                  Cape Chestnut
 
2. Theveita Peruviana
Theveita occurs in 8 species of evergreen shrubs and trees from Northern and Southern America and the West Indies. The most common Theveita locally is the peruviana.
The tree has showy funnel shaped flowers with five overlapping petals. The seeds of Theveita are highly toxic. You can raise seedlings from cuttings or seeds. Theveita is trouble free once planted.
 
3. Mimosa  tree (Acacia podalyriiforia),Queensland Silver wattle
 An erect loosely branched evergreen hairy tree growing to 3-5 metres tall. Grown for its attractive grey-like foliage. The rich yellow flower heads are spherical and fragrant. Grow from seeds after soaking in warm water until swollen. It can an also be propagated from semi-ripe cuttings.
Mimosa tree is from the Acacia family found in Kenya, Southern Africa, Polynesia and Australia.
 
4. Cape Chestnut
The Cape chestnut is a magnificent sight to behold when in flower. In full flower the entire canopy turns pink. So enthralled with its beauty was Carl Peter Thunberg  that he shot severally at the branches until a bloom dropped into his hands, famously naming the tree as Calodendrum, “beautiful tree.” It is from the Cape in South Africa.
Cape chestnut is a good ornamental tree used as a specimen plant for its large and string flowers or for shade in the garden. When crushed and boiled the seeds give oils useful for soap making. The bark has medicinal value and is used as a component of skin ointments. Traditionally hunters used to carry the seeds in the belief it would bring them skill and good luck. It is propagated by seeds or cuttings. When grown in cold regions, it does not flower profusely. While in the forest it can grow to 20m, in open cultivation the tree rarely grows beyond 7 m high.
 
5. Tecoma stans-Tecomaria, Yellow bells, Trumpet bush
 This small tree has funnel-shaped bright yellow flowers that draw attention. It can be   an open tree or shrub with several slim trunks. The tecoma is ideal because it can be grown in a container on a balcony as long as it receives full sun. Rarely grows beyond 3 metres. 
Water tecoma freely during early growth.  Sow seeds or make cutting from semi hard branches. 
 
6. Bottle brush (Callistemon)
Bottle brush is endemic to Australia but has been naturalized around the world.  It is dense and multi-trunked with low branching pendulous growth. It is drought tolerant and therefore suitable for the dry areas.
Bottle brush trees are grown for their colourful terminal or auxiliary bottle –brush like   spikes of tiny flowers that can be pink, red, purple, white, green or yellow. Locally though the white, pink and red flower trees are the most common. 
Grow in full sun in well drained neutral to acidic moderately fertile soil.  It is propagated from seeds and semi ripe cuttings.
 
                                                                                                   Tecoma                           Bottle brush                                                      Mimosa
7. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
So common place that it is hard to imagine this fruit tree is a native of Himalayas and East Asia.  It is grown commercially for its juicy orange-yellow fruit.  It has scented flowers and glossy green leaves.   
row in full sun to 8 m high.
 
8. Bauhinia variegata  (Orchid tree)
This is a spreading tree with rounded rich green leaves with heart shaped bases. It bears light magenta –purple-blue flowers for which the tree is mostly grown. Bauhinia may require restrictive pruning
 
9. Ficus Benjamina 
Long derided as a troublesome tree in parking and pavements, Ficus has been unfairly treated. If you are pressed for space, this tree comes in handy because it is can be customized to fit your space by limiting its growth through shaping. You can turn it into square, spherical or circular forms therefore adding interest to the garden. In addition restrictive pruning can also render it harmless in a small space. Its variant, Ficus Variegata has white splashed leaves that make for a perfect postcard picture!
More importantly Ficus in a pot will snugly fit onto your balcony space or porch. 
 
          Loquat                                                   Bauhinia                                                   Ficus                                                   Italian cypress  in the background
 
10.   Italian Cypress(Cupresses semperiverens ‘stricta”)
Even for the smallest gardens, the Italian cypress will fit. Slow growing, the tree can take the thinnest of spaces taking less than 1 meter wide. If you so wish you can limit its upper growth by chopping off the top at the desired height. Several trees lined together give off a Mediterranean appeal due to its conical or columnar shape. Again agood candidate for the pot!

CARING FOR YOUR CHRISMAS PLANT(Poinsettia)

You may have received poinsettia as a Christmas gift before. Or bought them yourself in the spirit of the season. Trouble is the plant never seemed to last. Most likely the flower bracts remained but the leaves dropped leaving you with flowers atop a naked stem

Finding himself in political trouble, the US Ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett packed his bags and returned home to South Carolina in 1928. Among his luggage were cuttings of a beautiful Mexican wildflower that interested him, and which eventually took his name, the poinsettia. But the Poinsettia   Robert brought from Mexico is a far cry from the Poinsettias of today.  For the last Century and a half Poinsettias were short lived. Keeping Christmas plants alive between Christmas and New Year required all the skills a gardener could muster.

Luckily a mutation was discovered in 1963 that kept its leaves for long. Further plant breeding resulted into the Poinsettias we have today.  What is remarkable about these plants are not the flowers, but rather the colourful bracts (leaves) which enclose   small yellow flowers. The red leaves are as a result of photoperiodism, whereby a plant responds to light quantity or lack thereof by turning from green to red or other hues.

Care for poinsettias.

Christmas plants should be kept away from drafts.  They need sun for half the day with temperatures ranging about 21 degrees during the day and 16 degrees at night.  When watering, avoid drowning the plant. Rather let it dry out between watering. This is not the time to feed it too.

If your plant has drops leaves, it possible warm dry conditions are behind it. Keep it in a cool place and monitor your watering.

Like other plants understanding their original climate helps in telling us how to care for them.  In their natural environments, poinsettias begin forming buds at the time when nights are getting longer before blooming in December.  We can mimic this environment indoors by giving them sunlight for shorter periods (9-10hours) and more hours of darkness from the last week of September. Some people will cover them at 5.00 o’clock every evening and uncover them at 7 the next morning.  Others simply keep them in the closet. What you need to know is that once you indulge in this practice, be sure to keep it that way every day till end of October. If light ever gets into their dark time, they will not form buds! However if you observe this routine, you can get your plants out at the beginning of November and treat them like other plants.

Once the flowering is over and bracts have faded, you don’t have to throws them out. Prune and repot them. Place them in a protected sunny place and feed them as await the cycle again in September. Even though the plants  may last for several seasons,they eventually run out of their prime. It is time to plant them out in the garden and make them part of the garden plants.

 

 

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR RUBBER TREES INDOORS

The Ficus tree family is huge and varied. Commonly referred to as rubber trees, the diversity in species makes them appear completely different trees for many people. Indeed it is hard to believe that the rubber tree you grow in a pot indoors is related to the sacred giant Mugumo tree, revered by the Agikuyu of Central Kenya.
The variation in appearance is mostly due to the different ecological regions in which individual tree species have grown and adapted. For instance the rubber tree was found growing in the jungles  of Burma  and Assam in the early years of the nineteenth century  while the Mugumo is a tree native to Central Africa. 

    

For years, the rubber tree was harvested for its latex-bearing sap, mostly used for erasers before attention shifted to  a more productive tree in the Hevea  genus. The most popular Ficus tree is the Ficus elastica decora, a mutation of the original Ficus elastica that was found in Java, Indonesia.  Decora   has large leaves maroon leaves that open from a red sheath.


Why are Ficus tree so  popular?
Rubber trees are popular for both indoor and outdoor gardens because they tolerate either shade or sun.   Their glossy leathery large leaves occurring in various colours of dark green, deep maroon or marked with yellow, cream or white create fascinating beauty. You can keep them at the size you want by feeding them sparingly, overfeeding results into very large trees. They thrive in humid conditions although they will tolerate the dry conditions normally found in homes. Their light requirements are also favourable. Bright light is ideal but they are adaptable to low light too.
The only thing rubber trees are fussy about is the water. The soil has to be kept barely moist. If they get to much water or too little, the leaves turn yellow and drop off. Many people tend to overwater their indoor plants, and for rubber trees you can guard against this by growing it in a small pot that won’t hold too much water that will drown it.
Indoors,  rubber trees prefer  warm temperatures. When placed in cold environments they go into semi dormant stage-they are alive but hardly growing.

Outdoors rubber trees can be left on their own once they take hold.
 

What makes for a straggly rubber tree with leaves forlornly clustered at the top?
You bought a top foot rubber tree yes, but it has been growing. When a rubber tree gets sizeable, any problem with water or light combined with the tree's growth pattern will result into a plant with a bare stem. At these stage its time to rejuvenate the plant or get new offspring.


Propagation of rubber trees
First you can simply cut the plant back at the height you’d like to have new growth begin. You will see white sap oozing out but this is normal. Water the remaining part sparing to avoid dampening the soil. Soon new growth will emerge below the point of pruning. Gradually increase the water supply. Your tree should bounce back much neater, bushy and all glossy.
However you can go the easy way by air-layering if you do not wish to have a bare stem. Select some nice branches that are firm with nice leaves. Makes incisions (cuts), tying coco peat and moss around the cuts in a plastic sheet. Your branch will start developing roots at this spot. You can then cut it off and plant in a new pot.
Rubber trees also lend themselves well to stem and tip cuttings although these methods are slow. Cut the stem or tip and simply insert it into the soil.


Problems with Rubber Trees
Care for your rubber tree doesn’t involve much as long as you watch your watering. Regularly wash or wipe the leaves to remove dust and help your plant breadth.
Diseases are rarely a problem with rubber or Ficus trees. Root rot usually results from too much watering or a soil mix that doesn’t drain well. This also results in yellowing of leaves and leaf drop .Too little light, dry air or cold dafts can cause leaf loss. Occasionally you may encounter mealy bugs but these can be washed off with soap and water.
Be careful though about the sticky white sap. It irritates the skin and stomach if eaten. Keep pets away and children away from the sap.

 

PESTS IN THE GARDEN

 

Gardening can be fun and tricky at the same time. One day everything  is rolling along just fine. Then you wake up in the morning and find troubles galore; an outbreak of pests devouring your prized plants, and disease almost killing your plants.

If you have plants, a variety of troubles are going to occur in you garden. The weather may play apart; slugs will emerge when it is wet, fungi when it is cold, aphids when it gets dry and red spider mites when it is hot. The nature of the plant will also play a part; some hardy shrubs like Oleander may remain trouble –free their entire lives while your favourite rose may be host to an assortment of pests and diseases. So whether an  expert or newbie to gardening, both can expect problems. The only difference is that the expert knows what to look for and do, proactively attempts to prevent attacks and tackles them as soon as they are spotted.

Garden troubles are tackled in two ways, culturally and chemically. Both methods are actually a must-you can’t use one and avoid the other.

As we had previously discussed the cultural practices in Trouble in Paradise here we tackle approaches to fighting pests using chemicals.

Common Garden pests in Kenya

So the pests have struck, what to do you do?

First you need to have an idea of what pests it is or just how they look like.  If you familiarize with the pests, you are likely to know how to handle them in the long run. Below is a run-down  of common garden pests in  Kenyan gardens.

Aphids

These sap-sucking insects are also known as green flies. They can be black, brown, gray or light yellow. Aphids suck sap from under the leaves and excrete a sticky substance on which sooty mold can grow.They may cause leaf distortion. All plants with soft stems and soft leaves are at risk of aphid attack

Beetles

They create holes or pits in various parts of a plant depending on the species

 

Catepillars

Are larvae of moth and butterfly species that feed on leaves, flowers and or fruit leaving powdery excreta.

 

Cut worms

Caterpillars of moth species that gnaw at tap roots, stem bases and lower leaves. Eventually the plant wilts and dies. Kales seedlings are likely to suffer cutworms

 

 

Mealy bugs

Sap sucking insects. Oval shaped and are covered in sticky white wax that repels water. They exude sticky honeydew causing leaf drop. Coleus and geraniums are vulnerable

 Larvae of flies, moths, beetles, and saw flies that tunnel  into leaves  producing white or  brown  linear blotched or irregular discolouration.

 

 

Slugs

Soft bodied pests that feed on low growing or underground leaves . Slime trails may be seen.

 

 

Spider mites

Hardly visible to the naked eye. Their presence can be detected by the fine, silky webs they spin on the undersides of leaves and around leaf axils. They cause leaf mottling, stunted growth and leaf drop.

 

 

Whiteflies

These are tiny white moth-like creatures that suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew. Found on underside of leaves .Many foliage and flowering plants are susceptible

 

 

 

Control of Plant pests

Organic  control

 

It is generally agreed and proven by practice that liquid soap (not detergent though) mixed with water deters a wide range of insect pests. Spay directly and evenly including the undersides of leaves ensuring complete coverage of the plant. The solution works by dissolving the outer layer of insect’s soft body.

Neem oil is also a good organic option. It works by distorting the insect’s natural processes like feeding, hatching and reproduction. 

Remember that these remedies are contact; they need to come into contact with the insect so we cannot emphasize enough the need for proper coverage.

If you have time and the energy, you can also make your own concoction of peppermint, clove, rosemary and water.

Chemical control

In controlling pests using insecticides, it is always good to understand how the insecticide works.

Insect -contact insecticides

This is for sap sucking insects such as aphids. They work by hitting and killing the pests. So you need to spray during and not before the attack. 

Leaf Contact insecticides

For plant chewing insects like caterpillars. They coat the insects’ source of food. You don’t have to hit the insect, but obtain good coverage of the leaves. Spay at the first sign of attack.

Systemic insecticide

This is the more recommended option. They work against sap sucking pests and plant chewing insects. They are taken up by the plant into the sap stream. New growth after treatment is protected, hidden insects killed and beneficial insects spared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO CONSIDER IN LANDSCAPING YOUR GARDEN

 

An empty garden is like the proverbial blank page; anything is possible. And that is the problem!

For  first time gardeners and homeowners, the enthusiasm  of planting a garden can be dampened by the  challenge of  what to have  or plant and where, the expenses involved  and time needed for upkeep. These however need not bog you down. With a little planning you can still end up with an idyllic garden that suits you just fine; utility wise, aesthetically and in its maintenance regime.

Whether you are starting out a fresh, renovating an old garden or just out to improve an existing one, it is vital to identify what you hope to achieve and whether your budget and time will be adequate for its installation and upkeep. You can hire professional help to lay out the garden for you, but knowing the basics will ensure you keep the tabs on the goings on and that the script they go by is entirely yours.

Why do you need the garden for?

Why do you need the garden for in the first place? The answer to this question will guide you in your planning. All of us have our preferences and these naturally will express themselves in the garden plan. If you are a plant collector who is taken in by the glory and drama of flower and foliage colour as plants bloom into and out of season you may want to experiment with different plantings. For such the garden will have extensive flower beds and borders leaving little room for lawns and hard landscaping (paving, parking and paths). On the other hand you may not be keen on flowers and as such your space will be dominated by trees, lawns and shrubs.

What do you need in the garden?

Of what use will the garden be to you? A garden is more than aesthetics. It is an extension of the house. How we design and decorate our houses is an expression of our personality. This equally applies to our gardens. If you enjoy the outdoors a lot then incorporation of outdoor facilities will take priority. These include outdoor furniture for alfresco dining and cozy sitting areas, walkways, pergolas, and water features for quiet contemplation.  A young family may need space for a children’s play areas where items like swings, sandboxes, and see saws can get them to safely expend their energy.

Similarly, if you are fond of culinary delights, the urge for a vegetable garden cannot be resisted necessitating allocation of space for it.

As long as it serves you right, whatever you decide to put in the garden is a matter of personal choice.

Existing Ground

You will be lucky if your site has the ideal landscape conditions; almost level ground, deep rich soil and ample water. Most sites have shortcomings in one form or another. Sometimes the slope will be too steep, or the soil is   too shallow or stony. Perhaps water shortage is a major issue or you have unsightly views. It is advisable that you strive to enhance the good features of your sight while working to minimize the worst aspects.

For instance a slope could be terraced to provide enough planting space or be planted with soil holding plants. Alternatively you may opt for retaining walls to enlarge your ground. For shallow soils raised beds can be used while for stony and water deficient areas your best bet would be to use succulents, cactuses, bougainvillea and lantanas. These are hardy plants. Ugly walls and fences can be softened by use of flowering creepers or screened out by tall trees and hedges.

Note that it is always easier and cheaper to incorporate nature that work against it.

Time and Money

Every garden requires maintenance and unless you are prepared to fold your sleeves and carry secateurs all weekends, it is better to go for a planting scheme that will not require intensive upkeep-the so called no fuss gardens. Here instead of having huge flowerbeds, plantings and big lawns, you can have most of the garden dominated with groundcovers, succulents hardly shrubs and paving. Paved surfaces will still give you outdoor living but at less upkeep cost. Similarly ground covers are cheaper to look after than a lawn.

If you have a gardener able to carry out most of the demanding (and sometimes specialized work), you can run riot and indulge your passion with varied and elaborate garden features like rock gardens, water features gazebos and vegetable gardens. Needless to say, everything boils down to money. How much are you ready to invest in your garden?

You may have once bought a small seedling   worth small change and concluded that plants are cheap. Now you need to fill an entire garden with shrubs in their tens the reality suddenly sinks in-buying plants is an expensive affair. And you haven’t started on other garden elements like car ports, fences, paving and lawns.

One way to you can bear the garden installation cost is to do the garden in phases.  The basic framework is laid, and then gradually you keep customizing your garden by adding items as you go along. You can also reduce the costs of your project by making propagations of your favorite plants well in advance.  I know of people who started off with a simple strelizia or cycad plant, but were patient enough to let them multiply. Later they broke them into single pieces and replanted. Besides in buying plants, the plant in the big bag, is not necessarily the best option. Eventually all plants grow anyway so why not buy the small cheap one and tend it yourself.

If you go this route, you will be surprised at how easy and economical installing your garden gets to be.

SECRETS TO A FLAVOURFUL HARVEST

 

You spend the entire  season tending to the needs of your  of your vegetable 

crops-feeding, weeding, watering and fighting off pests-then comes  your moment of truth: Has the  fruit of your labour reached its peak of ripeness? And will it have that toothsome delicious taste the consumer yearns for?

Whether you garden for your kitchen or the market, attaining the crops natural sweetness should every grower’s goal.

While fresh farm produce will be snapped up at the market, it is the sweet natural flavor that will see the consumers trooping to your garden and your family relishing your meals. Indeed in matters of vegetable production taste and freshness are two sides of the same time.

 

The best tasting plants are happy plants. These are plants raised under optimum conditions. To create optimal conditions for your plants you need to first of all amend your soil. Many diseases that affect plant flavor thrive in poorly drained soil. This can be addressed by incorporating organic matter like compost which enhances drainage. In addition nitrogen rich organic matter reduces bitterness in certain crops like potatoes by lowering levels of their bitter tasting glycoalkaloids .

Furthermore strive to manage moisture. Use either soaker hoses or drip irrigation which delivers water at the roots. This encourages plants to develop extensive root system that guards against drought stress.  Practice mulching where possible. Mulching stabilizes soil moisture, reduces watering needs, and improves the flavor of vegetables by encouraging earthworms. Earthworms, by their burrowing   actions help reduce plant stress by improving soil drainage and making essential soil nutrients more accessible to the plants.

Of course nothing affects flavor like disease. Here your best bet would be to control diseases with cultural practices. Start off with certified disease free seed, and look for disease resistant varieties. At planting space generously and during growth stake if need be so there is ample air circulation. Keep the foliage dry by using the above watering techniques to prevent powdery mildew developing on plant leaves or soil borne pathogens from splashing onto leaves. Many pathogens need a period of moisture on the leaves and fruit to infect. Watering in the morning after dew has dried completely allows wet leaves to dry off before diseases have a chance to establish. And maintain hawk-eyed vigilance in the garden –it will help you help and nip diseases in time.

Nutrients deficiency will leave your plants discolored and weak. On the other hand over -fertilizing   gives vigorous green soft -disease-friendly growth - especially for tomatoes and lettuce.  You don’t want your plants stressed but you also don’t want luxurious growth that will make them susceptible to   diseases. Stunted growth yellowing lower leaves and over all light green colour indicate nitrogen deficiency. Reddish purple or extremely dark green leaves signify phosphorus deficiency while weak stems and yellowing leaf tips, turning brown imply potassium deficiency/

One trick to use here is to interplant vegetables with high nutrient needs like corn with crops that add nitrogen to the soil, such as beans.

Try to moderate extreme temperatures by use of shade cloth. This is often used top preserve flavour in lettuce, greens and other cool season crops by keeping temperature and moisture at desired levels. For instance lettuce plants tart shifting their biochemistry to deal with hot, stressful conditions. These biochemical shifts can result in bitter compounds, less sugar and coarser leaves that follow plant stress.

Providing great growing conditions is only half the battle, you must also grow flavourful varieties. Find information about tasty varieties from fellow growers, garden centres , agro-vets  and extension officers. You can also try experimenting with two or three different varieties.

In a nutshell poor production practices put stress on plants. Such stress can trigger vegetables to produce high levels of certain compounds or different compounds than they normally produce under healthy conditions –which later flavor, for the worst.

 

HOW TO HAVE THE PERFECT LITTLE GARDEN

 

What do you do when your mind is running wild with ideas and and yet you have such a small space? It is easy to despair especially if you have been to expansive gardens set on grand lofty designs.

Either by design or necessity, many people nowadays have relatively small gardens. A small garden can still be interesting and dramatic. Through application of common sense, artistic flair and fruitful design tricks, your garden can be turned into a small chic haven.

Formal garden

For small garden you are better off opting for the formal design style. This is where plants and beds are laid out in geometric patterns; rectangles, circles, pyramids and squares. It differs from the informal gardens used mostly in large gardens –whereby the design and planting are irregular and is characterized by flowing curves and arcs.

As you get down to work, keep the basic plan simple without compromising style, interest and variety.

Simple design

First stick to a few choice plants that you may use repeatedly in different parts of the garden to create unity. Since space is limited, use of a wide variety of plants could result in a fruit salad effect (a jumbled mix). Knowledge of growth habits is important because trees like Bombax (Chorisia speciosa) could outgrow space allocated to them when they mature. Since the style of the garden set up is formal, it is advisable that the plants and trees (which act as ceilings in a garden) should be able to grow or shaped in a formal style.

Thus the plant shapes in the garden should end up either as upright, rounded, columnar, circular or pyramidal. Good candidates here are hibiscus, bougainvillea, Italian cypress, durantas, araucaria, brunfelsia and thujas among others.

Plant texture

Plants with oval leaves have fine texture and make your garden appear larger. On the contrary, bold, shiny and large leafed plants tend to fill up space so they are best avoided in cramped spaces. Texture goes hand in hand with flower and foliage colour. Cool colours (blue, green, purple), like fine textures, tend to recede-giving an illusion of space. They are therefore perfect for a small garden. Use plants with bright colours at the front of the beds and taper off with soft colours at the back of the beds. Alternatively, use warm colours adjacent to the house. This serves to visually decongest the garden. To create a focal point (which is a must in any garden), you can opt for a small water feature, a beautiful carving, or an exciting lone plant in a pot. A focal point need not be anything serious. Even a potted plant on a pile of natural rocks can be an outstanding accent which will attract attention and prevent a small garden from being eyed in one sweep.

Space savers

Screens made of lattice or metal /wire mesh can be used to create impressions of backyards (where there might be none), hide utilities (like dustbins) and mark boundaries by serving as a wall. They also increase privacy. Screens, like winding paths in a large garden have the effect of ‘stalling the eye’. Thus the garden is not seized up in one flash, but rather has to be explored gradually.

You can also do vertical gardening to add space to your garden. Walls, fences,trees and trellises provide more space for expanding your green areas.

 

HOW TO GROW AND USE HERBS

 

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for herbs.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and the Arabia herbs were actively exploited for these uses.

Herbs are easy to grow. Like vegetables, they prefer sunlight and well drained fertile soils enriched with compost. If your soil is clay in nature, you can amend it by adding sand and compost. Most herbs can be raised from cuttings-which means you can get them for free from a neighbor or friend. Taking cuttings from perennial herbs like rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, scented geranium, sage among others is the easiest way to propagate.  All you need is growing medium and clean secateurs.

Take a cutting of three leaves and a shoot from a side branches. Trim the stem to the lowest leaf point and insert it into the damp compost in a pot. Since warmth is essential for germination, create a greenhouse effect by wrapping the pot in a plastic bag. The moisture and heat will be trapped inside enabling the cuttings to go for a few days without water. Alternatively, it is possible to put these cuttings directly into the soil, though this will call for regular watering and shading.

Generally most people opt to buy ready sown herbs.

Below is a look at our all-time favourite herbs.

 

     

Rosemary with purple  verbena        Lemon balm (Melissa)         Lemon grass   

 

Thyme                                                  Sage                                         Lavender                

 

Rosemary

The rosemary is   highly regarded and remains popular worldwide. Its beautiful compact shape allows it to be shaped into various shapes that turn it into a display specimen. The rosemary is also good for internal hedges. Its culinary use is legendary.  

To make a cup of rosemary tea put one quarter of rosemary sprigs into one cup of boiling water, stand for five minutes and sieve. Sip slowly. You can sweeten with honey.

Lavender

Try rubbing a lavender leaf between your fingers and breadth in the smell. The fragrance is unforgettable. The name lavender is derived from the Latin word “lavare” which implies to wash. Romans used it for their clothes, beds, soaps and hair.

The common lavenders are the English, French and Spanish lavenders. They are rich in amino acids and have sedative, anti-septic and anti-bacterial qualities. They quickly relieve sore throats, first degree burns and aching muscles. The oil is often used in aromatherapy. Lavender like rosemary is fairly drought resistant, although during the dry spell a weekly watering will see it flower throughout the year. Its popularity in the kitchen can be seen from the many recipes it features in.

Lemon balm

Long regarded one of nature’s best anti-depressant and calming herbs, Melissa was prescribed for over indulgence and indigestion in Rome, Arabia and Greece. Modern medicine has indeed confirmed its reputation for dispelling anxiety, depression and insomnia. It is mint and lemon flavoured and is superb in vinegars, sauces and garnishes. Use the leaves in teas, drinks and for cooking before it goes into flower. The chopped leaves are sprinkled over fruits, salads, pasta, chicken and fish. In the garden Melissa attracts to help in pollination and improve the yields of cucumbers and tomatoes. Insects distaste its lemon fragrance and  it is therefore perfect for controlling mosquitoes, flies and ants.

Thyme

The Romans used thyme to flavor cheese while in Greece it was used as a source of invigoration and courage. Today its culinary and medicinal uses are plentiful. More common is its use as a tonic herb to support the body’s normal functions and fight ageing, as well as an anti-septic that is dabbed on wounds, stings and bites. In the garden bees are fond of thyme and add fine flavor to honey.

Sage

Sage is a tasty garnish with any snack. Its Latin name connotes healing properties. For a sore throat, gargle made with fresh leaves is soothing, and sage tea is traditionally held as a nerve tonic that also aids in emery retention and remedying menopausal symptoms. However its propagation is done through layering. Branches are tied to the ground and covered with soil. After rooting they are then cut and planted.

Lemon grass

A popular herb massively cultivated worldwide beyond its origins of India and Sri-Lanka for its Lemon taste and lemon scented oil. The lemon is used to flavor rice dishes, milk puddings, cakes, and deserts.

A leaf blade placed in warm milk remedies colic in children and old peplum and brings down fever. Its famed tea relaxes muscles of the stomach and intestines, relives cramps and heart burn. This tea is made by adding a quarter cup of chopped leaf blades to one cup of boiling water. Leave to stand for five minutes then sieve and drink.

Lemon grass is the easiest of herbs to grow; simply divide it at the base and plant the offsets.

Note that while you may grow herbs and use them for the kitchen without reference, it is recommended that you seek a doctor’s opinion when using herbs for medical treatments.

Every garden –however small –ought to have some herbs. Whether you live in an apartment setting or own compound there is always room for a herb or two.

Herbs provide multiple  uses and come in a wide variety.  They serve medicinal, culinary and aromatherapy purposes. In ancient Rome, Egypt and the Arabia herbs were actively exploited for these uses.

Herbs are easy to grow. Like vegetables, they prefer sunlight and well drained fertile soils enriched with compost. If your soil is clay in nature, you can amend it by adding sand and compost. Most herbs can be raised from cuttings-which means you can get them for free from a neighbor or friend. Taking cuttings from perennial herbs like rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, scented geranium, sage among others is the easiest way to propagate.  All you need is growing medium and clean secateurs.

Take a cutting of three leaves and a shoot from a side branches. Trim the stem to the lowest leaf point and insert it into the damp compost in a pot. Since warmth is essential for germination, create a greenhouse effect by wrapping the pot in a plastic bag. The moisture and heat will be trapped inside enabling the cuttings to go for a few days without water. Alternatively, it is possible to put these cuttings directly into the soil, though this will call for regular watering and shading.

Generally most people opt to buy ready sown herbs.

Below is a look at our all-time favourite herbs.

Rosemary

The rosemary is   highly regarded and remains popular worldwide. Its beautiful compact shape allows it to be shaped into various shapes that turn it into a display specimen. The rosemary is also good for internal hedges. Its culinary use is legendary.  

To make a cup of rosemary tea put one quarter of rosemary sprigs into one cup of boiling water, stand for five minutes and sieve. Sip slowly. You can sweeten with honey.

Lavender

Try rubbing a lavender leaf between your fingers and breadth in the smell. The fragrance is unforgettable. The name lavender is derived from the Latin word “lavare” which implies to wash. Romans used it for their clothes, beds, soaps and hair.

The common lavenders are the English, French and Spanish lavenders. They are rich in amino acids and have sedative, anti-septic and anti-bacterial qualities. They quickly relieve sore throats, first degree burns and aching muscles. The oil is often used in aromatherapy. Lavender like rosemary is fairly drought resistant, although during the dry spell a weekly watering will see it flower throughout the year. Its popularity in the kitchen can be seen from the many recipes it features in.

Lemon balm

Long regarded one of nature’s best anti-depressant and calming herbs, Melissa was prescribed for over indulgence and indigestion in Rome, Arabia and Greece. Modern medicine has indeed confirmed its reputation for dispelling anxiety, depression and insomnia. It is mint and lemon flavoured and is superb in vinegars, sauces and garnishes. Use the leaves in teas, drinks and for cooking before it goes into flower. The chopped leaves are sprinkled over fruits, salads, pasta, chicken and fish. In the garden Melissa attracts to help in pollination and improve the yields of cucumbers and tomatoes. Insects distaste its lemon fragrance and  it is therefore perfect for controlling mosquitoes, flies and ants.

Thyme

The Romans used thyme to flavor cheese while in Greece it was used as a source of invigoration and courage. Today its culinary and medicinal uses are plentiful. More common is its use as a tonic herb to support the body’s normal functions and fight ageing, as well as an anti-septic that is dabbed on wounds, stings and bites. In the garden bees are fond of thyme and add fine flavor to honey.

Sage

Sage is a tasty garnish with any snack. Its Latin name connotes healing properties. For a sore throat, gargle made with fresh leaves is soothing, and sage tea is traditionally held as a nerve tonic that also aids in emery retention and remedying menopausal symptoms. However its propagation is done through layering. Branches are tied to the ground and covered with soil. After rooting they are then cut and planted.

Lemon grass

A popular herb massively cultivated worldwide beyond its origins of India and Sri-Lanka for its Lemon taste and lemon scented oil. The lemon is used to flavor rice dishes, milk puddings, cakes, and deserts.

A leaf blade placed in warm milk remedies colic in children and old peplum and brings down fever. Its famed tea relaxes muscles of the stomach and intestines, relives cramps and heart burn. This tea is made by adding a quarter cup of chopped leaf blades to one cup of boiling water. Leave to stand for five minutes then sieve and drink.

Lemon grass is the easiest of herbs to grow; simply divide it at the base and plant the offsets.

Note that while you may grow herbs and use them for the kitchen without reference, it is recommended that you seek a doctor’s opinion when using herbs for medical treatments.

 

 

HOW NAIROBI BECAME THE GREEN CITY IN THE SUN

 

 

It is not the Engineers or Actuarial Scientists who gave Nairobi it's famous moniker-"The green City in the Sun". It was the dedicated local gardeners, landscapers and horticulturalists under the leadership of Peter Greensmith who toiled to bequeeth us a City bristling with life, love and nature.

Appointed as the Park’s  Superintendent in the Nairobi Town Council in 1947,Greensmith had been a Royal Navy man posted to Kenya in 1943. Fascinated by the beautiful and diverse Kenyan landscapes, he chose to be decommissioned in Kenya and remained in the country for the rest of his life, rather than return to the cold and drab England weather!

Using his talent and enthusiasm, Greensmith trained and motivated the Council staff and together they established and revamped Nairobi’s gardens. In a rare approach that later landscapers applied, the town’s gardens were characterized by   the wise use of open space and species and varieties that were drought resistant or well adapted to the local conditions.

Because the plants were adapted to local conditions, the landscape remained vibrant and green even with changing seasons-earning the famed label the Green City in the Sun.

Peter’s devotion to share his knowledge and skills saw him train his staff and other horticulturalists and landscapers .He trained many people in plant propagation, management, garden design and landscape maintenance. The impetus he gave was sufficient to see many of his apprentices launch careers in landscaping and for the Council to maintain its public gardens to a high standard for many years after.

In Nairobi, chances are that the fellow selling you plants is a third generation descendant of a Peter Greensmith protégé.

In 1965, Greensmith left the Council to pursue a career as a horticultural consultant and commercial nursery man. He travelled widely landscaping cities in the tropics. The knowledge he gained at the Council and as a consultant horticulturalist enabled him to produce his greatest achievement; the gardens at Wasaa(freedom). Having bought property off Nairobi-Rongai road, he devoted a huge amount of time, finance and energy to develop a garden that would live to his esthetic ideals.

He acquired a vast collection of tropical plants and rare horticultural varieties. These specimens became the mother plants from which he propagated more plants.

Again, chances are that among plants in your home or office, or nursery, there are some whose germplasm was imported through Peter’s effort –like the yellow Nandi flame and white Jacaranda, or he actually developed them himself-like the case of bougainvilleas.

He had a great passion for bougainvillea . He produced over 250 varieties, naming some after his family members. As his signature plants, he applied them in hedges, arches, towering displays and colourful cascades-as may be seen in City park.

His skill to combine colour, contrast, massing and open space to maximum effect-visible in Nairobi’s early gardens was also evident at Wasaa.

For many decades, Peter Greensmith nurseries at Wasaa were a plant lover’s Mecca. You had to have gone there to know you are a serious plants man.

I did my pilgrimage in 1997 and boy, wasn’t I wowed!

Greensmith died in 1992  and in 1994 his heirs entered into agreement with International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) for the continued preservation of the gardens and the existing indigenous forest on the land.

Yet, for his legendary reputation as a distinguished landscaper in East Africa and the Tropics, and a trainer of landscapers, Greensmiths had no formal training in horticulture, agriculture or landscaping.  He was a soldier. But what he lacked in training he made up for in enthusiasm, hard work and willingness to learn.

I have no idea how the gardens are faring presently but like the ancient monuments of Rome, Wasaa shall remain a monument to the legacy of individuals who worked together to make Nairobi-"The green City in the Sun"!

 

HOW TO GO ORGANIC, AND STAY SAFE

 

 

Our gardens are slowly, but surely falling silent.

 The chirpings of the weaver birds, larks and warblers which used to announce the break of dawn are getting fainter by the day.

Since ancient times, birds have been used to monitor environmental conditions. From the Biblical dove that was sent out to scout the raging floods, to the migrants that alert us to the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere, we feel the pulse of nature through birds. That they are becoming scarcer by the day, is an indication of how degraded our environment has become.

In order to raise lush green gardens, picture perfect velvety lawns and bountiful farms we have gone commercial. Any problem in the garden is fixed with over the counter chemical feeds or pesticides-even when safer alternatives are available.

The accumulation of these chemical inputs into the soil kills useful microorganisms which convert organic matter into plant food. In addition it kills beneficial organisms like butterflies, bees, worms, centipedes, frogs and birds through disruption of their habitats, nesting sites and disruption of the food chain. As a result our gardens are devoid of wildlife, and our environment remains polluted with chemical residues. As a home owner with a garden or farm, you can help turn the  tide by going organic.

What then is organic gardening?         

It is gardening in harmony with nature, using methods and inputs that do not adversely affect the environment. The organic gardener differs from the ‘chemical warrior’ in that whereas the former feeds the soil, which in turn feeds the plant, the latter applies inorganic inputs, which dissolve quickly into a solution that is then taken up by the plant. For the organic gardener, success depends on nourishing the soil by addition of organic matter to produce healthy plants that are more resistant to pests and diseases.

How then do you raise plants in an organically acceptable way?

First you have to fortify the soil. Enrich the soil with plenty of manure, humus, compost and green manure. This helps to improve the soil structure, drainage and water retention capacity. Besides the presence of organic matter will lead to proliferation of soil microorganisms like bacteria, earthworms, and centipedes, which decompose and mix organic and mineral matter through their burrowing activities. The result is a fertile soil that makes nutrients easily available to the plants in the right form. If you are starting a fresh-with no green matter to make compost, go for natural products like bone meal (this is crushed bones), dolomite,   rock phosphate and rock potash. When worked into the soil, they provide adequate plant nutrition.

Mulching

As the plants grow, dress the soil with a three-inch layer of mulch. Mulch is a layer of organic matter placed on the surface around plants. This could be clippings from the lawn, well rotted compost or animal manure, weathered saw dust (not raw), ground maize cobs and partly rotted leaves.  Mulch serves to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. During mulching ensure that you leave a four inch gap between stem and the mulch to prevent pests moving up the plant. You can even speed up the decomposition of the mulch by applying a microbe solution. This is an organic (actually molasses) product that contains microorganisms which speed up decomposition of organic matter into fine well rotted plant food.

Pest and Diseases

For new practitioners of organic gardening the control of pets and diseases’ is the acid test. However this need not be a major challenge. Haw-eyed vigilance is the first buffer against pests. 

Be on the lookout for any signs of trouble and move to nip it in the bud by cutting out any infected part, and burning it. Garden hygiene is a major element inorganic gardening. Ensure that no dirt and waste lies around as this provides conditions and habitats for disease and pest agents. Inclusion of scented herbs like Chives, Rosemary, Thyme, and Mint into the flower or vegetable beds through companion planting has been known to repel pests.

For kitchen gardens practice crop rotation. Vegetables grown in one patch are moved to another in the net planting. This renders the pets resident in the soil incapable of attacking the new crop.

 

For a more comprehensive approach to organic pest control -see our previous article on solving lawn troubles the organic way

With time your garden will mature into a living community of different but interacting organisms ranging from micro-organisms, insects and birds. Then a natural equilibrium will be attained where pests will be controlled biologically through natural predators and parasites. Some predators can be sourced externally. The diamond black moth, which devours cabbage, now has a natural enemy in the garden, a parasitic wasp, courtesy of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

 

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