Tuesday, May 29, 2012


BY BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI FOR the beneficiaries of the “land bonanza” in Uganda who are infamous for grabbing parks and gardens all in the name of modernity – a new book on gardening may give them an opportunity to appreciate the value of green public places in an urban setting. Titled “Simply Paradise Tropical Gardening Plants” by Winifred Rukidi, the book is a colourful descriptive guide providing expert information on tropical gardening plants to both novice and experienced gardeners in the tropical region; particularly East Africa, about how to identify plants and grow them successfully. Each of the 250 pages comes with the beauty of flowers, plants and gardens. With over 400 coloured pictures the author brings nature closer to the reader without necessarily strolling through a garden. Winifred illustrates and explains each flower and plant in detail, and the best suitable environment to grow each of them. Each picture is identified by the scientific, common and family name. Information on plant habit, growth rate, soil, water and sunshine requirement is provided. Of course advice on garden planning and placing of the plants is also given. “Medicinal use of parts of the plants is mentioned, but caution should be taken, since most are not scientifically proven,” she warns. Divided in eleven chapters the contents cover trees, palms, shrubs, climbers, ground covers, grasses, flower bed plants, water plants, orchids and star performers that can successfully grow in the tropics. Among the trees is the Red bottle brush, a common tree in East Africa which is loved by birds, butterflies, bees and flies. The flowers with their long, profuse, coloured stamens are clustered around and down the stem resembling bottle brushes. There is the Flamboyant flame tree – a large and tall ornamental tree. Also included is the evergreen Potato tree, the Jacaranda mimosifolia, Spectacular cassia, Sea almond, Frangipani, Silver oak, Weeping fig and Fire bush, among others. Among the shrubs is Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Brunfelsia calycina). The common name is derived from yesterday’s purple flowers, today’s violet flowers and tomorrow’s white flowers. Its flowers have a strong scent. The other shrubs are the Tecoma capensis (Cape honeysuckle), Red flag bush, Cardinal’s hat, Flame of the woods, China rose/Chinese hibiscus, Cooper leaf, Angel’s trumpet, Dwarf poinciana and Crape jasmine, among others. The orchids include the Vanda tricolor that has a strong fragrance that comes from its multi-colored flower. There is the Miss joaquim, Grapette ground orchid, Blue orchid, Dendrobium, Cattleya bowringiana, Black jack orchid, Dancing ladies and Princess mikasa, among others. Winifred is a professional gardener and landscaping consultant who has for more than 15 years enjoyed the gift of transforming ordinary gardens into paradises in both commercial and residential areas. She has designed the gardens of Protea Hotel in Kampala, among others. For the last ten years she has been writing a weekly gardening column in the Saturday Vision, which has inspired this book. According to Winifred, gardening is an activity which involves the art and skill of growing plants in a designated place like; one’s residence, public places such as parks, and botanical gardens. The garden at times may not be restricted to the ground but could be in containers, on window sills, in hanging baskets, on rooftops or patios. Water gardening covers water loving plants, creating ponds, or gardening in bog areas. Gardening constitutes landscaping a piece of land into reasonable contours before planting. There are other aspects that come with landscaping, such as installing pavers, steps, retaining walls and fences. According to Winifred, before you create your garden, first get to know your needs and your family’s needs. Think of how you wish to use your garden. Do you want to have a big lawn for you to relax and entertain? Is the garden to be used by small children riding bicycles? Do you wish to grow herbs and vegetables, as well as flowers? “The lifestyle will also be a determining factor of what to put in the garden. For example, those interested in entertaining will find that a barbecue area is necessary. An outside dining room on a raised wooden deck might be another option. A swimming pool with an area for parasols and decking chairs maybe another idea,” Winifred writes. “Apart from your needs you must not ignore the architectural styles of your house, office block or school lay out. Most common in East Africa is the bungalow style, which is presented in a one-storey frame house with a covered veranda on one or more sides,” she adds. According to Winifred, institutions such as schools, colleges and universities have a formal temperament, which must be reflected in the design of the grounds and in the style of planting. The design will take into account the numerous needs, which include structures such as pathways, car parks, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Ends.