Vibrant and creative city balcony garden

She has hanging planters are made from coconut shells, reeds, clay and wood.  PHOTO/BILLY OGADA

What you need to know:

  • Living in an apartment while slowly changing the face of her balcony with a minimalist approach to gardening, Roy admits she has had challenges.

For the past year, Jessy Roy has been an anxious plant parent, keeping a close eye on the blossoms at her not-so-little balcony garden to rekindle what she once nurtured, but this time in a different environment.

Inspired by a plant paradise she lived in when she lived in Arusha, Tanzania four years ago, the gardener’s aim is to create a vibrant plant population around her.

‘‘I started with succulents and some flowering plants, which can stand water for a long time. They did not do well at first, but it is getting better, considering I water them only once every three days,» she says.
At her house entrance, she has masterfully used green to give a calming setting. The mother of two has turned her balcony into a constant source of creative inspiration.

‘‘I like to do it with my own hands, not always in vases, but I like to make my unique creations,’’ she says.
She has hanging plants made from coconut shells, reeds, clay and wood.

‘‘I do not get much satisfaction in just buying a pot and planting, I always have the urge to make something out of it,’’ she says.

Before using the coconut shells, she makes sure that the opening is even, breaks them, dries them for a day after which she smoothens them with sandpaper and then fills them with soil.

With In her living room is a tree trunk with some greenery. Out of curiosity, I ask.

‘‘I use old wood that has been abandoned and just by looking at it, I can tell you how it needs to be cut to make it look impressive,’’ she says.

‘‘After cutting, I clean it and line the area with plastic so that water and soil do not get into the wood when I plant my pothos,’’ she says.

Roy also makes plaques with Bible verses from the remaining pieces of wood. As most plant parents, she loves her ‘babies’, but some more than others.

‘‘My favourite is the jade plant, so I have lots of them. I love them because they are easy to take care of, they do not need a lot of work and they can grow in different shapes,’’ she says.

She has had to endure the pain of watching some of her plants wilt.
‘‘I had a hard time taking care of most of my plants when I first started. After I moved from Arusha, I found that many of my plants were wilting because of the intense sun, especially in the morning,’’ she says.
But she found a way to make them survive.

She explains: ‘‘I move them indoors where there is no sun, also while I am planting I have to take them in one of my rooms so for the first week I will keep them indoors.’’

As well as pots and vases, Roy makes soil balls cocodema (a Japanese potting method that involves wrapping plant roots in moss), which she learnt online.

‘‘To make the ball, you mix soil, manure and water to make a round shape like a dough. Then you divide it in half and put the plant of your choice inside, with the plant hanging out, before closing the ball,’’ she explains holding one of the balls.

On top, she has covered the ball with coconut fibre and thread to prevent the soil from disintegrating, especially when the ball is dry.

How does she water the ball?
‘‘I can easily tell when it is dry because the ball becomes lighter. With cocodema, I immerse it in water for almost five minutes every three days for the ones inside the house, but for the balcony cocodema I do it once a week,’’ she says.

Bread flowers
In her kitchen, I noticed several small colourful flowers and got curious about the variety.
‘‘I make them with bread and glue. First, I flatten the bread so that I can make them into the flower shapes I want, and I like them small so that they look natural. When they are dry, I fix them on little stems and paint the flower in any colour I want,’’ she laughs.

The outcome in the vases has a natural flower appearance. Besides sourcing her plants in the farms she visits, Roy also buys them from the roadside vendors.

Living in an apartment while slowly changing the face of her balcony with a minimalist approach to gardening, Roy admits she has her challenges.

‘‘Even though I love gardening and I always want to buy more and more plants, I end up being limited because I do not have the space to go all out like I did in Arusha,’’ she shares.

She also adds that because the place is so hot, some plants do not adapt to the sunlight. She waters the plants at least three times a week and makes sure the balcony is kept clean.

To encourage growth, she says: ‘‘I move my fragile plants around the house to places where they do not get sun and I add fertiliser every time I plant them."