It’s about noon and the short all weather access road off Pipeline Road allowed us to take in the cool breeze as we approached the main gate to the Whitfield’s home. The gravel along the driveway made a light pebbly sound that blended well with the chirping of the birds somewhere in the trees.
Although we had seen pictures of the gardens prior to our visit, nothing could have prepared us for the delight that we found at John and Jeanie Whitfield’s home, where they have successfully transformed over three acres of black cotton soil into a scenic, miniature forest
Seeing how amazed we were by the beauty around us, Jeanie explained, “When we purchased this piece of land over 20 years ago, we were looking for a place to call home, so when we heard that this place was on offer, we arranged a visit and immediately fell in love with it. It was not much at the time; just an open field with about four acacia trees and a seasonal stream of the Kitengela River flowing right by.” .
The garden design concept A view from the verandah at the back reveals a semi-circle arrangement of The micro-climate at the Whitfield home is cool and tranquil. The tall trees, expansive lawns and not to mention the vegetable gardens are all part of the specialty gardens that they have created around their home. Words by Patricia Karamuta. Pictures by Tutu
FROM TOP: The large open lawns and acacia trees are a perfect setting for a family play day; The English Ivy and philodendron make for alluring wall climbers
BELOW: The trees at the driveway – parking intersection soften and provide shade to the area; A row of trees flank either side of the driveway creating a grand entry trees; which sit on a large lawn that is all of Kikuyu Grass. The semi-circle theme is repeated on the verandah design. The verandah serves as a great transition space into the garden since it has an overhead pergola that is adorned by jasmine, roses and honeysuckle. Around the house and running all through is a collection of bedding plants such as the Agapanthus Africanus (African Lily), White Petrea, Blue Petrea, and Mexican Orange Blossom while creeping on and attached to the walls of the house is the Hedera Helix (English ivy).
The gardens are multi levelled. On the first level is the garden surrounding the house, where there is a ‘hidden’ patio that Jeanie has crafted socreatively. The Queen of the night shrub releases its sweet aroma in the patio. Other notable plants at this point are the Hibiscus, Philodendron and Heliconia. “While many of these plants are special to us because they are gifts from family and friends, I especially treasure the Red Alamandas that was a gift from our daughter, to mark our 40th wedding anniversary.” Jeanie says. It has grown into a beautiful shrub with large showy flowers.
The second level garden comprises the semi circle of Acacia trees and large planted beds, while the third comprises the area beyond the perimeter bougainvillea hedge; an open area overlooking the banks of the Kitengela River. “We have hosted a number of Christmas Eve parties in this place and we also love to take strolls here every morning,” Jeanie tells us. Home attracts over 130 bird species “I prefer to plant indigenous trees and I have over 200 here; all of which we have personally planted and nurtured,” Jeanie states. The main species are Acacia xanthophloea, Acacia polyacantha, Callistemon viminalis (the weeping bottlebrush), Thevetia thevetioides, Podocarpus gracilior (East African Yellow Wood), Brachychiton acerifolius (Australian flame tree), Jacaranda mimosifolia (Jacaranda), Aleurites moluccanus (Candlenut tree), Casuarina equisetifolia (Pine), Ceiba speciosa (silk floss tree), Delonix regia (Flamboyant flame tree), Erythrina *
CLOCKWISE: The numerous Acacia trees give a spectacular view of the lawns; The pink flower is one of the many beautiful flowers that are part of this landscape; A young Jacaranda tree sets the tune for a lovely forested backdrop abyssinica, Ficus aurea (Strangler fig), Nerium oleander (Oleander), Dodonaea viscosa (sand olive), and the Warburgia ugandensis (East African greenheart).
Collectively, these trees host over 130 species of birds – making this one of the few private gardens to ever host a Nature Kenya birdwalk! “It is fascinating to watch how a weaver bird weaves its nest from single strands of fiber into a large home for its family,” John says Going by the large planted beds, one can tell that Jeanie and John like plant massing, and even more, lots of colour. The array of plant species here are, among others, Acalypha tricolor, Duranta Sp, Croton, Miniature bamboo,
Jacobinia, Red and White salvia, and Persian Lilac.
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