A view of Bishop Bonface Mosoti’s home in Kamulu, Nairobi on April 11, 2024.

| Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Bonface Mosoti’s little 'Garden of Eden' in dry Kamulu

About 35 kilometres from Nairobi's Central Business District, we arrive at Kamulu, one of the fast-growing satellite towns. It is a rainy season but Kamulu is hot and dry. There is little greenery, but one house stands as an oasis in a desert.

Inside Bishop Bonface Mosoti's home, sitting on one and a half acres of land in Kamulu, the ambience changes. It is breezy. There is a well-manicured lawn. The driveway is under a canopy of green creepers.

"I used to live in Embakasi and pay Sh65,000 for rent. Then it became populated and I moved here in 2020 where I could save on rent. It was a semi-desert," he says.

Seven years later, Mr Mosoti is living his dreams. He has named the garden Bonbern - a mix of the names of his family members.

His nine-bedroom house is surrounded by fragrance. He has grown the fabulous Brunfelsia pauciflora, commonly known as Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow, a flowering shrub that produces white, lavender and purple flowers, and whose scent is immaculate.

When designing his garden, Mr Mosoti says he wanted to experience the goodness of nature not only through sight and touch but also through smell.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

"A plant full of fragrant flowers is an extraordinary pleasure. That is why I bought it [the Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow]," says Mr Mosoti.

He also has the dramatic Queen of the Night.

"At night, I usually open the window and feel the fresh scent of this combination. The Queen of the Night plant produces only one flower, which spreads its scent throughout the whole garden," he talks of the flowers that he has strategically planted directly opposite the front balcony and windows.

There is an artificial water fountain which has ornamental fish from Japan that complement the look and give it an aquarium-like feel. He says one ornamental fish cost him Sh15,000. He has 11 of them. Just like many gardeners, the loss is something that he knows too well, but he finds it hard to get over the pain of once losing all the fish under the care of his employees.

"When I sit in the living room with my cup of coffee and a gentle breeze blows in the direction of the plants, I inhale naturally scented oxygen and I love it. Water from the fountain calms the mind. For me, this is heaven on earth," he says with an infectious laugh.

His love of greenery began in 2003 when he visited the UK. Three years later, he was in the US, and he fell in love with the lawns.

"Gardening is something I have learned to love over time. My wife, Bannie, hasn't always shared the same passion," he says.

In a highly polluted city, he says his garden makes him look forward to rushing home daily.

"I am always home by 6 pm. If it's the rainy season, the fire is lit and the windows are open. And the water fountain is there. So I listen to the sound of the water and get warmth from the fireplace," says the father of four.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

It is also his sanctuary.

It was in a garden that God connected with man, it was in a garden that man's heart was quieted. It was in the Garden of Eden, but Mr Mosoti strongly believes that gardens are still the special places where God speaks to us if we listen.

"I sit in my garden and God speaks. God speaks with a still, small voice. When I sit under the driveway and read my Bible with my notebook in my hand, the message comes. It's what I give to my people on Sunday, " he says.

Mr Mosoti's garden is dominated by palms of all kinds. The royal palm, also called the Roystonea regia, the golden palm, exudes a sense of lavishness with its graceful fronds and vibrant presence, the fishtail palm. There is also Traveller's palm with large, creamy white flowers that emerge from a boat-shaped structure full of nectar, guaranteed to entice the largest pollinator in the plant world—the ruffed lemur. He has Thika palm, best known for its striking foliage, though large specimens also produce a heavy wood.

"Palm trees prefer soil consistently moist, but never overly wet. Palms don't dry out,” he says.

Because the area is naturally dry, he chooses plants that are easy to care for, but bold and eye-catching. This is why he also has several Cyprus trees, including ornamental Cyprus and Italian Cyprus.

The garden is also home to the Asoka flower, which is known to promote happiness and positivity in the home. For Mr Mosoti, the plant removes sorrow and also symbolises love. This may have been the reason why he always laughed.

In one part of the garden, there is Red Hibiscus, also called the Rose of Sharon, and the Grevillea which acts as a windbreaker and prevents too much dust from reaching the house.

A quick tour of Mr Mosoti's home reveals little dust, thanks too to the purple, pink and white creepers that surround the balcony.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

"We don't have dust here. During the dry season, these plants absorb all the dust," he says.

Each tree, all bought locally from Nairobi's Northern Bypass vendors, has a button drip. Each plant gets two litres every evening. "I water three times a week, up to 1,000 litres a week,” he says.

Also, a farmer, Mr Mosoti, has built a 12 by 40-metre greenhouse at a cost of Sh500,000, where he grows red and yellow capsicum for commercial purposes. He also grows vegetables such as tomatoes and collard greens.

But not all is rosy at Mr Mosoti's garden. He might have a green thumb for flowering plants but not for grass.

His Arabic grass on the red soil is not doing so well. It is susceptible to pests such as termites and crickets. He suspects he was sold a false Arabic, but he is trying to mitigate the spread using insecticides.

However, he plan to redo his entire lawn.

"Next year will be my 30th marriage anniversary and I'm planning for the celebrations to be done here. It will also be my wife's birthday and my 35th year in the ministry. Bonbern [the garden] needs to look spectacular," he says.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Mr Mosoti says through the gardening mishaps, God was teaching him a lesson. "We fail in life, but what if we look at each failure as a lesson rather than a defeat? In those dozens of attempts, I learned what would grow in this climate and what would not. I have also learned the importance of the seasons in the garden," he says.

Over the years Mr Mosoti acknowledges learning so many lessons just listening to God in the garden, and his garden has become a treasured daily place of serenity and grounding.

Like many city dwellers who are fast becoming aware of the benefits of green spaces, he says he despises concrete jungles.

"I hate concrete spaces because it makes me feel like I am in prison," he says.

His advice to those looking to transform their homes, especially in semi-arid areas?

"Start planting. Get different flowers, plants and scents; they make the garden feel peaceful. And all we need is peace," he says.