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From a roadside tree nursery to a landscaping firm

Njange Maina @NjangeWaEunice

When Oscar Kwaliamba completed his Environmental Science degree at Kenyatta University, like many graduates, he too was excited about being employed. However, Oscar did not get his dream job, but was lucky to intern in a landscaping company. His internship inspired his life long career, landscaping.

After a few months in the company, Oscar quit and started a roadside tree nursery along Limuru road and a decade later, the business has grown to a full-fledged firm, Crystal Gardens Landscaping Company.

The company provides a variety of home and commercial property services, landscaping being the main service offered. They design plans, present and implement them to a client’s satisfaction. Alternatively, clients propose what they want for their lawns and outdoor décor, which Crystal crafts and executes.

Carrying out a project from mapping the site, to a full establishment is indisputably the most involving activity in Landscaping, Oscar tells us. When starting a project on virgin land, the first thing, Oscar explains is to assess the soil type.

“Knowing the soil type helps to prescribe the appropriate flowers and plants and choose the best manures. Some farmyard manure may contain weed materials that sprout shortly at the onset of rains or upon flowering.”

Red soil is the most appropriate for a home landscape as it is well drained, aerated and supports fast growth. The soil’s nutrition value is then assessed and available elements noted. If he finds any nutritional deficiencies, he prescribes the fertilisers to use.

After getting the ground ready, flowers, grasses and shrubs are planted in their respective spaces as per the design. In some cases, clients may demand plants that are not locally available, “the process of introducing new species into Kenya’s ecosystem is not easy.

We have to get a permit from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, (KEPHIS) and then gradually introduce a plant to the surrounding ecological conditions,” says Oscar.

The company then follows up with maintenance practices up to a full establishment. But not without its challenges, overlapping of functions between landscapers and construction contractors poses a great threat to timely completion of projects. “At times, I may design a landscape only to find that the construction architect has interfered with my plan,” says Oscar.

Cutting or trimming a tree in Nairobi has to be permitted by the county Government. Oscar decries the long procedure of getting a permit and proposes a permanent license. But despite these challenges, Oscar finds landscaping as a potentially lucrative business owing to Kenya’s growing construction industry.

Crystal Gardens operates with an average of 100 employees, most of whom are casual labourer’s. During peak seasons, the company’s demand for casual workers may go up to 200 people. For management, the company, whose main offices are located on Biashara Street, has a team of five directors who oversee running of its operations.

Oscar is the Managing Director. To stand distinctively among competitors, Oscar believes in quality services as his competitive advantage. He says, over 75 per cent of his clients are through referrals.

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