I am Brian Vermeulen, an architect born in Zambia and living in London. I fell in love with Kenya and in 2003 I bought one acre of ex-sisal plantation on Kilifi Plantations facing Takaungu Creek. It was my intention to establish an indigenous garden.
It is 70 years since KHS published ‘Gardening in East Africa, Chapter XXIII Gardens at the Coast’ by H.B. Sharpe. The world has changed since 1950 and much of the Kenya coastal forest has gone and with it much of the wildlife. There remains, however, a diverse range of indigenous plants on the coast, and I would like to inspire my coastal neighbours to preserve and cultivate the plants that are becoming endangered, and with this maintain the wildlife dependent on these plants.
My list of plants is not exhaustive, but a selection that I’m growing in my garden – some bought, some cultivated, some that arrived naturally and some yet to acquire. I also include wildlife which the plants attract. I’m not a botanist and so I’m indebted to Mwadime Nyange who has helped me with identification. Spectacular butterflies and moths, as well as birds and wildlife visit my garden. This has led me to expand my research into butterfly and moth host plants. I’m not a lepidopterist and have been advised by Steve Collins and Steve Woodhall on butterfly host plants. My online searches have also introduced me to ethnobotany on the Kenya coast and I’ve added information that I’ve found there to my species information.
I want to show that it’s possible to create a garden that can visually rival any other on the coast using only indigenous plants. A garden that is low maintenance, sustainable and beneficial to wildlife. From my experience, locally indigenous plants, once reintroduced, not only thrive but need no watering once established, and then go on to multiply.
Now that I’ve acquired most of the plants I’m looking for and have begun understand how they grow, I will slowly be attempting landscaping. Updates to follow.
Acanthaceae are host plants to many butterfly caterpillars, and provide nectar flowers that attract many butterflies. Caterpillar foodplant to:
- Hypolimnas misippus – Diadem
- Salamis anacardii – Clouded Mother of Pearl
- Junonia orithya – Eyed Pansy
- Junonia hierta – Yellow Pansy
- Junonia oenone – Blue Pansy
- Junonia natalica – Natal Pansy
- Catacroptera cloanthe – Pirate
- Eretis umbra – Small Marbled Elf
- Sarangesa phidyle – Small Elfin
(Note: some of these butterflies also feed on other families)