Outside her home, she is a tough politician, but within the confines of her abode, she is a submissive wife to her husband, a loving mother to her children and a committed gardener.
Hon. Justine Kasule Lumumba, the Minister for General Duties is an extraordinary backyard gardener whose passion for plants borders on obsession. She calls them babies, talks to them while checking out for any slight sign of pest invasion!
“I enjoy getting my hands dirty while caring for my babies,” she says. Her home is decorated with foliage varieties, from the entrance, backyard, lounge, lobby, and staircase to her bathroom!
“I am a collector who minds less about cluttering. I can’t get enough of plants, I always have space for more,” she asserts.
In the gardening circles, she is called Mama Coleus, after a kitenge-like plant (coleus) which she resurrected from extinction. Lumumba grafts coleus species to come up with unique patterned flowers which she gifts to fellow gardeners and friends to beautify their gardens.
Located on Namilyango hill, a few kilometres off Jinja-Kampala highway from Seeta trading centre, Lumumba prides herself in owning more than 150 plant species.
These include; fruit trees, culinary herbs, cactus, succulents, orchids, and palms among others. “I know all my plants by their names, where I bought them from and when. I was brought up by the Little Sisters of St. Francis who loved staying around gorgeous environments full of flowers,” she says.
The sick bay
Lumumba says she communicates with her plants. “I sense when they are not fine. So I set for them a sick bay from where they are treated,” she notes.
The sick bay is in form of a greenhouse placed under a frangipani tree. Here, 25 dry creepers and orchids sitting on shelves show signs of ‘recovering’. According to Lumumba, she personally takes care of her ‘patients’ while the gardener prunes and weeds.
How she maintains the garden
According to Lumumba, before planting, she first finds out the type of plant she is dealing with. While some plants require fertile soils, others need sand, while more demand constant watering against the cactus that thrives in dry conditions.
“I don’t water my plants with treated water. During dry spells I use rainwater I harvest in the underground tank,” she explains.
She cleans her indoor plants with milk and a clean piece of cloth. Milk repels insects. Her biggest challenge are the snails that constantly invade her garden, however, she says that she manages them with beer.
“Snails are drunkards. Just pour beer in a container and they will drink and drown in it,” she elaborates.
For the reptiles, she plants repellants like tobacco and mother in law’s tongue.