What the Youth Can Learn from young Peter Greensmith

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This article is based on an interview of Peter Greensmith by Bradley Martin in 1987, from Kenya Past and Present, 1994.

Peter Greensmith is responsible for the beautiful landscape of City Park, including the carefully selected ornamental plants and unique features, having been the Nairobi Parks Superintendent between 1947-1965.

Without the likes of Mr. Greensmith, there wouldn’t be many well-designed urban green spaces in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa and the world such as Central Park, Uhuru Park, City Square, City Park and many more.

What The Youth Can Learn From The Young Peter Greensmith:

Opportunity Taker / Risk Taker: in mid-1947 he confidently applied for the Nairobi City Council position advertised, for a Parks Superintendent, despite never having any formal gardening training. He got the job.

Built Connections: part of the reason why he got the job was because of his referees. Mr Ramnell, Conservator of Forests, Mr Harold Gardner, retired Conservator, and Lady Muriel Jex-Blake, referees collected from different occasions.

Industrious: while volunteering for the Royal Navy and attached to Kilindini Naval Base at Miotoni Bay for three years he took charge of planting gardens around Bay. He ran the canteen garden, he would organise off-duty sailors to go by lorry and collect leaves from the Mombasa streets, which made superb compost, and with this fertiliser would grow great food for the sailors.

Observant: he sighted bougainvillaea that had been hacked and left by the roadside, he sent workers to collect as many cuttings as possible and planted them along the fence of his office. The development of bougainvillaea species led Peter Greensmith to be recognised as an international expert. His bougainvillaea collection is said to have had 200 varieties at one time.

Passionate: in his own words he violently fell in love with Kenya and decided never to leave. Nairobi had more gardens in the late 1940s to 1950s than anywhere else in Africa in large part, thanks to Peter Greensmith.

After dedicating 18 years to working as Nairobi Parks Superintendent, Peter Greensmith retired and went on to work on different gardens including those of University of Nairobi, Co-operative College of Kenya, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam State House, President Nyerere’s private residence and gardens of University of Lusaka.

Karimi Kimathi

2 Responses to “What the Youth Can Learn from young Peter Greensmith”

  1. Archna Bulsara17/08/2020 at 9:40 pm #

    Very interesting!

  2. Dr Baldip Khan17/08/2020 at 8:30 pm #

    This is very interesting! I had tried to find out about Peter Greensmith and this is more than what I had found. It’s also inspirational for our youth. Keep it up FoCP! Thanks Karimi

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