How She Grows A Water Garden
Business in Nigeria
Click images to enlarge
My name is Mobola Eogbogbo; I will be 52 years old in July 2007.
I design, construct, and maintain organic water gardens. I also
design contemporary African water features for indoor and outdoor
use. I still do a bit of floristry.
Mobola in front of the shop
Our company, Merrymaid Water Gardens, is the pioneer of specialised
water garden business in Nigeria. We do only organic water gardens,
which means all our designs are chemical free, environmentally
friendly, and balanced ecosystems.
We are based in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria,
West Africa. The Almighty God has blessed Lagos with abundant
water plants as it is surrounded by many creeks, canals, lagoons,
rivers, swamps, etc. It is also bordered in the south by the
Why water garden? I love nature. The ease with which water plants
grow plus their lushness, the versatility of water in good and
uncluttered designs, the peace and tranquillity that water radiates
made me specialize in Organic Water Gardens. The interest grows
by the day and I enjoy it so much that I believe it's a business
one can retire into. Meaning that after retiring from other active
professions, one can still be very much involved in nurturing
and enjoying water plants and, of course, fishes too.
The irony of life is that I hated working in the garden or
farm when I was very young. My mother and maternal grandparents
used to take us to their huge farmlands when we were little.
Although I enjoyed swimming in the river that passed through
the farm, all I wanted was the farm produce and not to learn
how it was produced. This was up till my high school years.
My direct involvement with growing/nurturing plants first
came in my undergraduate days in London, England. I got a humble
apartment in a nice location and I needed to jazz it up. I discovered
a garden centre nearby with plenty of hostas, etc. I bought a
few and put them on my windowsill and balcony along with some
indoor plants. My landlady was astonished when she came and saw
the transformation. She reduced by rent by one pound! I was greatly
encouraged. I put in extra efforts with the hope that she would
further reduce the rent. Though she did not, I had become attached
to my plants and I continued to love and take care of them. A
After graduating in business studies in England, I came back
to Nigeria and took a white-collar job as a marketing executive.
The job was merely routine and was not that challenging. I quit
in 1984 and set up a company that dealt in landscaping and floristry
to enhance my love for plants and flowers. I went for short courses
in gardening. The flowers and plants used then were mainly grown
on my family farm and some purchased from neighbours' gardens.
It meant a lot of capital was tied down for too long.
We try to increase our waterlily collection by procuring more
plants worldwide. In our collection today we have
N. 'August Koch' (blue),
'Madame Wilfron Gonnère' (pink),
'Odorata Sulphurea' (yellow),
'James Brydon' (red), 'Attraction' (red), 'Caroliniana Perfecta'
(pink), 'Froebeli' (red) and 'Gladstoniana' (white). The collection
is still small compared with the many varieties I have read about
on the website but it is growing.
I then switched to my second love - cooking. Friends and relatives
encouraged me to go into catering full-time. I did and also went
for some training. The profit was almost instant! I was relieved
to see I didn't have to wait too long before I could get returns
on my capital outlay. I eventually left landscaping but discovered
that flowers and catering complement each other. I set up a fresh
fish restaurant with a small flower shop beside it. The restaurant
had a large space in front, which I turned into a garden with
a large pond and a bridge, with seats atop the pond. Really beautiful.
My food presentation got a boost from my floristry background.
I made my mark in catering and became successful, but there were
drawbacks. The working hours were odd and very long. Catering
for parties was stressful too. It wasn't fun anymore. Delegation
was imperfect, etc.
I discovered that my small pond and fountain in the front of
our house was a great source of peace and tranquillity. I began
to give it more attention and got inner fulfilment. I have always
been one to enjoy my business and give it my all. I did my research
and discovered that water gardening had improved tremendously
since the 1980's. Technology has made equipment more affordable,
and also made things easier to do.
By chance I found an American Organic Garden Magazine at an old
magazine market stall. The cover had an organic pond. Voila!
There the organic water garden interest was rekindled. I enjoyed
the magazine and must have read it 20 times over.
A client's pond
In year 2000, I decided to set up a water garden business
and told my family and friends. They thought I had come up with
another crazy idea. "Who will buy water plants that are
all around, even in urban and remote areas?" they asked.
But the Almighty God has been good to me. At one stage I thought
I was building a castle in the air and I wasn't sure anymore.
I learnt to use the computer, discovered the internet, and the
site of the International Waterlily Society (IWGS). It further
reinforced my interest and I was reassured that I was on the
My joy knew no bounds when I got to know about Victoria-Adventure.
I was able to put a name to nearly all the water plants. I discovered
many who were interested in water gardening and was greatly encouraged.
Victoria-Adventure became like my text book and indeed my companion
and I enjoyed the friendly style. I practically had to beg people
to let me install a water feature in their garden free-of-charge
to get introduced. Not anymore! People now see and appreciate
water gardens. The more popular trend is features that have moving
water, and I always try to incorporate some plants be it only
Awareness of the water garden is also being promoted by articles
I write in the Guardian newspaper on Sundays. Although our business
is relatively young, I can confidently say we are indeed a success.
There is more room for growth and with time and God on our side;
we will get to the very top. I still attend international shows,
local exhibitions, etc., and very soon our new website will be
Our company has also started to introduce water garden clubs
in schools, with school water gardens built by the children.
Hopefully, this will motivate the children to love water gardens.
A contemporary water feature
< An aquarium we designed
as a wedding cake table
One of our many mini-ponds
Lagos has a large expanse of land contrasting dense high forests,
swamps and waterways that used to be home to elephants, alligators,
wild bush pigs, monkeys, crocodiles and wild fish, but the animal
life has been highly decimated. An inopportune cost of urbanisation
is the destruction of the plants. What a waste of rich natural
environment! In spite of all this decimation, we still find a
lot of water plants, which are taken for granted locally and
are indeed considered as weeds.
Waterlilies beside the road
***These plants include several day blooming types which could
be Nymphaea micrantha, N. heudelotii, N. guineensis,
N. caerulea and N. capensis, and night flowering varieties,
probably N. lotus.
There is also Nelumbo nucifera which, I think, was
introduced by some Indians some years ago. We propagate from
seeds and have hundreds of this plant.
***There are many sedges and grasses whose names I do not
know but I can recognise Carex riparia (zone 4-8), even
the variegated type. The most widespread is cattail (Typha
latifolia) which grows along the road even in urban areas.
There are several pockets of water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes),
water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and Azolla pinnata.
***There are marginals like arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia),
taro (Colocasia esculenta) with large mud-green to dark-green
leaves, bog arum (Calla palustris) (cool temperate), marsh
marigold (Caltha palustris) (temperate), Gunnera manicata
(zone 7-8) in the wetlands. Castor oil plants (Ricinus communis)
are in abundance in the sandy beach areas. There are also varieties
of bamboo, Cyperus and, of course, hordes of ferns.
The Nigeria Conservation Foundation is doing
all it can to create awareness about conservation of our natural
habitats, though it's not enough.