Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are We So Different from Our Cuban Neighbors?

Last April, I had the great good fortune to visit Cuba with the Delaware Center for Horticulture. Our trip was a cultural exchange with an emphasis on horticulture. We visited a number of beautiful, botanical gardens, reforestation and organic gardening projects around the island. Each time we received a warm welcome by highly educated staff that accommodated us by speaking English. I could sit here all day and write about all the reasons I fell in love with Cuba. But, for now, I will just highlight our visit to the Jardín Botánico Nacional, Universidad de La Habana - The Cuban National Botanic Garden in Havana. It was during that visit, early on in tour trip, that I realized no matter what our governments might say, we are not so very different from each other.

The garden is an educational, scientific and recreational institution that displays Cuban flora as well as plants from other tropical places around the world. They have a special program called Planta! It’s a conservation initiative focusing on preserving and appreciating native Cuban flora. It warmed my heart to think that native plants were just as important to our Cuban neighbors as it is to us at American Beauties. No matter where you live, preserving our ecosystems is vital. Alejandro Palmarola, a student working on his PhD at the botanic garden gave us a marvelous lecture and tour. Much of his work is centered on native Cuban magnolias.

They say there are 6 degrees of separation between people but in horticulture I think it’s really only three (just one or two in the Brandywine Valley). One of my friends and fellow travelers was Andrew Bunting, Curator of the Scott Arboretum, President of the Board for The DCH and President of the International Magnolia Society. As it turns out, the International Magnolia Society has been funding some of Alejandro’s work and he and Andrew were able to meet for the first time in person. I love to think that horticulture is building bridges over blockades.

Alejandro and Andrew
Many of us pushed our baggage weight limits to bring hand tools and art supplies to show our support of the arboretum. We recently got a thank you note from Alejandro with pictures of the Cuban National Botanic Garden's "Festival del Monte 2014". I think I see some crayons we got at Target and even some of the suckers I couldn’t resist buying. I also see the light in the children’s eyes as they learn about the wonders of nature and the flora of their island. It’s the exact same look our children have when we take the time to teach them.

Muchas gracias DCH y te quiero Cuba!
Trayendo vida a tu jardín!
¡Que te diviertas!

Peggy Anne

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