Fresh off the plane: Highlights from Professional Gardener trip to South Africa
Longwood's Professional Gardener (PG) students recently returned from traveling in South Africa. Planned entirely by PG students, the trip provided the students with an opportunity to visit and learn from South African olive plantations, tea farms, natural reserves, gardens, and sustainable villages.
“The adventures, people, culture, and beauty of the country made lasting impressions on each of us. The initiatives the country takes to promote, protect, and educate the public on its increasingly rare and threatened species were inspiring. This awareness will surely stay with us,” says Brian Trader, Ph.D., Coordinator of Domestic and International Studies, who accompanied the students on the trip.
To read about and see pictures of the PG students’ adventures abroad, visit their blog at: ProfessionalGardener11.wordpress.com.
Alexander Giwa, in pursuit of owning his own public garden
Many of Longwood Gardens’ interns hope that their experiences here will help them achieve their dreams. This was certainly the case for Alexander Giwa, one of our international trainees who recently finished his year-long stay at Longwood. Giwa, from Nigeria, began his internship hoping that it would one day allow him to operate his own public garden. While he only left a week ago, Giwa’s dream is already coming true.
Having already acquired fifteen acres of land in Nigeria, Giwa plans to create a garden featuring indigenous and endangered plant species as well as medicinal plants.
“Studying at Longwood has been a tremendous achievement for me and I know it will help me establish my dream garden. Fifteen acres of land may seem like a small start, but I have plans to acquire ten more in the near future and I hope that everything I learned at Longwood will help me continue expanding,” says Giwa.
During Giwa’s time at Longwood, he rotated throughout all work areas in the Gardens. Although he enjoyed all of them, one was a favorite.
“Working in the Conservatory in the Indoor Display rotation was one of my favorites. It’s an area that’s constantly beautiful despite the weather. The ever-changing nature in this area amazing to witness,” explains Giwa.
Giwa learned about Longwood’s international trainee program through a college professor. Before coming to Longwood, he worked in Nigeria’s National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, where he specialized in conservation of medicinal plants. Ultimately, Giwa decided to travel to Longwood because he knew that its strong program for international students and excellent public displays would help him succeed in his career and in opening his garden.
“Everyone at Longwood was so friendly, but I still missed many things about Nigeria, especially my wife. We married only a short time before I came to Longwood,” says Giwa. One person who made Giwa feel welcome ended up having a lasting impact on him.
“Janet Bagnell, the administrative assistant for domestic and international studies, had been so wonderful to me from the very first exchange I had with her via email until my last day. She was always there for me with words of reassurance. She is indeed a good mother and I will never forget her for that,” explains Giwa.
During Giwa’s internship, he and his wife celebrated a significant life event—the birth of their first child. Inspired by Janet Bagnell’s warmth and helpfulness, the couple named their daughter Janet.
Although Giwa’s internship is complete, it is safe to say that Longwood will continue to have a place in his heart.
“I will miss the friendliness I experienced here and the beautiful human diversity. It’s sad to leave, but this experience has been one that I will truly never forget,” says Giwa.